190418RIGATONYS2

Helene Ramsdell, a member of The Gazette’s restaurant review team The Four Dishes, enjoyed this panini Italian from Riga-Tony’s in Delavan. Served on sourdough bread, the sandwich featured salami, capicola, mortadella and provolone cheese, along with pesto mayo and roasted sweet red peppers.

DELAVAN

I discovered Riga- Tony’s while browsing online. What caught my eye was that it was a ‘Delicatezzi Italiano.’ And when it comes to meats, cheeses, homemade pasta and desserts, I’m all in.

When I ventured to Delavan one afternoon, what I found was not only a great deli but a fun restaurant with a friendly staff. Family-owned and run, Riga-Tony’s has been around for 16 years, and the owner’s son will gladly tell you his grandparents came from Naples and Sicily and that the restaurant got its start in Chicago’s diverse Bridgeport district.

I like knowing the story, and visiting Riga- Tony’s website is a good way to learn more.

The entrance to the restaurant goes through a shop where there are cold cases of take-and-bake items as well as a full deli and a selection of imported Italian goods. Walk through the adjoining door and you enter a bright, clean restaurant with a hot counter for ready-to-sample choices.

Since I was on my own, I decided to pick up some selections from the hot counter and invite everyone over for an impromptu dinner. There was no way I could get everything, so I made a note to stop back and try the spinach lasagna and Friday seafood.

What a smorgasbord of Italian food. We had four a la carte meatballs ($1.50 each) in red sauce that were perfectly cooked and provided a substantial supplement to our pasta dishes. They were huge—the size of clementines. Once we gobbled them down, we used some bread to sop up the rest of the tasty sauce.

I asked about the braciola ($12.95/pound) when I saw it in the case. It is basically a stuffed rib-eye meat roll, and I was told Riga-Tony’s grinds its own ribeye and wraps it around a stuffing mix. This looked and sounded great but seemed slightly bland. I’m not giving up on this dish, and I will try it again next time I see it on a menu.

Helene found the tomato and eggplant salad ($6.95) to be utterly delectable, and she was not the only one. The eggplant was cut into thin, flat strips that looked like fettuccine, and there were tomato wedges and thinly sliced crescent-moons of onions. Topped with a heavy dusting of spices and an adequate amount of olive oil, the flavors were sublime and the textures wonderful.

Be forewarned: This dish is garlicky. But don’t let that prevent you from ordering it. Your taste buds will thank you.

Helene also enjoyed the panini Italian ($6.95), which came on sourdough bread with salami, capicola, mortadella and provolone cheese. The peppercorns in the mortadella gave the sandwich a bit of a bite, and the pesto mayo added a wonderful taste—as did the roasted sweet red peppers that made the sandwich a little hard to handle but added a surprising element to the flavor quality.

Jennifer was a fan of the homemade cheese ravioli ($12.95). Six oversized circular ravioli covered in a rich, savory sauce were divine. The cheese filling was remarkable and creamy with a velvety texture.

She also sampled the sausage, peppers and potatoes dish ($8.95/lb). Bursting with flavor, large homemade sausage links were sautéed with green and yellow bell peppers, onions and potatoes. It was delicious. The potatoes took on the flavor of the sautéed sausage and the Italian seasonings, which made it comfort food at its best.

Eggplant Parmesan ($14.95/dinner) calls to me every time. This one looked great—served over mostaccioli with a sweet, rich sauce. The flavor was really good, but it was a struggle to cut and just as difficult to chew. A little disappointing when everything else was quite wonderful.

We finished up our meals with some homemade cannoli ($2.95 ea), a classic Sicilian treat. The pastry’s crispy, tube-shaped crust was stuffed with chocolate chip-studded filling, dusted with powdered sugar and both ends were dipped in chopped pistachios. It made for a fitting end to our Italian buffet.

The portions were generous to begin with, and I had ordered enough for an army. This actually worked out great, as everyone was then able to take leftovers home.

Riga-Tony’s ... yes, the name is a bit corny. But it’s easy to remember, and once you taste the food, you’ll never forget it.

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The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.

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