With years of meals out, one tends to get wrapped up in the novelty of new chefs, new restaurants and new dishes – scientifically poached eggs, ninja themes and dry ice clouds creeping off your plate. Frankly, it’s a bit easy to lose sight of the simple things, like, oh, I don’t know – good food? Simple, honest, thoughtful dishes that use the best of what’s seasonal, and techniques your grandma can probably do in her sleep.
This is why I love dinners prepared by Chef Raffaele Ronca – the passion he pours into his plates is obvious to anyone who takes a second to notice. Rarely (and I mean, rarely) has a dish left his hands that hasn’t garnered a response like, Oh my God, taste this… JUST. TASTE. THIS.
Obviously, I don’t bring first dates to any of his restaurants.
In January, a friend came to visit from Europe for the week and more than anything else, I was eager to show off our culinary scene. After a long day of flying and trying to get accustomed to a new time zone, I planned for dinner at the restaurant where Ronca is head chef.
Imagine the look on my face when I was told Chef Raffaele was no longer working at said establishment. If “child without a Christmas” comes to mind, you’re imagining right.
Now. Imagine the look on my face this Saturday when I was told we would be dining at Chef Raffaele’s new restaurant. If “child with six Christmases” comes to mind, you’re doing great.
Rafele Ristorante opened it’s West Village doors several days ago, and I, for one, couldn’t be happier to have Chef Ronca back on the culinary scene, offering dishes from his native Naples. If I were to dream of what it’s like to walk onto a veranda in Italy for dinner, this is what I would envision.
Enough talk. Food. Pictures.
Find all the signs that this dinner involved a four-year-old.
Go ahead, take a minute to collect yourself.
Those tomatoes were beautiful enough to land a spot in NYFW. And those croutons soaked in EVOO… ooh honey boo boo child.
Pizzas at Rafele Ristorante are baked in a custom-made Acunto brick oven imported from Naples.
Holy mother of forest animals, these were amazing. Pan-fried, flash baked and in. my. belly.
A “Being John Malkovich” view of the ravioli.
All of Chef Ronca’s pasta is freshly made, by hand and in-house. That, my friends, is love. We also had the gnocchi, which I would be doing a great disservice by saying was outstanding. It was unbelievably outstanding. The gnocchi melted in my mouth in a way that I never fathomed a potato ever could. I turned to my uncle just to double check that this was, in fact, a potato gnocchi. Full disclosure: it was.
It’s not about Michelin stars or Zagat ratings or the Yelpers – it’s about the food. It’s about what life was like before people like me existed, eager to publicly throw in their two cents about something we are just meant to enjoy. And enjoy it, I did.
Rafele Ristorante is located at 29 Seventh Ave (at Morton St), and reservations can (and should) be made by calling 212-242-1999. This is easily one of my new favorite restaurants – expect to find me sitting at the bar, clutching a glass of wine and surrounded by several small plates.
Want to see what I had for dessert? Continue on here!