New kid on the block Lombardo’s serves classic Italian with an American flare
Photos by Chris Tierney
Lombardo’s bistro & Bar
13110 Birch Dr.
When Noreen and Jeff Thelen decided they wanted to open a restaurant in Omaha, they didn’t know exactly what type they wanted, except that it be a neighborhood eatery with good, reasonably priced food. The Thelen’s hired Grant Lundin, a consultant with a long history in the restaurant industry, and together they developed the concept for a casual, Italian bistro where friends and family could meet. And last December, Lombardo’s Bistro and Bar opened its doors.
Creating a menu was one of Grant’s first tasks. He researched various options, and after putting together an initial menu, he and Chef Brian Howard fine-tuned it. “We know we wanted to have the classic Italian dishes, but wanted to do them with an American flare,” Brian said. The result is nuances of traditional Italian combined with a modern American bistro style that includes items such as lasagna and spaghetti and meatballs, but also filet and plenty of seafood options. “We’re more than just Italian, which is why we put ‘bistro’ in the name,” Grant added.
The interior of the restaurant also has more of a bistro rather than Italian diner feel. Acquiring a space that had previously been a restaurant was a plus, but they needed to still create the warm, comfortable atmosphere they wanted. “We wanted to be in line with upscale, casual dining and have an enjoyable, comfortable place, but we don’t play Frank Sinatra,” Grant said. “Although Italian food is the pull, we incorporate craft cocktails, such as Jeff’s Bloody Mary, which is his own recipe.”
To perfect the robust menu, Grant and Brian spent countless hours in the kitchen trying, and perfecting, recipes, often inviting the Thelen’s and their friends in to test the results and offer suggestions. The Sugo sauce used in the Bolognese is Noreen’s family recipe, which Brian and Grant tweaked until everyone felt it was just right. They also came up with a recipe for Caesar wings—char buffed wings with a homemade sauce. “We’ve taken risks with our food that have paid off,” Brian said. “Lots of places do wings well, so I was skeptical at first. But it’s a favorite on the menu.”
Other popular items include the Pecan Crusted Red Snapper, the Filet Al Gorgonzola, and the Tuscan Salmon, which is grilled and served with a pesto risotto and asparagus in lemon caper butter sauce. “We use simple ingredients and do simple dishes that don’t try to be too fancy or go over the top,” Brian said. “Our house sauce has only five ingredients, all herbs are fresh, not dried, and we use the best quality so that there’s a freshness about everything that is simple, yet delicious.”
Another unique concept that Lombardo’s offers is the three tier wine list. All bottles of wine are either $24, $45, or $65, and includes a variety of both whites and reds at each level. “People who love to drink wine should be able to drink good wine at an affordable price,” Grant said. The concept has gone over so well, they have added a fourth tier for even higher end wines. The bartenders also create new craft cocktails on a regular basis, with a house made margarita mix that has become a favorite. And drinks can be enjoyed on the outdoor patio, which includes live music every Tuesday night, weather permitting.
With good, reliable food and a comfortable, friendly atmosphere, Lombardo’s wants to be the restaurant that families frequent multiple times a month. “We’re fortunate to have a great location and a great staff that includes Managers Wynn Weber and Alex Seliak who oversee everything,” Grant said. “We want to wow you with experience, quality of food, and value, so everything about Lombardo’s is approachable and memorable.”