Ristorante Rafele, in New York, is the best Italian restaurant in the city for 2019 – without question. Chef Raffaele Ronca, who hails from Naples, Italy, has created an inviting and warm environment where the mood is casual, but the food is serious. The restaurant is always full, hungry patrons cutting into hunks of burrata cheese, twirling freshly made pasta on their fork and biting into bubbling hot pizzas.
I dined at the restaurant recently and knew of it for a long time. The neighborhood feel with an intimate dining room on 7th Avenue South and Bedford Street in New York’s West Village neighborhood, is perfect. Arriving to Rafele you’re always greeted warmly, and shown to your table or to their large bar where some of the best Italian wines are poured or expertly crafted cocktails mixed. When I dine here, I always like to dip into the chef’s collection on Italian Barolo wines – each one better than the next.
The hard part about dining at Rafele is choosing something to eat, as each dish sounds better than the next. Chef Raffaele Ronca has designed a menu that speaks to the heart of every Italian food lover. He is affiliated with the James Beard Foundation, has won the hit Food Network Show, Chopped, and has won several awards for his stunning Buffalo Ricotta Cheesecake (which is amazing). On the menu you’ll find fried calamari, unbelievable pizzas, fresh salads and some of the best homemade pastas you’ll ever eat. My personal favorites include the homemade Spaghetti alla Napoletana and cavatelli with sausage and broccoli rabe.
To begin your meal, you might want to order several appetizers, like the crispy artichokes.
Or, the stunning fried balls of homemade risotto.
The staff at Rafele knows how to help you choose appropriate items from the menu. You’ll never feel rushed or hurried here, as they truly want you to enjoy you experience. The service is prompt, but never invasive – and you’re encouraged to experiment.
Over the course of my two-hour dinner, I was able to try many dishes I’ve seen on the menu before, that I haven’t yet experienced. Not one dish disappointed but, instead, exceeded my expectations wildly. Even a simple dish, the fresh fish of the day, was stellar and artful with the combination of herbs, lemon and spinach.
Anyone who lives in New York or who is visiting must put Rafele on your list of dining options. It really is the best. But, a word of caution, once you eat here – it will be hard to go anywhere else.