Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Executive Chef and Co-Owner of Rafele, Raffaele Ronca
Smart people start reviews with gorgeous bottles of smashing Super Tuscan
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We loved this dominant super Tuscan which is mostly Sangiovese, and was highly versatile throughout the evening until dessert...
It's not who you know it's WHOM YOU KNOW silly and you know Raffaele did one of the best initial features in recent memory, so Rafele is graduating to Peachy's Picks in a virtual Ferrari, speeding ahead of his competition. We have eaten more Italian food than any other cuisine in our pursuit of excellence, and it is much harder to impress us in 2016 than it was in 2009, especially if you are Italian. In this case, we hope all of Italy that is following us on Twitter has their finger on the retweet button because this is the most brilliant new place to us after Black Barn, and you know that Raffaele is not old enough to have been a chef at the Waldorf=Astoria for three decades (but you should know we think John started when he was about ten years old there...) Rafele is owned by President Romeo Palmisano, also from Napoli, along with Raffaele Ronca, Vice President. We were delighted to see both of them present at this review.
Why is Rafele better than many?
It is authentic. Raffaele is from Napoli, and he personally visits it to see what the culinary scene is multiple times a year and his menu at Rafele is 70% representative of Napoli, and all of center to southern Italy. Raffaele was so excited about this review he called Peachy from Napoli and he wants to win.
Enthusiasm counts! If you are not excited about your business, how can we be? Plus your competition is excited as you can see - we've printed on many.
The menu changes four times a year. We wonder when people never ever alter their menu.
Their wine is just as fabulous as their food and they boast 70 wine references and 100% Italian wine. There are two to four wines from each region of the 27 regions of Italy so additionally, it is diversified.
Everything we tried was off-the-charts amazing.
And, Raffaele is smart about social media. On his menu he has his facebook, instagram and most importantly TWITTER button.
In France they call it an amuse-bouche, however, in Italy it's a Complimento. Now Peachy can say something other than her name and how much she loves Italian shoes! The opening capaonata set the high standard for the evening.
Though traditionally during the review process we order from the regular menu, you would be doing yourself a disservice to skip Raffaele's superb specials menu. He changes it EVERY DAY. The only other person we can think of off the top of our head that does this every day is our pal the King, of Kings' Carriage House. Peachy Deegan delighted in the appetizer from the specials menu: Burrata!!! Burrata is the magic word at Whom You Know (right up there with please and thank you) and this comes straight from Napoli. The creamy goodness is evident in every bite and this trumps other burratas in the city: they are not all created equally. The texture of the yellow oyster mushroom was a nice toasty contrast in terms of texture and added a great flavor element. And why would you say cheese for the camera when you can say Burrata?!
The Caprese salad is also quite laudable. Buffalo mozzarella hails from Italy and oregano, basil, beef steak tomato and evoo spell fresh simplicity that is ideal for a hot day in summer.
See how hot it is - that is the steam when it arrives. Our pictures tell the truth. We never edit pictures and if a restaurant asks us to, we do not publish on them. The food at Rafele is served at perfect temperatures and Raffaele's attention to detail is spectacular.
It cooled off for its glamour shot.
The Melanzana sports beaucoup de layers of eggplant enhanced by Parmigiano Reggiano, basil buffalo mozzarella and roasted tomato puree resulting in a beautiful comfort dish almost like a baked vegetarian lasagna.
The rustic, charming atmosphere of Rafele adds a lovely element of visual flavor to all that you dine upon.
We love the competitive salad menu at Rafele and the Insalata di Carciofi is a dream.
Shaved artichoke, Parmigiano Reggiano and lemon with evoo spell total freshness and superb flavor. The great texture and gorgeous arrangement added to the elevated experience. You know we had this during the first review and Rafele earns high points for consistency as well.
One of the most creative, delicious salads in our experience in total is the Cavolfiore of Rafele. Roasted cauliflower, black currants from France, pine nuts (added sweetness) and breadcrumbs form a symphony of light consistency that is in a class by itself.
Drumroll please, as these heirloom tomatoes are from the best state of 50, Connecticut. The Panzanella salad adds toasted bread, tropea onion, cucumber, olive oil and oregano red wine vinaigrette to the fabulous heirloom tomatoes. Just delicious, and the colors of Napoli.
You cannot pick just one pasta at Rafele because he has some of the very best in all of Manhattan. The pasta is made on premises and is complete ecstasy, right from the opening smell which is off the charts positive and announces this is one of the best around. We began with the Tagliolini Ai Funghi. You know next to burrata, TRUFFLE is the other magic word. You will revel in the triumphs of this housemade pasta with mixed mushrooms and truffle pate, which will silence even the most talkative person you know when he/she has had glasses of superlative Italian wine. You must try this. The rich, savory flavor of the truffle extravaganza contrasted wonderfully with the roasted mushrooms.
Next in the batting order were delicious little pillows of green! You know Peachy loves anything green because she correlates it to being Irish. The Malfatti is composed of buffalo ricotta and spinach gnocchi, butter and sage and is painstakingly handmade, which you taste the efforts of in every bite.
If you are also proponents of seafood, you will absolutely adore the Spaghetti Schizzetto: spaghetti with mixed seafood and cherry tomatoes, another pasta highlight. The pasta was firm and al dente.
As with all other great reviews, the stars of the show were the entrees!
Every Manhattan steakhouse we've visited thinks they are the best and are so concerned with outdoing the other steakhouses, but perhaps their efforts would be better spent on how worried they should be that Rafele's Tagliata di Manzo is superlative!
An ideal pairing with Italian red for carnivores everywhere, the grilled grass-fed (no steroids, no hormones) New York strip loin from Ottomanelli is further enhanced with flavorful salsa verde. It arrived in style at medium rare, as requested by the picky one here. The grilled flavor was sublime.
The fish of the day when we visited was the Wild Long Island Striped Bass, a majestic fish.
Pan-seared with escarole and shaved artichoke, this fish boasts an amazing sweet flavor from the meat of the fish which is ideally grilled with the skin on, because Raffaele Ronca seems to know all the tricks. You will revel in the savory crispiness that will bring your tastebuds to ecstasy.
For a more elegant addition, we suggest ordering the Branzino Alla Griglia, sourced fresh from Hunts Point market. The grilled branzino with Italian herbs and white wine shines true to smashing branzino flavor that was even better than the award-winning branzino our panelist had had in Chicago the night before. Its pureness is absolutely laudable as well as its flawless presentation, fileted perfectly. Just like in Back to the Future they had no need for roads, there is no need for sauce here because it is so fresh.
Pistachio semifreddo is just divine, and the perfect closing to a victorious dinner.
If you also love chocolate, you will worship the silky smooth chocolate pudding which has enhanced decadence of bing cherries, which sing on your palate like Crosby. And, if you love love love cheesecake, probably no one does it better than Raffaele Ronca! Our cheesecake testers were immensely impressed.
We suggest wine with dessert...
Finally, you ought to know that we saw MANY, MANY high profile food vendors dining at Rafele prior to New York's Fancy Food Show, which is the highest endorsement any of them could give.
Peachy Picks Rafele!
Rafele is Highly Recommended by Whom You Know.