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April 6, 2012


A "hot" new Italian-restaurant concept from Houston is headed to Tulsa.

Russo's Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen will start construction soon on a location northeast of the 91st Street and Yale Avenue intersection.

The concept is a version of the Houston-based Russo's New York Pizzeria restaurant, an eatery started in 1978 that has since grown to 28 locations, mostly in Texas.

But there are only five locations for the Russo's Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen, which was started in 2008, and they're all in Texas.

"It's really a New-York Style pizzeria, and we have great Italian entrees," said founder Anthony Russo.

Russo said Russo's Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen is a casual-dining restaurant, serving dishes from Italy such as gnocchi Bolognese, chicken picatta and pasta di mare.

The restaurant will also feature the family's signature pizzas, cooked in a coal-fired oven that gives the crust a crispness and flavor that can't be achieved in traditional ovens, Russo said.

"We use all fresh ingredients, and everything is hand-crafted," he said. "And we import many of our ingredients from Italy, like the olive oil."

During the day, the restaurant will follow a fast, casual counter-service format and switch to table service in the evenings.

Russo said that is a format he has followed since he opened his first pizzeria as a 17-year-old in Houston.

The restaurant will have an open kitchen and use rustic colors to emulate an Italian feel, he said.

At 3,500 square feet, it will be in a stand-alone building at the Tuscana on Yale shopping center. Russo's is expected to open in early spring 2013.

The Tulsa restaurant is part of a growth plan by franchisee Richard Martinez, a partner in the Russo's Coal-Fired restaurant who is planning to open eight additional restaurants in the region, Russo said. The company expects to announce more Oklahoma locations in the coming months.

The new restaurant will be a convenient fit for the Tuscana on Yale development, a high-end shopping center that will include about 33,000 square feet of retail and office space and cost between $9 and $10 million.

The center will also be home to Keo Asian Cuisine, now operating in Brookside, and Whole Foods is building a grocery on the southwest corner of the intersection, also expected in 2013.

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