More than 25 years ago, Buzz Dalesandro borrowed $10,000 from a friend and opened a bright, shiny lunch counter in downtown Tulsa. The most expensive entree, linguine with sausage, cost $3.75. Downtown wasn’t the place to be in those days, but the restaurant attracted a following.
For more than a decade, loyal fans formed lines that wound out the door whenever Dalesandro’s restaurant was open. Then, unexpectedly, he lost his lease, and the building was torn down. He thought that was the end.
So imagine Dalesandro’s surprise when his son, Sonny, a professional soccer player, called his father to tell him that he wanted to open a restaurant with the family recipes.
And so it was, Dalesandro’s was reborn at the corner of 18th and Boston Avenue in Tulsa, a sleek, shining-new space open for dinner with an expanded menu. Sonny Dalesandro runs the kitchen now. His family trained him well, and he inherited his father’s magic touch.
“I owe it all to my kitchen staff,” he says. “When I’m not around, they cook as well as I do.”
A waiter proudly appears bearing an enormous platter of Caesar salad. A Dalesandro’s specialty, the salad is flavored with garlic, grated cheese and Balsamic vinegar, rich and rustic. After the salad, more plates appear, laden with simple yet addictively delicious southern Italian fare. A platter gleams bright red, a lake of rich and vibrant tomato sauce, in which five homemade pasta shells stuffed with a blend of three Italian cheeses are nestled. On another plate, a perfectly roasted half chicken is dwarfed by a mound of pasta it is served with. Yet another dish provides a stage for the lasagna, a tower of carefully layered pasta, meat and tomatoes and topped by a snowcap of gleaming, grated cheese.
Though there’s enough on the table to feed a village, one dish is missing, and that’s Dalesandro’s most famous entree, the Swordfish Picatta. It’s served only on weekends, and Dalesandro’s regulars (says Sonny Dalesandro, “The vast majority of our customers are regulars.”) crowd the place on Friday to eat it. A huge, meaty hunk of swordfish is delicately pan-fried and finished with lemon sauce rich in butter and wine and accented by the tangy flavor of fresh capers.
“We serve it only on weekends,” says Sonny Dalesandro, “because great-grandma cooked it rarely, as a special treat.
“We keep our menu short and our dishes simple,” he continues, “so we can guarantee the quality of all our food. And we want people to feel like they’re eating at our house.” 1742 S. Boston Ave., Tulsa. www.dalesandros.com