Rafele Ristorante
Credit: Rafele Ristorante

If you want to start your foodie adventures in 2018 off right, then let me guide you to a fantastic gem in the West Village called Rafele Ristorante.  Sure, the head chef won an episode of Chopped and they also hold a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records, but there’s also the food element to Rafele Ristorante, which is absolutely fantastic.

The brain of the operations behind Rafele Ristorante comes from owner Raffaele Ronca, who is a native of Naples, Italy but a New Yorker at heart given the Yankees cap he was wearing when I met him late last week.  The space is going into it’s 9th year of being opened, which I always find to be such an extraordinary accomplishment of sorts, given the high turnover rate many restaurants experience in The Big Apple.

The space itself reads as if you were transported out of this frigid and awful weather we are experience here in New York City and into the beautiful surroundings that Italy provides.  Intimate and lovely are two words that I can truly describe how everything looked, especially with the holiday decorations that adorned the walls before the New Year.

Raffaele is also an incredibly accomplished chef, winning an episode of Food Network’s highly popular series Chopped as well as getting his restaurant’s name into the Guinness Book of World Records for him serving the world’s most expensive cheesecake!  There is even a plaque dedicated to this honor located in one of the corners of the restaurant (the price of it went for $5,000. Wow!)

Location is also a big deal when it comes to choosing a restaurant.  7th Avenue South is a culinary mecca of sorts, as the West Village always has something going on food wise to keep this fat guy interested, and Rafaele Ristorante is now added to that list.

That being said, here are the recommendations of what I think you should get the next time you find yourself there. The two pizzas that are unbelievably incredible had to be their Margherita and the Rafaele.  The former of which is classic, no musk no fuss, straight to the point badass Margherita.  Doesn’t need to skew too far from what you expect, and overall it was a damn good slice.

Credit: Rafele Ristorante

The latter couldn’t be further from the former in this situation, as it comes with proscuitto di parma, buffalo mozzarella, arugula and Grana Padano (cheese).  I’m not the biggest fan of too much greenery on my pizza (or at all), but this worked.  It just f***ing worked, and tasted amazingly.  The freshness from each ingredient really just made the overall dish sing very well, like… Adele well.

Also, and I know this is a staple on many lists, but their Fried Calamari with zucchini and sage may just be some of the best calamari I have ever had as I never thought that pairing it with a veggie like zucchini would work… but it does.

Another standout came from the pasta section (house-made of course) with their Spaghetti alla Napoletana.  This came with fresh spaghetti, tuna, anchovies, garlic, olive oil and peperoncino.  Interesting flavors, very Italian, and not one for the basic eater of sorts as they may get confused as it’s a lot but I really loved it.  The tuna and spaghetti tasted very fresh and the mixture of all the ingredients really worked.  Heck, it even made me love anchovies which I used to have a major fear of.

Overall, Rafele Ristorante gets its right in so many ways, and is definitely a place you’ll want to visit in 2018!

For more information on Rafele Ristorante, click here.