Review: Betta’s Italian Oven
I had way more fun in grad school than I did in undergrad. Is that normal? I had a great group of friends, and we spent a lot of time commiserating over our placements, classes, and life in general at various places around Xavier’s campus. We got a lot of Guinness at the pub in the student center, and often ended up around the corner, in Norwood, at Betta’s Italian Oven.
Betta’s Italian Oven used to be the sister restaurant of the Betta’s in Mt. Lookout, which is now closed. The main feature of the restaurant is its gigantic, wood-fired oven, that you can see from your seat. They serve a lot of pizzas, but for some reason, we never got pizzas– always sandwiches.
I ended up wandering (in my car) after work one day and ended up in Norwood. I passed Gordo’s and realized I was near Betta’s– so that’s where I headed. It’s still the same, with the same staff and same menu. I settled in and ordered my favorite sandwich, the Big Betta, Councilman Style (Will DeLuca, the owner, used to be a member of Norwood’s city council). The Big Betta involves Genoa salami, capicola, provolone, Italian dressing, mayo, tomatoes and lettuce, all on a nicely baked roll. I love the mayo/Italian combination, so this has always been a favorite. If you like the Vito or Italian Night Club at Jimmy John’s, this will taste familiar. It’s not an overstuffed sandwich, like a lot of places, but a whole sandwich is still a lot. It’s got some good, classic flavor, but isn’t anything special– just a good, honest hoagie.
I wanted to try their garlic dressing, so I got a side salad, which was a little disappointing– just a standard iceberg salad– but I did like the dressing, which was sharply acidic and really garlicky. If you don’t like either of those things, try a different dressing (or skip the salad all together).
I realized I hadn’t ever tried dessert there, so I asked the waiter what his favorite dessert was. Without hesitation, he said the tiramisu, which is house-made. It’s actually really good– ladyfingers, espresso, marscapone, and whipped cream. The ladyfingers still had a bit of body; unlike many other tiramisu preparations around town, this wasn’t mushy nor did it taste like cool whip. The marscapone and whipped cream mixture was light, but dense enough to keep its shape even after a couple of hours, when Terry ate the part I couldn’t eat (which was about 3/4 of it– there was a lot there!). It was unpretentious– I’d expect to eat something similar made by an Italian grandma. It was homestyle, and that’s not a bad thing.
Betta’s now has a liquor license (thank goodness it didn’t when I was in grad school) and they have a decent selection of bottled beers, wine, and limoncello as an after-dinner drink. I need to try some of their entrees, but the sandwich brings back some fond memories of grad school– and isn’t food the most powerful way to evoke a certain mood, elicit a reaction, or remember a moment in time?