Russo’s Coal-fired Italian Kitchen was constructed last year in a new shopping center located at 8941 S. Yale Ave. I was immediately jealous of the 15-foot-high sliding ladder wine rack we encountered at the hostess stand. The remainder of the décor was modern and upscale with just a tinge of corporate.
Prior to arrival we had already voted on a family carb-fest and forwent the tempting antipastas like Mussels Fra Diavolo. We opted for a more kid-friendly option: garlic knots. In the meantime we found that Russo’s doesn’t make you wait while you are hungry – the complimentary fresh bread and olive oil with herbs arrived to our table just in time.
The five bow-tied dough arrived, speckled with fresh parmesan and surrounded a marinara sauce. The wings of the knots were crunchy, the middle soft. As we submerged the knots into the sauce we began to discuss the most important decision of the day: what would we each order?
Instead of giving the miniature humans choices of chicken nuggets or a corn dog, Russo’s has two kid-friendly house italian options: a slice of pizza or choice of pasta. Both boys ordered pepperoni pizza. The slices held such length upon arrival, a triangle of pizza hung off the charger they were served on. We dubbed them “foot-long pizza.”
The dad at the table, Matt, ordered the Paisano pizza which came with pepperoni, sliced sausage and red onion; while I choose a pasta dish with prosciutto, onion, parsley and Romano cream sauce. Both arrived aesthetically on par but the flavor surpassed expectation. The pizza, being coal fired, created an entirely new pallet experience for our family. The crust had a firm chew and dough permeated with an unforgettable smokiness. Matt, a self-proclaimed pizza expert, raved and commented like a seasoned food critic. It was cute. “Just the perfect amount fennel in the sausage. It’s all well balanced,” he said.
The entrée portions are generous. I sadly waved goodbye to the second half of my meal I couldn’t finish as it was carried away to the kitchen. When we stood to leave, the 5-year-old thoughtfully inquired on an age-old food mystery, “If it is a red onion, why is it purple?” That, we will never know son.
Seeing Ludger’s Bakery only twenty feet away in the same shopping center near 91st and Yale, we took a family vote (which, as you would expect, came back unanimous) to finish our family food time with dessert and coffee there. Yes, the Ludger’s German Bakery that is a Tulsa staple for wedding cakes and events. They opened the South Tulsa location around the same time as Russo’s.
We were immediately willkommen (welcome) in the cheerful South Tulsa dine-in location- a bright atmosphere followed suite to the friendly staff. The boys were getting rowdy, but it was nothing an M&M cookie and Heavenly Brownie Bite couldn’t tame. (Heavenly Brownie=brownie baked with Reeses Peanut Butter Cup, chocolate chip cookie with a topping of peanut butter and fudge).
We adults settled on iced double-shot espresso macchiattos, red velvet cheesecake and an almond croissant. The cheesecake reminded of me why Ludger’s has been in business for over two decades.
As Matt and I finished off the last bite of cake, the sugar-high children were placing sticky prints on the windows and become far too curious with the display wedding cakes. It was apparent at this point we needed to dash; breezily hanging out at a coffeehouse just isn’t something families with wee ones do for good reason. Besides, I had to go run a marathon to work off all the calories.