If you are looking for a quaint Italian place, loaded with personality, is affordable and offers honest and simply presented food, then you will be delighted with the Italian Garden in Ocean Springs.
I stopped by for a quick lunch and was surprised at the perfection of my $9.95 lunch special. Being a sucker for baked pasta, I went for the manicotti, house made pasta, stuffed with mozzarella, ricotta and Parmesan cheese, and a simple but delicious marinara sauce. Served with fresh house baked bread, paired with a glass of red wine — a more perfect lunch could not be found.
Too often Italian restaurants make food that was born in simplicity, working class fare really, into something way too fancy. But not so here. Take the marinara sauce I had with my lunch as an example. It was a long-cooked sauce, six hours I was told, but not over-seasoned or complicated with additions, like olives, ham or sausage, as it too often the case. A simple sauce, served with properly cooked pasta, and eaten on a spring-like day on the patio in amazing weather. I could not ask for more.
The menu follows the same lines. For appetizers, there are four choices. My waiter told me that the Shrimp Napoleon ($8.95) was the best seller. Shrimp sautéed in butter, garlic, brandy, wine and fresh basil is a lovely idea. Paired with homemade bread, and you have a treat of the first order.
If you want to keep it simple, go for the fettuccine Alfredo, at just $9.95 it’s a real deal, and delicious. A properly made Alfredo sauce, nothing more than butter and Parmesan cheese that emulsifies when melted together and stirred, is a thing of simplistic wonder and when paired with a little fresh bread, and the appropriate wine (look for an Italian white with fruit and great acidity or a chardonnay that is not oaky) is great.
If you are looking for something not quite so simple, take a look at the lobster stuffed ravioli, garnished with shrimp. The sauce is creamy white sauce, with a hint of wine, and just a dab of marinara sauce. Wow, this dish is amazing, and for just $15.95, it is a great deal.
The hand-tossed pizzas are worth a look as well. Just two sizes, 14” and 16”, and they range in price from $11.95 to $17.95 for the house cheese pizza or the supreme. Add a dollar a topping if you create your own.
The Italian Garden may be new to Ocean Springs, but my money says this place is here to stay. Convenient location, good food and a very comfortable atmosphere. Check it out soon.
Where: 1504 Government St., Ocean Springs
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday