Villa Ravenna Ristorante Italiano / 6526 E. 51st St. / 918-270-2666
Sun. 5-9pm; Tues.-Sat. 8am-2pm, 5-9pm
Food ***** Atmosphere **** Service *****
There are some cuisines of which I never tire, and Italian is at the top of the list. And it's not a generic Italian meal, but an authentic meal, where recipes come from the old country, handed down from generation to generation. This is what I found at Villa Ravenna. The Orioli family prepares family recipes for their guests.
Owners Sergio Orioli and his wife Yani have worked to make their restaurant a homey place for customers to enjoy themselves with a good meal. "We are detail oriented," Sergio said. "We do our best to make everyone feel welcome and enjoy their meal." I was made to feel at home when I dined here for lunch. I was warmly welcomed when I entered and was soon seated. My server, Katie, offered impeccable treatment throughout my meal, and she filled me in on some of the restaurant's history.
This August will see Villa Ravenna's fifth anniversary, and the cuisine "is authentic northern Italian food," Katie said. Sergio's grandfather operated a restaurant in Ravenna, Italy, where the Orioli family is from, so the name honors him and their homeland. As a third-generation Italian restaurant, Villa Ravenna's recipes are almost exclusively from the Orioli family, she added. In addition, "the pastas, sauces and desserts are made fresh each day. Some selections take slightly longer to prepare just because they are made to order."
I began my meal with sparkling water -- a full bottle of San Pellegrino with a few fresh lime wedges. A lunch menu and the full dinner menu are available at lunch, so I began looking over something to begin the meal. Antipasti include such dishes as Prosciutto, Mozzarella & Tomato, Avocado e Gamberi, Sautéed Clams or Mussels, Dates alla Ravenna Lumache and Wild Boar Italian Sausage among others. I selected the Grilled Pear Gorgonzola ($9.50), an Orioli family recipe. This is a plate of fresh sliced pears topped with Gorgonzola cheese and then grilled. The sliced pears rested on a bed of fresh spinach which had been tossed with a light balsamic and olive oil dressing; walnuts accented the plate and complemented the taste of the pear. The pears were very fresh and just gently warm; the cheese was pleasingly melted. Bites were expressions of flavor and texture, the soft with the crunchy nuts and the savory with the sweet. It was a fusion of unexpected ingredients, working well together. The balsamic oil-tossed spinach added another layer of taste and a fanciful spark to each bite.
While I was waiting for my main course, Gnocchi di Patate ($8.50), I enjoyed the slices of hot buttered bread, lightly topped with peppery spices. Dipped in the olive oil which came with the bread, it tasted in such a way as to make it seem that at that moment, all was right with the world. The red pepper flakes on the bread livened up the flavor.
Then my gnocchi arrived.
This house-made potato pasta was clearly the best I've ever had. The gnocchi were nicely sized, and plump without being gooey. A traditional red meat sauce covered them, and Parmesan cheese topped that. The meat was finely ground and was a perfect coating for the pasta. I savored each bite. For a few extra bucks, I had a boat of Alfredo sauce to accompany the red sauce. It was light, creamy, and rich in flavor. Mixing the two sauces together added some depth to the already-fine dish.
A house salad -- fresh, crisp deep green and red lettuce tossed with a red wine vinaigrette dressing -- came with the lunch menu entrée, and a slice of a ripe tomato and sweet white onions topped the salad.
Dessert was next on my mind, and tiramisu is how I frequently end a fine Italian meal, but when my server described the limoncello cake, I just had to select it. She said it is a specialty here -- not only because it is Yani's own recipe and is made with limoncello, but more importantly that Sergio makes his own limoncello, as she pointed to a large glass vat of the homemade concoction in the corner of the dining room. (She said there are a number of vats of limoncello continuously being made for cooking or drinking.)
This cake is something to remember. Two very moist layers of cake with a rich, fresh lemon flavor were between rich lemony frosting, and another layer of frosting was on top. It was not only a beautiful yellow color, it was also a refreshingly sweet.
The menu at Villa Ravenna is full of classic Italian selections, such as Spaghetti all Puttanesca, Penne Arrabiata and Fettuccine Alfredo, Spaghetti al Pomodoro. There are pesce or fish entrees, carni or meat entrees and Classico Italiano dishes. Both Sergio and sderver Katie told me that specials in the evenings often have wild meats, such as antelope, elk and wild boar. On the Menu Speciale, some of the dishes include Wild Boar Osso Buco, Venison alla Marsala, Bistecca alla Marsala and Rack of Lamb. Sergio said they even blacken their pasta with squid ink imported from Spain. "Everything we do is the real thing," he said.
Sergio is proud of the fact that they have more than 170 Italian wines to offer customers, and Katie mentioned that they also have Wine Dinners which feature 10 courses with wines for each course. The next dinner is schedule for August.
Sign me up, kids.
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