OffBeat Magazine: Rizzuto's Ristorante and Chop House Delivers a Top-Notch Meal in Lakeview
Updated: Jan 18, 2020
Rizzuto's offers a fabulous meal for a special night out.
The weather is finally starting to cool down and that could only mean one thing: it’s time to start eating a little heavier and pack on a little weight for winter. Okay, not quite — but there is something about the cooler breezes that makes me want to get out there and eat some good, rich food. My desire for rich comfort food brought me to the lovely Rizzuto’s Ristorante & Chop House located at 6262 Fleur De Lis Dr. in Lakeview. This classic Italian restaurant is the former location of the famed Tony Angello’s Ristorante, an establishment that was known for its signature menu and hospitality. Here at Rizzuto’s, Chef Jason Caronna and the Rizzuto family continue the tradition of delicious food that made Tony Angello’s so beloved. The Rizzuto family shares its history with you through family recipes that have been passed down from grandmother Lena. What better time to dine here? With the holidays coming up, you’re going to want to take a night off from the kitchen. Wandering over to a restaurant set in a cozy New Orleans home might be just the thing that will keep you sane this season.
I was here on a weekday night and I was happy that I got here early, because the large dining room filled up fast with a boisterous crowd. There was so much food that I was eager to sample, that I barely knew where to start. Rizzuto’s menu has all of the classics that you would expect from any proper Italian restaurant: sausage and peppers, pasta Alfredo, veal, Marsala, spaghetti and meatballs, tortellacci — the list goes on.
I started with an appetizer of Eggplant Valentina and seafood manicotti. Describing these dishes is almost like describing your favorite song — it’s impossible, unless you can sample it for yourself. The Eggplant Valentina is eggplant with herbs, breadcrumbs, pecorino Romano and topped with marinara. It almost reminded me of a lighter type of lasagna. I know that it’s probably sacrilegious to even suggest that, but trust me when I say that it was all layered perfectly and the marinara sauce brought it to the next level. The seafood manicotti is beyond reproach. Tender manicotti stuffed with shrimp, crawfish, caramelized leeks, ricotta cheese, Italian herbs and topped with mozzarella and a spicy cream sauce. In case you were wondering– pasta stuffed with two kinds of seafood, cheese and topped with a mouth-watering spicy cream sauce is never a bad idea. Both of these dishes are “musts” for any visit.
For our second course, we had the beet salad and the crudo. These were perfect light follow-ups to the first course. The beet salad was delicately constructed with red and golden beets, arugula, heirloom cherry tomatoes, Marcona almonds, feta, red onions, crisped quinoa and Steen’s sugarcane vinaigrette. Our waiter, Ucha, told us that this dish was such a popular “special” that regulars insisted that it be put on the menu full time and I couldn’t agree more. Now, I don’t want to hear that you aren’t a big fan of beets. Skipping this salad would be a mistake. The beets are bite-sized and the entire salad is chilled, so it’s nice and refreshing. Speaking of refreshing — let me get into the crudo. Crudo, of course, means “raw” in Italian (thanks, Google) and Rizzuto’s version, on this particular night, was sushi-grade tuna mixed with almonds, a soy-based vinaigrette, tomatoes and greens. Even if you aren’t a fan of the raw stuff, I promise that the crudo is worth a bite. The vinaigrette added a fantastic flavor to it and the greens and tomatoes made for a fantastic salad.
After all of these delicious starters, it was time for what I will deem the “big show.” Out came a flawless 16 oz. New York strip, which was cooked to medium-rare perfection. The steak melted like butter in my mouth, tender and juicy. This is easily one of the best steaks I have ever had and if I went into this meal with any doubts about how Rizzuto’s might do steak, they were quickly abated. On top of that, we were treated to a beautiful bruciuluni which is prime sirloin stuffed with pecorino Romano, meatball, soppressata and a hard-boiled egg and topped with Rizzuto’s signature marinara. I have had this dish one other time in my life, but the Rizzuto’s version was incredible. I’m not sure if this is an official Rizzuto family recipe, but the sirloin was delicate, flavorful, and delectable. The Romano and the soppressata combined to balance the sirloin well and, while I wasn’t sure what I was going to think about the hard-boiled egg, I ended up loving it.
My experience at Rizzuto’s Ristorante & Chop House was top notch and high class all the way. From the moment I walked in the door, I was treated as if I was a regular; I felt as if I was a member of the family. Rizzuto’s is going on my list of places to visit this season, especially when it comes to celebrating something special.