January 30, 2018

Grateful Gastronomy

The Wheel is an Italian takeaway restaurant housed on a well-hidden residential block in Oakley. A spinning wheel hangs above the door; inside, concert posters adorn pale blue walls, joined by personal iconography curated by owner Chrissy Antenucci.

It’s textured like a living room and you can see slices of activity in the kitchen: cooks rolling fresh dough and mixing housemade sauces. A news clipping of Antenucci’s grandmother, Norma, is framed on the wall — an homage to a family history rooted in love of food (Norma hosted a cooking show on WCPO in the ’50s).

The food provides evidence that cooking is an act of love and creativity for Antenucci, who named The Wheel after a Grateful Dead song. “I really like to cook the way (the Grateful Dead) plays: walk out onto a stage without a set list and see what happens,” she says.

On the surface, the ingredients seem simple; I ordered the rosemary roasted carrot sandwich ($9). The first bite alone was enough to convert this Punk into a Deadhead. The carrots were tender and hearty. Within the dish, they were a vegetable transformed — I experienced a taste metamorphosis with each new bite.

As a vegetarian, it was more exploratory and creative than most other veggie sandwiches I’ve had. Kale peeked through between bites of carrot; both were covered in the perfect amount of romesco sauce and garlic yogurt, the latter of which added a surprisingly creamy touch. The bread, which Antenucci makes fresh daily, is thick — almost like foccacia — and cradled the ingredients within.

My dining companion — also vegetarian — tried the grilled mushroom sandwich ($9). It was topped with local cheddar, arugula, pickled onion and spread with barbecue aioli. Despite being loaded with ingredients typically associated with grease, Antenucci managed to create a sandwich that preserved the oily nature of the contents without it feeling overly heavy.

Both sandwiches were spectacles of art; the colors were as balanced as the freshness inside.

The Wheel opened in mid-September. Before that, chef Antenucci attended the French Culinary Institute, worked at restaurants both in Manhattan and San Francisco and was a personal chef for five years.

“I think (The Wheel) is becoming a neighborhood gathering place of sorts of people from different areas, like Hyde Park, Mariemont and Oakley,” Antenucci says. “We just want it to be a place where everyone feels welcome, almost as if you’re coming into our home to eat.”

And the food did feel like home: simple, loving, spontaneous and hearty. With one exception — the food at The Wheel is far better than any food I could get at my actual home (sorry, ma).

As a side, I ordered a kale salad ($5.50), which came with watermelon radish and romanesco. Anchovy dressing comes on the side. The dish was surprisingly light and palate cleansing. Its ingredients are unique enough to feel new, but are simple enough not to feel pretentious. Each vegetable stands strong in its own right, but when added to a forkful of the creamy, tangy dressing, it becomes a new flavor.

Picture: The scene from Ratatouille when Remy holds up two ingredients — a strawberry and a piece of cheese — and combines them. Colors fill the air and as the flavors roll across his tastebuds, different notes of music emerge.

That’s how Antenucci’s food feels; it becomes more than the food itself. It’s an artform that happens to be edible. Each ingredient is carefully placed to evoke a certain emotion, be it nostalgia or ecstasy, joy or longing.

The pizza-by-the-slice, which was a special of the day, felt the same way. Thick, crispy handmade crust was topped with basil pesto, garlic crushed tomatoes and a smattering of other spices. Not present? Cheese. But, never fret, The Wheel’s regular pizza offering (pepperoni and speck) is topped with mozzarella and ricotta. That being said, this slice ($4.50) was better without. 

The ratio of oregano, basil and roma tomatoes was somewhat sporadic, thriving on its inconsistency. The slice was soaked in olive oil, which dripped from its boundaries.

This food has a way of making you get lost in its ingredients. Each one is treated with care. It is food with a soul — with history and family. It’s a scenery on its own: a landscape where oil drips beneath the horizon of freshly baked, homemade bread — crunchy, yet soft. It’s speckled in herbs and vegetables. It’s wistful and honest, just like the music that inspires Antenucci.

“The wheel is turning and you can’t slow down/You can’t let go and you can’t hold on/You can’t go back and you can’t stand still/If the thunder don’t get you than the lighting will.”

As the sign inside says, thank you, Jerry.


The Wheel

Go: 3805 Brotherton Road, Oakley;

Call: 513-271-0291;

Internet: thewheeloakley.com;

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday.



Scroll down to view images

Join the CityBeat Press Club

At a time when local-based reporting is critical, support from our readers is essential to our future. Support our coverage with a one-time or monthly donation.


The roasted carrot sandwich is a work of art.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
The roasted carrot sandwich is a work of art.
Interior of The Wheel
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Interior of The Wheel
Cabinet filled with fresh bread at the Wheel
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Cabinet filled with fresh bread at the Wheel
Freshly baked bread
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Freshly baked bread
Rosemary roasted carrot and mortadella focaccia sandwiches with kale salad
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Rosemary roasted carrot and mortadella focaccia sandwiches with kale salad
Ricotta rolled lasagne
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Ricotta rolled lasagne
Mortadella focaccia sandwich with kale salad
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Mortadella focaccia sandwich with kale salad