Monday, September 12, 2011

Oliverio's Marketplace

Oliverio's Ristorante is a fine Italian dining restaurant based in Bridgeport. They also have a location in Morgantown, as well as a bistro in Morgantown - Oliverio's Marketplace. Oliverio's Marketplace takes the delicious, homemade dishes, puts them at a lower price and makes the dishes suitable for lunch. This great bistro takes the same great ingredients and puts them in a lunch setting.

For my last full day at work, my two co-workers and I drove over to Oliverio's Marketplace for lunch. Located on Van Voorhis Road, in between Starbucks and the Peking House, this green awning doting restaurant could be easily missed. But even judging by the elegant white writing on the black sign, it looks inviting. The parking lot is huge, so it was easy for us to get there, despite some traffic. Outside of the restaurant are a couple small round tables with chairs for those who enjoy dining outdoors.

We walked down a few stairs, as the restaurant is seated slightly below ground level, to see a medium-sized dining area, as well as a smaller dining small in the back. There are dozens of small black tables with small black chairs - very bistro-like. There is also a bar area where many people were gathered for take-out. The place was packed for lunch, which is a good sign. I only saw two tables free, so I staked claim to one as I browsed the menu from my seat. The menu is large and situated behind the counter. They have Italian favorites - your choice pasta/sauce combos, pizza, salads, sandwiches and wings.

My co-workers and I walked up to the counter to order. The woman behind the counter asked if we had been there before, when one of us said no, she politely said she'd be happy to answer any questions. I asked her what she thought of the pink sauce. She responded that it was her favorite. I ordered a penne pasta with pink sauce ($6), as well as a meatball ($1) and a drink. The silverware is wrapped in a basket at the register and you grab it before heading over to grab your fountain drink. The cups were already over there, which seems odd, but I grabbed a cup, filled it up and headed back over to our table. The last person of our group to order was handed a number to put on our table so they know where to bring the food to. We weren't sitting long before a polite young man brought us a basket of breadsticks. But these weren't your average breadsticks.

These are like tiny loaves of fresh-baked bread. They aren't doused in butter or garlic or salt, but the simple fresh, light, bread had a slight hint of sweetness to it and really brought back memories of my grandmother making bread and letting it rise. I've never had breadsticks quite like this - Olive Garden has nothing on them - because they're not that fake, frozen kind.

Not much longer after I basked in the glory of the fresh bread, our dishes came out. My penne pasta was served heaping on a plate, smothered with pink sauce. A single meatball with marinara sauce sat in the middle of the noodle heaven. I'm not sure how to describe the meat sauce, but take a delicious tomato sauce, add some delicious creaminess to it, and you have the "pink" sauce. Which is really kind of orange-ish. It is very good. It's creamy, not acidic, but still encompasses that robust flavor. Lots of herbs and spices and tiny chunks of pepper make this dish divine. The meatball was also a nice touch, a little less dazzling, but a good meatball by any standards.

The service here is really outstanding. Despite how busy they were and the fact that you aren't really assigned a waiter, two separate young men both asked how we were doing and asked if there was anything they could get for us. And it wasn't that insincere kind of questions, these people really genuinely cared if the customers had a good experience. And you really can't beat that.

For around $10 and a full tummy (with leftovers!), this is probably the best lunch place in town. On this side of town, at least, hands down. If you haven't tried it, check it out. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

(PS one of my co-workers ordered a caprese salad with salmon - it look picturesque. That's next on my to-order list from here!)

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Grade: A
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