Mullaliu steps up to the plate with Piatto Italian Kitchen
Enis Mullaliu was feted with a farewell dinner for the ages at Vast last week when he made the official announcement about his impending July 1 departure: He is leaving to open his own place.
Chefs Paul Langer and Kurt Fleischfresser blew it out with a multi-course meal with special wine pairings to wish Mullaliu well.
A few weeks ago, Mullaliu confided that it was he that would soon be opening an Italian restaurant at 2920 NW 63 St., filling the vacancy left by Union Wood-Fired Grill.
The restaurant will be called Piatto Italian Kitchen. Piatto means plate in Italian, but Mullaliu chose it because the word has the same meaning in his native Albanian.
As a teenager, Mullaliu escaped civil war breaking out in his home country of Kosovo during the 1990s. While he lived on the run, his parents were stuck in a Macedonian refugee camp. But in the summer of 1998, he parents were miraculously awarded a visa with the help of a couple from Edmond. Enis eventually reconnected with them here where he enrolled at the University of Central Oklahoma to study Criminal Justice.
“Because of what had happened in my country, I wanted to do something to support justice,” Mullaliu recalled.
But Mullaliu minored in Business, which turned out to be a wise move. When he started college, Mullaliu took a job at The Black-Eyed Pea to help pay for the Chrysler LeBaron he’d purchased.
When The Pea closed, Enis was left scrambling for work. All he knew were restaurants, and the Pepperoni Grill at its former home at 33rd and Broadway in Edmond was his target.
“I was so persistent about getting a job,” he said. “I remember a guy named Faisel, he would not give me a job. But I kept going back every week, asking, ‘What’s the status? What’s the status? Until finally, he said ‘Alright, I’ll give you a shot.’ Then he gave me a job as an A.M. server.”
The position didn’t last long as the same persistence he used to procure the job was then aimed at better shift and more responsibility.
Three months he was getting P.M. shifts and working as a head waiter a few months after that. When the Edmond location closed, Mullaliu was transferred to the original Penn Square Mall location with the promise of a supervisor position.
“But there was a guy I knew who worked at The Coach House, and he said there was an opening there,” Mullaliu said.
The friend advised Enis he’d be a perfect fit for The Coach House. Whether that friend went on to become a full-time oracle is unclear, but his foresight on this matter couldn’t have been a truer bull’s-eye.
“When I first walked in there, I thought it smelled like old people,” he joked.
But it didn’t stop him from to work there and becoming a key asset for chef Kurt Fleischfresser’s for close to a decade.
He left Fleischfresser long enough to help get The George opened atop Founders Tower and work as its general manager. But when Fleischfresser took over culinary operations at Vast three months later, it was only a matter of time before Mullailiu followed him to the top of Devon Tower.
For Piatto, Mullaliu will make some cosmetic changes to the space, removing the garish glass chandelier over the bar for a new piece of art he’s commissioned, but overall the feel will be similar.
“it’s a beautiful space,” Mullaliu said. “Impossible to pass up, really.”
Mullalliu plans to be open before the end of summer, including some events he hopes to soon announce for July with local guest chefs.
The menu will be heavy on house-made pasta. Mullaliu promises pasta in casarecce, campanelle, rigatoni, bucatini, and fettucine.
He recently hired Bill Forster away from Royal Bavaria to serve as his executive chef, who will oversee a menu that also includes pork, veal and lamb chops.
“Steak Florentine for two will be a signature,” he said. “As far as desserts, we’ll have the classics: tiramisu, chocolate torte, panna cotta, crème brulee.”
There won’t be any pizza on the menu, but that’s intentional.
“We want to concentrate on being the best place for pasta,” he said.
When The Collective, 308 NW 10 St., opens next month it will give prominent mobile kitchen operators like The Fried Taco, Black Cat and Flying Pig BBQ a stationary home, but they’re not the only food truckers looking for a parking place.
Gannon Mendez, co-owner of The Saucee Sicilian food truck with his wife Angie, has a signed the paperwork to take over the former Trolley Stop Records space at NW 16th and Classen Boulevard. The space was also the original home to Joey’s Pizzeria, which now flourishes in Automobile Alley.
Mendez plans to open this fall, but in the meantime Saucee has hosted a handful of pop-ups in the space, using the truck to serve food. It’s a great way to get a sneak peek at the space, which includes a back patio and lawn.
Another adding a permanent home is Phill Me Up Cheesesteaks. Co-owner Holly Bigby confirmed she and cousins Ty and Vann Wiseman will soon open a permanent operation into a space at 4514 N Western Ave.
And don’t look now but I keep hearing chirps about how Taste of Soul, fresh from landing in Wichita, Kansas, is looking to Mid-Del to open the doors on a new store in the 405.
The Kitchen at Commonplace, 1325 N Walker Ave., has ramped up its cocktail service.
Co-owner Chris Castro said he had the opportunity to bring on bartender Josh Strother, who recently moved back to town, and couldn’t pass up the chance to bring him aboard.
“I love his drinks and felt like with him at the helm it would be a good move,” Castro said.
I stopped by recently to raise a glass and before I could even take a sip, it was clear Castro made the right move.
Strother’s cocktails turned out to be as beautiful to gaze up as press your lips against. Balance, color, aroma arrive in a carefully crafted drink that shows no shortage of technical acumen.
I tried the BOA, my wife the Club Royale. The BOA includes Old Henry Clay Rye, rosemary-maple syrup, orange, lemon, egg white and aromatic bitters. The Club Royale is a mixture of gin, simple syrup, lemon, fresh blackberries, egg white, and lavender-lemon balm bitters.
In a word: Wow.
The Kitchen at Commonplace has continued to evolve since it opened last summer, and this move is a win.
Speaking of imbibing, last month I had the pleasure of checking out a long-pour pilsner at Oak & Ore, which was another “wow” moment.
Owner Micah Andrews explained how taking your time to pour a pilsner softens the beer’s carbonation and opens up its delicate flavors.
Oak & Ore has a special stainless steel side-pull tap for the new program. The process begins by aiming a pour at the center of a pilsner glass to create a one-third beer, two-thirds foam ratio. When the foam has dissipated a few minutes later, a second stream of beer enters the glass until the foam reaches above the lip of the glass. After the beer settles, the beer is topped off with what looks like a doughnut top of foam.
To prove his point, Micah served me the same pilsner via standard pour while I waited for the long pour to arrive. I am not overstating it when I say it was like drinking two different beers. And the long-poured version was the runaway winner.
Oak & Ore continues to push local drinking culture to the cutting edge, but it’s easy to forget they’ve also got a great menu of food. Don’t sleep on the street tacos or chicken biscuit, they go great with a pilsner.