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TLO Restaurant Review: Pinocchio’s

In the early 90s, when I was 13 years old or so, a friend's dad treated us to an OU football game in Norman— a boring, sad, and very basic Oklahoma coming-of-age experience, especially when you don't care about sports.

My memory from the game is cloudy – I don't remember who played or the score – but afterward, my friend's dad treated us to pizza at a place that would stick in my mind forever – Pinocchio’s.

At the time, my pizza boundaries were primarily defined by Totino’s and Jeno's, so this trip to a real-life pizzeria was a life-changing experience, opening up a whole new culinary world that I only heard about in legend, TV commercials, and Ninja Turtle comics.

At Pinocchio's, I remember taking bite after bite of the delicious sliced pie, getting food drunk on the intoxicating mixture of lightly sweetened pizza sauce and gooey cheese, along with their decadent and buttery sesame-based breadsticks.

I'd stop by Pinocchio’s a few more times in my troubled life, trying other items on the menu but when I moved to Fort Collins in the early 2000s, it – along with my memory of it – was demolished for a new parking structure, and tossed into the "Remember When?" pile.

Until now.

Recently, I discovered that Pinocchio’s had returned from the whale's mouth, and I got to tell you, I was taken aback by this news: "Will the pizza, pasta, and breadsticks rekindle memories from a distant past?"…or "What if I don’t like the bold, new direction of a fraudulent reincarnation?"

I knew I had to try it to find out.

Late last week, I stopped by the new location at 2627 Classen Blvd. Ste. 104 in Norman after the lunch rush and, sadly, it was kind of dead. I thought about ordering one of the handcrafted sandwiches but, apparently, those are only available on Wednesday and, well, it was Thursday.

Undeterred, I looked over the menu, paying special attention to the lunch specials for the week. I chose the three best deals, along with a soda, for around $25.00.

I started with the simple Classic Mini Chef Salad ($7.00) – a mixture of fresh lettuce, shredded red cabbage, Canadian bacon, pepperoni, mushrooms, blended cheese, shredded carrots, and my own choice of dressing—Thousand Island.

It may look simple, but it was shockingly good!

The pizza toppings – especially the Canadian Bacon – really made their presence known amongst the tightly compressed varieties of lettuce and other veggies. With the kick of the Thousand Island dressing on the side, it was a real treat as a pre-meal starter.

I then dug into the surprisingly heavy Lunch Spaghetti ($7.00 with a vegetarian sauce).

Going with a meatless sauce was a good call, as the dish was rich enough that it didn't need a heavy dose of protein. With a long strand on my fork, it tasted very much like it did all those years ago. *chef’s kiss*

The star of the show, however, were the breadsticks. With their sesame seeds and warm butter coating, they were once again tops in my book, taking me back to the place where I originally had them all those years ago.

I then turned to the item that Pinocchio’s built its reputation on: the pizza.

Specifically, an 8” Personal Pizza ($8.00) with pepperoni. Placed on a small box, I hoped it would be very stringy and very gooey like a premium pizza should be.

Every slice is better than the last!

With the sauce maintaining that signature sweetness, it was the definite Pinocchio’s taste that had me coming back for more in the 1900s, giving me that classic taste with a new flair.

Seconds please!

As I sat there, surrounded by the new yet familiar walls of Pinocchio's, I couldn't help but feel a wave of nostalgia washing over me, mixed with a sense of new discovery.

It's a peculiar feeling, revisiting a cornerstone of your youth, only to find it has evolved, yet somehow remains unchanged in the ways that matter most. Places like Pinocchio's are more than just eateries; they are time capsules of joy, pain, growth, and the endless pursuit of that perfect breadstick.

Cómpralo ya!


Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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