Casual-gourmet Naples Flatbread & Wine Bar to open Tuesday in Tulsa
BY SCOTT CHERRY World Restaurant Critic
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
9/25/12 at 6:47 AM
Floridian Ralph Desiano, a 25-year veteran in the restaurant business, had come to Tulsa to see if he could help Jim Wilburn pump up his underperforming Cosi restaurant. The two had met through a mutual friend.
"I saw a few things I thought might help a little, and we talked about expanding Cosi," Desiano said. "On the car ride to the airport we talked about a concept I had for Naples Flatbread, and we ended up changing course in that direction."
The first Naples Flatbread & Wine Bar opened in February 2009, the second in November '09 and the third in January '12, all in the Naples, Fla., area.
The fourth will open Tuesday in Wilburn's former Cosi location at 4929 E. 71st St.
"Ralph's second store in Estero, Fla., also formerly was a Cosi, and it has more than doubled business since becoming a Naples Flatbread," Wilburn said. "We hope that is a good indicator for us."
The partners turned to veteran Tulsa restaurateur Tim Baker, who owns Sonoma Bistro & Wine Bar, to be operating manager.
"They needed a local person to develop the market," Baker said. "I went to Florida for a few weeks and was thoroughly impressed with the food. It's a really well-thought-out restaurant."
The signature items are thin, crispy flatbreads cooked in a hearth oven. They are topped with a variety of ingredients.
"We have a lot of styles - Greek, French, Asian, Italian, veggie, seafood," Baker said.
The menu also includes pizzas, panini, salads, lobster bisque and pasta entrees, including a popular gourmet mac and cheese. Most items are priced $10 to $15.
"The first restaurant opened as fast-casual dining geared toward women," Desiano said. "It's now more gourmet-casual, and we've added dishes to appeal to men, such as wings, osso buco and short ribs."
Many items also are available gluten-free, said Desiano, whose corporate background included T.G.I. Friday's, Uno Chicago Grill and Mel's Diner.
The kitchen has no fryers, broilers or flat grills. All of the cooking is done in ovens and panini presses.
The restaurant is located just east of Yale Avenue on the north side of 71st Street. It seats about 100 in 3,400 square feet and has a full-service bar.
Naples Flatbread is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Original Print Headline: New eatery brings casual gourmet
Scott Cherry 918-581-8463
Naples Flatbread & Wine Bar offers flatbreads and pizzas from its hearth oven. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Tim Baker (left), of Sonoma Bistro & Wine Bar, and Ralph Desiano will open Naples Flatbread & Wine Bar near 71st Street and Yale Avenue on Tuesday. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World