Ristorante Ragu Cucina Italiana recently opened in downtown Palmetto in a distinctive two-story Victorian house built in 1890.
Over its long history, the house at 336 Eighth Ave. W. has been a house, an ice cream shop and several different restaurants.
Ristorante Ragu, named after ragù, an Italian sauce made with ground beef or other types of minced meat, is the restaurant’s latest incarnation and specializes in authentic Italian cuisine.
“I love it. The food is outstanding and I love the decor,” Tina Daugherty said of the art-covered walls and tables topped with white linen tablecloths.
“I like the fact that the staff are from Rome. They are very kind and very helpful,” Daugherty said as she stopped to order tiramisu for her husband’s birthday.
The previous restaurant, Angelino Palmetto, opened in March 2020 but closed soon after as the pandemic swept the country.
Restaurant manager Gianmarco Nannic is the brother of Gabriele Nanni, who was second in charge of Angelino Palmetto before it closed. Gabriele is now back in Rome, working in another family restaurant.
“We are an authentic Italian restaurant with good Alfredo and chicken parmesan. Our customers come back and give us great reviews,” said Gianmarco.
Chef Julio Ventura has cooked in Italy, Switzerland and Indonesia.
“He likes to cook and he likes to travel,” Gianmarco said.
Ventura has been cooking for 20 years. When asked what he likes the most, he replies, “Pasta. I am Italian.”
The menu changes weekly, but has several main sections.
Secondi are the meat and fish dishes, like tuna steak, veal cutlet, or chicken parmesan, and cost around $25.
Contorni are side dishes, such as fries, mashed potatoes, and sautéed spinach.
Antipasti are starters – fried eggplant in tomato sauce, meatballs or fresh cuts and cheeses, for example.
Primi are the first courses (lasagna, cannelloni, fettuccine and linguine and more) and start at around $16.
The menu is completed with salads, pizzas and desserts. Pizzas start at around $15.
Gianmarco Nanni says it’s a dream to be in the United States, to share Italian cuisine but also to soak up American culture, make friends and enjoy the beach.
“Everything here is new to me,” Nanni said.
He regularly tastes other Italian and American restaurants. One of his favorites is Shake Station in Ellenton, and he’s a fan of their burgers.
Ristorante Ragu is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and is closed on Mondays.
For more information, visit www.ragu.club or call 941-776-7473.
This story was originally published July 13, 2022 5:45 a.m.