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Could Flip’s be more Italian?

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Supreme Pizza at Flip's in Oklahoma City, Monday, May 18, 2015. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Supreme Pizza at Flip's in Oklahoma City, Monday, May 18, 2015.

Could Flip’s be more Italian?

Yes. Yes it could. For one, it could make everyone working there grow a thick mustache. It could replace all the patio furniture with gondolas. It could refuse to “speak-a the English” while pinching the air in front of it.

Other than that, Flip’s Wine Bar & Trattoria, 5801 N. Western Ave., is about as Italian as it comes in Oklahoma City. Red-and-white checked tablecloths? Yep. The sounds of The Rat Pack crooning hits over the speaker? Indeed. The Omega 3 Antioxidant Power Salad ($12.75) with salmon, blueberries and avocado?

Uh ...

“That’s not particularly Italian,” said Flip’s manager Bri Bibb, who has worked at the restaurant in one capacity or another for more than a dozen years. “But it is, by far, our most popular salad.”

Now in its 30th year, Flip’s is a restaurant both bound by tradition and free of expectations. Bibb said she sees couples who started dating 13 years ago come in together today as families. The small, loyal staff gives the place a very homey, comfortable feel.

Its longevity and success also gives it the freedom to add things like that salad to its menu.

I quite enjoyed the salad, actually. It was fresh and light but still quite satisfying.

The Smokin’ Italian Mac and Cheese ($10.50 at lunch, $17.95 as part of a three-course dinner with soup and salad) doesn’t strike me as especially Italian, either, though it has lots of Italian parts. Italian Fontina and provolone with house-cured cappacola ham on Flip’s own hand-cut rigatoni is continental enough. Add in Swiss and cheddar, crunchy chopped green onions and Parmesan cheese and you’ve got a grown-up delight that’s exponentially better than your childhood favorite.

Smokin’ Italian Mac and Cheese - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Smokin’ Italian Mac and Cheese

Still, if you’re looking for classic, red-sauce Italian dishes, there’s no shame in Flip’s spaghetti and meatballs game. For $10.75 at lunch or $17.95 at dinner, you also can choose your pasta and sauce combination, though feel free to ask your server, who will have some solid ideas. I found meatballs a prime example of how slow food can be done well. Each tender sphere waits to meet a fork so it can fall apart into the sauce.

Mama’s meat sauce is another delectable choice. Its preparation takes two days, with slow-roasted pork shoulder that is shredded before it is cooked into a tomato sauce that is bursting with robust tomato flavor.

“I was back there when they were shredding it,” Bibb said. “It looked so good, I wanted to make a sandwich with it then and there.”

Sadly for her, that pork was destined for the sauce. But don’t cry too hard or you’ll overlook the under-ordered Pesto Dumplings appetizer ($10.50). Perfectly cooked, hand-rolled potato gnocchi are drenched in a creamy pesto sauce with fresh spinach. If you can’t get enough of these, there’s good news: It is also served as an entree ($11.50 at lunch, $17.95 for the three-course dinner). Be sure to order extra bread because this sauce is begging to be sopped up.

Don’t leave without trying a Flip’s pizza. It has something called the All-Meaty Supreme ($9.75 at lunch, $15.50 at dinner), which is a bit of a misnomer because it doesn’t have all the meats. Oh, but it’s plenty supreme. Chicken and hamburger are junk meats compared to the cappacola, prosciutto ham and salami that hide with tomato sauce under all that cheese. On top of the mozzarella is Italian sausage, black olives, bell peppers, mushrooms and onions with a hearty chiffonade of fresh basil. A pizza with this much protein has no business tasting so fresh, but it does anyway.

The credit goes to owners Betsy Mitschke and Gail Vines, who are hands-on in the restaurant’s day-to-day running. Bibb said they’ve kept Flip’s ahead of its time by being old-fashioned.

“We’re proud to do it ourselves,” Bibb said. “We make our own pasta. We make our sauces. We roll out the dough.”

In a style of cuisine where so many competitors rely on canned, dried and frozen ingredients, it’s a difference that comes through on the plate.

Gondolas and mustaches or not, Flip’s is one of my favorite spots for Italian food in Oklahoma City. Thirty years after opening, it’s little wonder it has built such an enduring, committed audience.

Salmon salad at Flip's. (Garett Fisbeck)
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Salmon salad at Flip's.

print headline: Mangi Italiano, Flip’s Wine Bar & Trattoria’s distinctive menu, great service and pizza are the secrets behind its 30-year success.

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