Black leather banquettes. Tables with starched white linens. Waiters in shirt and tie. Large chandeliers with crystals glittering. A prawn bigger than a dinner plate perched atop jalapeño pesto.
This is Prossimo Ristorante, new on Tulsa’s Cherry Street. Owner Jim Bausch, who also runs pizza behemoth Andolini’s, says Prossimo’s appearance is all by design.
“If we’re going to do fine dining,” he says, “let’s go over the top.”
One evening in Milan, Bausch found a tiny restaurant that served octopus roasted with sausage.
“Holy lord, this is delicious,” he said then.
And now, he has it on Prossimo’s menu.
The bread, made from dough aged five days, is served with roasted garlic, butter made in-house from creme fraiche, and tapenade from olives grown in Gaeta, just south of Rome, where Bausch once lived.
Executive chef Mike Evangelista, who trained with Pacific Rim cuisine pioneer Sam Choy, has dreamed up edgy, spectacular entrées, such as the branzino filet served on caponata (Italian ratatouille) dotted with mascarpone cheese.
“If you say this isn’t Italian,” Bausch says, “I’ll say, ‘You’re right; it’s ours.’”
There are simple pasta dishes, too, like spaghetti bolognese.
“That’s what I cook for my own kids every week,” he says.