Steve-O’s Italian Kitchen
As reviewed by Marty Rosen – Special to the Courier Journal  May 1, 2008

As we piled into the car for our journey from Old Louisville to Oldham County, our dining companion, Iris, a native New Yorker, said, "I don't think I've ever driven this far for a pizza." Twenty-five minutes later, we settled into the dining room at Steve-O's Italian Kitchen, an owner-operated restaurant where the chairs are comfy, the walls are white, the tablecloths are red and white checkerboard and the decor is mostly utilitarian: racks of potato chips, beer signs and some video games in a little nook.

Iris said, "I wish we had a place like this in our neighborhood. The minute you walk in here, you know you're going to get your money's worth."

Within moments, a perky young lass brought us a basket of piping hot, hand-rolled garlic knots, sluiced in a golden bath of butter and garlic.

Then came bottles of Peroni and Moretti La Rossa (both $3) — a lovely copper-colored beer with a light, malty taste that won me right over — and a glass of Gallo Cabernet sauvignon ($3.75).

We ate salads (included with entrees) of crisp iceberg lettuce, spicy peppers, olives, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes dressed in creamy, green Basilicata dressing (produced by a Louisville firm).

We dipped hand-cut, hand-breaded, fried mozzarella sticks ($5.99) in a fragrant, perfectly tuned marinara — a true tomato sauce, enhanced by a light, balanced touch of herbs.

We sampled a small (12-inch) cheese pizza ($5.99) and found it splendid: The crust was crisp, but foldable; the sauce was another triumph of balance, with a prominent hint of oregano; the mozzarella cheese had melted into a sensuous, golden sheet. My wife, Mary, deemed it, "the best pizza we've had in a very long time."

About this time, Iris weighed in again: "Maybe I should just move out here," she said.

Given that Steve-O's is only about nine minutes from the Costco at the intersection of I-71 and the Gene Snyder Expressway, lots of folks live within a quick drive.

As for me, driving 25 minutes for a good pizza is not the least bit unusual (heck, just last weekend in New York City we walked a half-hour across Greenwich Village on a pizza quest).

But we weren't finished yet. The menu also includes a variety of pasta dinners, meal-sized salads, an assortment of hot and cold subs and veal, chicken, sausage and eggplant Parmigiana, with only a handful of entrees breaking the $10 barrier. So we sampled a few other things.

Besides, every time our server or the owner walked by our table, they described some other dish we ought to try.

Eggplant Parmigiana ($8.99) may not have presented itself with visual grace (shredded mozzarella might have looked more polished than melted slices), but the eggplant was crisp, tender and savory, and a side of spaghetti defined "al dente."

Iris' golden calzone ($6.99) arrived with a knife standing upright in the center — as if it were Excalibur, the calzone an anvil, and pulling out the knife would entitle the diner to eat like a king.

And this was a royal calzone indeed; it's crusty exterior opened to reveal a pure white seam of ricotta, a melting curl of mozzarella, and the aroma of Parmesan.

Spaghetti with meatballs ($7.99) came in a generous portion. Connoisseurs of meatballs love to talk texture. If your taste runs to coarse, rustic grinds, these meatballs won't please you. But if you love meatballs so finely ground they melt in your mouth, these are easily worth a 25-minute drive.

And as for dessert, take the cannoli ($2.50); we split one among the three of us, and found it lush and satisfying — one more thing to think about as we started scheming about our next visit.

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