By Jocelyn Pedersen
The Moore American
MOORE — Highways and byways are paved with franchise brand restaurants, but for those who veer off the beaten path a little ways, there is a small, family-owned and operated restaurant in Moore that’s worth some attention.
This is Banchettos, where some of the best home-cooked Italian food can be found at prices that that keep patrons coming back for more.
The smell of fresh pasta sauce and garlic greet those entering this small, family-oriented establishment where just beyond the giant pizza oven, owner Justin Evans chops and stirs up Italian fare made fresh to order every day.
Nothing is frozen and reheated. He looks at home in the kitchen, and that’s no surprise. Evans said his parents owned a restaurant in Colorado for 30 years — longer than he is old.
“I was born and raised in the restaurant industry,” Evans said. “I was born and raised with the same menu. Most of the recipes come from Uncle Jerry — Dad’s best friend. He and his wife are Italian and they had three or four restaurants in the Denver area. My parents learned from there and it went all the way down the line.”
The little restaurant, decorated with framed scenes of Italy and platitudes stenciled on the walls in both Italian and English, has been open for about three years now.
Evans said he enjoys cooking and his specialties are his sausage and meatballs, which he makes from scratch.
“We’re the only place around that makes our own sausage,” he said.
Evans uses the sausage in cannoli along with cheese and peppers all tucked inside homemade dough and covered in marinara sauce.
For first timers visiting the restaurant, he usually recommends either the cannoli or the lasagna.
While Justin is in the kitchen in the morning preparing food and taking care of the lunch crowd, his wife, Melissa, is home caring for the couple’s two children. Later, she trades places with her husband so she can manage the dinner crowd.
This tag-team approach to business and raising their young family works and the children, like their father and grandfather before them, are growing up in the restaurant business.
Braxton, 4, opens the cash register and snags a coin, which he announces will be of use to him at Andy Alligators later on while brother, Carter, 2, plays at a nearby booth.
The Evanses met while attending Southern Nazarene University where she earned a degree in psychology and he earned one in biology.
Neither has any formal education in the restaurant business, so when they decided to open shop, Justin Evans’ parents came from Colorado to Oklahoma to help remodel the building and to teach the next generation how to run a restaurant that competes with the big box restaurants in a very big way.
“The Italian restaurant business in Moore is growing,” Melissa Evans said. “Although all the big franchise ones are not here yet, they will come eventually. I think keeping the small restaurant in mind when you go out to eat is important because we’re your neighbors and we just want to share really good food.”
The couple caters, too.
Melissa Evans said they can do whatever their customers want for any number of people. She said some people go with pastas and others go with a Mexican burrito bar. Yes, there are a few Mexican items on the menu all because of Justin Evans’ homemade green chili.
Whether it’s the green chili or Italian fare, family atmosphere, or service, customers keep coming back.
“It’s rewarding to get feedback when people enjoy their meal,” Melissa Evans said. “It’s nice to have return customers who enjoy the service.”