Monday, January 16, 2017

Ristorante RAFELE - Outstanding Italian Cuisine

After catching Cate Blanchett in her new Broadway play The Present, Mary and I took the E train to the West Village to have dinner at Rafele, an Italian restaurant located at 29 7th Ave. South in the West Village. I had heard about Rafele through the TV show Brindiamo, hosted by Ornella Fado.

The restaurant is modern and upbeat. None of the old heavy reds and thick carpets common in many traditional Italian restaurants. I noticed that the tables were not tightly pushed together as so often happens. We were seated in such a way that no one was near us. What a relief.

Our waitress, Aygul, was friendly, warm and very knowledgeable. Another relief. We struck up conversation very easily. She helped us through the entire meal effortlessly. She's a real pro.


Sardinian Argiolas Vermentino
We started off by ordering a 2015 Sardinian Argiolas Vermentino. It was quite good. It was straw colored with a subtle nose, a touch of acidity and rich flavors of peach and apricot. It had nice body and a pleasant finish. Intense but delicate. We noted that it was less acidic, with less minerality than Vermentinos from Liguria in Northern Italy. Very pleasing. And for $10 a glass a real pleasure.

Eggplant Starter
The Vermentino went perfectly with the eggplant caponata starter that was served with crisp Italian bread. This recipe didn't call for the olives, pignoli nuts and capers to which I'm normally accustomed. Very simple, very tasty. A great caponata of eggplant, red peppers and onions.


For appetizers, Mary ordered the Melanzana, which consists of layers of eggplant, grana Padano, buffalo mozzarella and the house tomato sauce. It was terrific. The sauce was superb.
Terrina Di Mare

I ordered the Terrina Di Mare: shelled mussels, shrimp, lemon, butter, white wine and Calabrian red pepper. This appetizer came with a light sauce perfect for dunking. It was perfectly cooked, nothing overdone. The taste was scrumptious. We used up all our Italian bread dunking into the savory seafood sauce.


Spaghetti Alla Chitarra
For our main dishes, Mary ordered the Spaghetti Alla Chitarra. which is spaghetti with the house tomato sauce, buffalo ricotta, basil and extra virgin olive oil. It's simple and delicious. The buffalo ricotta was delicate and very tasteful. Mary wished for more ricotta to enjoy.
Pappardelle Wild Boar Ragu

 I ordered the Pappardelle Wild Boar Ragu. It was stupendous. It was rich and flavorful, compelling with the combination of wild boar, pasta and an extraordinary brown sauce. It also had a luxurious and smooth texture that gave it an elegant appeal.

We thought we were finished after the entrees but Aygul tempted us with the homemade Ricotta Cheese Cake. What an ending. A superb rendition of the common cheese cake that was worth waiting for. Rich, smooth in texture and highly satisfying to the palate.


At the end of the meal, Chef Raffale Ronca came out to greet us. We had a very nice conversation and thanked him for creating such a great culinary establishment. He was very gracious. To top it off, as Chef Ronca was leaving us, Alan Alda walked by on his way to his table. I had the brief opportunity to engage him and thank him for his work. A nice touch.

Mary and I both highly recommend Rafele. It's modern, airy, and upbeat. The wait staff is very professional and attentive. The food, however, is the star. Fresh, high quality ingredients cooked to perfection and very tasty. Not overwhelming, very well balanced. The  portions are moderate in size and reminiscent of the portions served in Italy. Prices are moderate, lower than we expected, and quite good for Manhattan.

Rafele may be the best Italian restaurant we've experienced in many years. We plan to return as soon and as often as we can. Give it a try.

Rafele is located at 29 7th Ave. South in the West Village, 212 242-1990.

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