“Old customers begged us not
to change anything. We promised
we wouldn’t,” says Connie. “But we
changed everything, top to bottom.”
The first thing to go was the kitchen
staff and purveyors. “We use only the
freshest, finest ingredients,” says Con-
nie. “We cook our gravy seven to eight
hours and make our own stock, desserts
and salad dressings. Nothing is prepared
in advance. Everything is made to order.”
Although the refurbished interior
gives a nod to the past, the previous
owners wouldn’t recognize what’s hap-
pening in the kitchen. Little old Italian
mammas have been replaced by cutting
edge, classically trained chefs.
The menu, however, reflects
Michael’s childhood in Sicily. Lamb
stew in sherry sauce; sweetbreads in
wine demi-glace; osso buco with saffron
risotto. You want to know what’s in the
secret sauce? They won’t give you the
recipe, but you can buy their marinara
sauce and sugo di pasta, a beef-based
gravy, at the restaurant and online.
Personally, I judge any Italian restaurant by its escarole. It’s a simple
Mussels at Ralph’s
dish that can easily go wrong. Dante &
Luigi’s nailed it. Just the right touch of
lemon and enough garlic to ward off
colds and vampires for a year. But it was
their pastry chef who brought me to my
knees. Their ricotta cheesecake is so
light it seemed to levitate off the plate.
With her expert eye, Connie transformed the main dining room from a
Dresden ruin into a whipped-cream
cake. An antique armoire in one corner
Dante & Luigi’s co-owner Michael LaRussa’s menu reflects his Sicilian upbringing.
and a fireplace in the other create the feeling of an elegant, 19th-century home. But
it was the photos in the smaller front dining room that had me asking for details.
“Those are my parents,” beams
Connie, pointing to a photo of a young
couple jitterbugging. A lone fork is
displayed in a picture frame. “All the
original flatware was sterling silver and
engraved with the restaurant’s name.
This is the only survivor.”