In April, lightning struck Norman Italian restaurant Othello’s, sparking a devastating fire. In September, the landmark at 434 Buchanan reopened to the public. Unfortunately, there was an extra year in between; the duration of the closure was not the six months owner Jennifer Dennis had initially hoped for, but closer to 16. I’m not impartial on the subject – this restaurant is actually where my wife and I had our first date nearly 20 years ago – but I consider it great news that, finally, Othello’s is back.
And if there is a silver lining to that longer-than-expected hiatus, it’s that the scope of the repairs meant this project wasn’t just a matter of reopening; it was an extensive overhaul and improvement. The result is a completely different vibe: Gone are the dim-verging-on-simply-dark lighting and worn red carpeting of a restaurant that already felt vintage two decades ago, in favor of a vaulted entrance, and a more spacious feel throughout, aided by the massive murals that fill the main dining area. And the ample patio on the north side now has a fire pit, an awning with overhead heaters and fans and space for musical performances.
Meanwhile, the menu is stuffed with possibilities from fried ravioli to steamed mussels to coconut cream pie, and the variety should be sufficient for most palates – but I will point out that the chicken parmigiana is excellent. Tender chicken, crisp breading, red sauce redolent with garlic … the classics never go out of style. The atmosphere has changed, but manager Patrick Murray and most of the staff are back, the food is still tempting, and I have a hunch Othello’s is still a pretty good date spot.