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Sun-Sentinel Reviews | Raffaele Ristorante: Sophisticated and Restrained

New York-by-way-of-Italy restaurateur Raffaele Esposito arrives in Boca

Source: Sun-Sentinel.com | Published: April 26, 2020| by John Tanasychuk, Sun Sentinel
First impression: The crowded Boca Raton Italian restaurant market has another player in Raffaele Ristorante. Raffaele Esposito, originally from Naples, Italy, sold his Raffaele in New York’s Upper East Sideafter 20 years to get away from winter. The Boca restaurant brings a kind of sophistication and personal service more often seen in Manhattanthan in Royal Palm Plaza.

Ambience: Handsome, with 90 seats inside and another 60 outside.

The menu: Mostly Southern Italian with stops in the north. I’ve never seen a menu priced quite this way, where each category is priced identically. All pasta, for instance, is $18 whether you order trenette with smoked salmon and arugula; rigatoni stuffed with veal; or house-made squid-ink noodles with scallops, shrimp, squid, roasted peppers and tomatoes. Each soup costs $10. Each chicken dish is $20. Anything from the wood-burning oven — from filet mignon to quail stuffed with sausage, pine nuts, raisins and pancetta — is $30.

Starters: Baby octopus sauteed with garlic, olive oil and fresh tomatoes ($13) had none of the crunchy char on the tentacles often seen in similar dishes. You really have to love the texture of octopus to like this one. Likewise, a seafood salad ($16) described as “like ceviche” by our server was really just raw seafood with a bit of lemon juice. There wasn’t enough acid to begin to “cook” the shellfish. I’m not a big fan of raw scallops. Salads were delightful, from a plate of endive, radicchio, walnuts and Gorgonzola ($10) to simple tomatoes with celery, onions, anchovies, olives and basil ($10).

Entree excellence: Four of us split a pasta dish: Linguine with cabbage, sausage and pancetta in a light tomato sauce with fresh basil ($18). If it’s any indication of Esposito’s pasta prowess, I’d go back for more. He is a master of constraint. Authentic Italian means ingredients are mostly left alone. But that’s not always true here. What could be more French than jumbo shrimp sauteed with cognac and Dijon ($30)? Only the addition of roasted peppers moves it to the country next door. That same sophistication can be seen in sauteed pork loin with fennel seeds, leeks and white wine ($30). A veal chop ($42) was sauced with a rich porcini creation.

Sweet! Desserts (each $9) range from a very good poached pear in white wine served with vanilla ice cream to ricotta torte with orange sauce to chocolate souffle. We were also served complimentary limoncello after dinner.

Service: Excellent after a bumpy start. Our server knew the menu inside and out, and steered us away from things that might not appeal to our palates — roast pork, for instance, that she said is served almost rubbery instead of crispy.

Liquid assets: Well-chosen wine list with several good buys.

 

Raffaele Opens in Royal Palm Place

Source: Boca Magazine | Published: October 18, 2020

It took a little longer than expected but former New York toque Raffaele Esposito finally opened his elegant Raffaele Ristorante (508 Via De Palmas, 561/392-1110 ) in Boca’s Royal Palm Place.

Esposito, who ran the eponymous Rafaelle in New York for two decades before decamping for South Florida, has turned the former Argentango space into a stylish yet comfortable restaurant sheathed in luxurious materials from Italian tile floors to granite countertops to dangling light fixtures finished with mother-of-pearl.

The menu gives traditional Italian dishes some Big Apple sophistication, with dishes like linguine alla verza (said to be a fave of Frank Sinatra at Raffaele New York); house-made tagliolini with scallops, shrimp and squid; quail stuffed with sausage, pancetta and pine nuts; and jumbo shrimp in a sauce of cognac, Dijon and roasted peppers.

I had the chance to check out some of the menu at a pre-opening dinner, and think local diners are really going to appreciate Esposito’s deft touch in the kitchen and very un-South Florida like (e.g., charming and professional) service. Among the highlights: crispy-creamy arancini with a mild-flavored curry sauce, rigatoni stuffed with a light veal mousse in a cream-enriched tomato sauce, and those jumbo shrimp in a cognac-Dijon sauce good enough make your napkin edible.

Raffaele Ristorante | The Wait is Finally Over

Source: The Boca Raton Tribune

Author: Denise Righetti | Published: November 29, 2020

Raffaele Ristorante Review of Fine Italian Restaurant in Boca

For those of you who have been patiently waiting for Raffaele’s to open, I’ve got good news: the long awaited, much anticipated opening of Raffaele Ristorante in Royal Palm Place has finally arrived! Chef/Owner Raffaele Esposito took his time to see his vision through as he totally transformed the space that had previously been occupied as Argentango into something uniquely his own. This new space is open and airy and is decorated in soothing, neutral tones of beige and brown with italian tile floors and dangling mother of pearl pendant lighting. The large windows and sliding glass door provide an excellent view of the lighted monument tower at night. A nice selection of music could be heard throughout the restaurant which added to the overall ambience.

Raffaele, a successful restauranteur in NYC for 20+ years, decided to move to South Florida and bring his culinary expertise with him. His signature dishes are representative of Naples and Southern Italy and his wine list, primarily comprised of CA and Italian wines, is quite extensive.

I had the pleasure of dining at Raffaele’s last night and wanted to share with you some of the highlights of the evening. As we entered the restaurant, we approached the hostess stand and were warmly greeted and escorted to a nice private table. Shortly after being seated, our server, Jean, came over to introduce himself, presented us with a wine list and offered to tell us about their appetizer and dinner specials to aid us in deciding what wines we might be interested in selecting. We appreciated that gesture and thought that was a very nice touch. I started out with a lovely glass of Lyeth Pinot Noir, CA ($12) and my husband chose the Capone Super Tuscan Reserve ($14). Both were wonderful choices. A basket of assorted freshly baked breads were delivered to our table that had been made in house in their wood-fired oven. We informed Jean that we were interested in trying a number of items and taking the initiative, like a true professional, he had each item brought to our table already split in the back. Impressive.

First up was the Capesante Con Shitaki ($13)- grilled scallops with leeks, shitake mushrooms and fresh herbs. The scallops were tender and the white wine reduction was light and flavorful. The shitaki mushrooms were the star of this dish in my opinion.

Next up was the Lenticchie Con Riso ($10)- Lentil Soup with Italian rice. The lentils were cooked perfectly and was packed with flavor. Next we had the Risotto Con Porcini Ricotta ($20)- Italian rice with porcini mushroom, ricotta and parmesan. The risotto was hearty and I especially enjoyed the combination of porcini mushrooms, the ricotta, parmesan and the fresh basil that topped the dish.

We selected the Steak Pizzaiola ($30) for our main entree, one of the specials that Jean had informed us about. The steak was cooked in their wood-fired oven, sliced and delicately placed atop a freshly prepared tomato sauce and accompanied by a spinach and cheese encrusted fritter (for lack of a better word) which was very unique and very tasty. Lastly, we somehow managed to save room to try two of Raffaele’s wonderful desserts: Tiramisu ($8) – Homemade with ladyfingers, coffee, Kahlua and mascarpone cheese (simply, TDF: to die for!) and Torta di Ricotta ($8) – Homemade Italian cheesecake with a delicate orange sauce. Now in case you have never had Italian cheesecake made with ricotta, be forewarned that this is a completely different taste profile than your typical American cheese cake. It’s quite unique and perhaps an acquired taste.

We were pleasantly surprised when Raffaele himself came out at the end of our meal and brought with him some of his very own homemade orangecello. He makes both limoncello and the orange one. Watch out folks, this stuff is uber strong and will knock your socks off if you’re not paying attention! Great flavor and a wonderful way to end an exquisite meal.

Raffaele Ristorante is located at 508 Via de Palmas in Royal Palm Place. 561-392-1110 . Their website is still a work in progress, but does have their menu listed: http://www.raffaelerestaurant.com/. They are open for lunch M-F 11am – 3pm and dinner every night from 5 – 10pm and until 11pm on Fri & Sat nights.