Big flavors at Ari’s Italian Restaurant

Isen Ismaili, owner of Ari’s Italian Restaurant in Harker Heights, wants to make sure that his diners get the best of what he has to offer.

Open for a little over six weeks, Ismaili offers his patrons a selection of Italian foods and desserts created from his own recipes, including marinara sauce and breads made in-house.

Ismaili has been in the restaurant business for 17 years. Although he left the business for a while to pursue other work interests, he came back to open Ari’s.

“It’s in me,” he said. “I truly enjoy the business. It’s relaxing to me, when I start cooking, creating dishes so people taste new things,” he said. “It’s creative, like an art.”

The specialty of the house is Ravioli Diablo, jumbo pockets of pasta filled with sautéed chicken and shrimp and in a chipotle Alfredo sauces topped with Romano and mozzarella cheeses.

Another big seller are his pizzas: homemade crust topped with homemade pizza sauce and smothered in toppings like sausage, ham, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, vegetables — everything except anchovies. Not everyone craves the salty fish that is a Mediterranean staple.

Ari’s Italian Restaurant offers dine-in, carryout and catering. Ismaili said he will make an effort to accommodate a customer’s special requests for items not on the menu based on the ingredients he has in-house.

Ari’s also offers a 20 percent discount to retired and active military personnel, first responders and teachers.

Recently he installed sliding barn doors to separate the two dining rooms. There is now a room available for private parties and business meetings. Wi-Fi and a big-screen TV allows groups to display their presentations.

Ismaili said beer and wine is available for purchase at the restaurant, and he is working on the creation of a new menu based on his research of what people like to eat.

For now, he is sharing with us his recipe for pasta primavera, a favorite and easy-to-make dish that satisfies pasta lovers.

Pasta primavera

This recipe used penne pasta, however, you may use the pasta of your choice. Serves four.

  • 15 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 5 mushroom buttons sliced (white or baby portabella)
  • 2 bunches of spinach
  • 1 whole green bell pepper chopped or julienne
  • ½ can fire-roasted red bell peppers (or roast your own)
  • 3 leaves of fresh basil, chopped or whole
  • ½ white onion diced
  • Red cabbage for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sprinkle with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese to taste

For sauce

  • 2 ounces white wine (can use inexpensive selection or cooking wine)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Pre-cook pasta (check cooking times for selected pasta).

Drain and set aside.

Add small amount of olive oil to cooked pasta to prevent it from sticking.

In the meantime:

1. Preheat sauté pan with 3 tablespoons olive oil.

2. When pan is ready add the garlic and swish it around the pan until it moves fluidly, like water.

3. When the garlic is lightly browned add the tomatoes. Tomatoes will release their juices preventing the garlic from overcooking.

4. Add rest of the vegetables and sauté until tender.

5. Pour in the white wine.

6. Salt and pepper to taste.

Once the sauce is ready, add the cooked pasta and mix to blend the flavors.

Serve immediately with salad, favorite roll or bread and a glass of wine.

Catherine Hosman is editor of Tex Appeal Magazine. Contact her at or 54-501-7511.