Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ristorante Renato

In every town we lived, my family had a “special occasion” restaurant.   They got slightly ritzier as I grew up, but the earliest one I remember  was Renato’s in Fredericksburg, VA.  On my birthday, my dad would take me there for lunch, and on Christmas Eve you’d find all four of us there, forks full of pasta and marinara. 

Because of that, going to Renato’s feels like visiting an old friend.  The dining room hasn’t changed since I was a kid, and  when my parents went to Fredericskburg recently the same waiter is still there, adding a touch of nostalgia and familiarity.  Also, despite current pushes for restaurants to have the newest food, Renato’s menu still boasts the same dishes and same flavors that always kept my family coming back.    

In June, my best friend, Kathy, and I had gone back to Fredericskburg a couple of weeks ago.  We met when we were freshman at the University of Mary Washington and decided to go see our old alma mater.  Although there are lots of new trendy restaurants, for dinner I decided that a walk down college memory lane deserved restaurant reminiscence at Renato’s

For an appetizer, Kathy and I split the Granchio in Carozza, homemade bread and crabmeat baked in lemon butter sauce.  I wasn’t sure about the first bite, but enjoyed the dish the more I ate it.  The dish contained soft, squishy white bread that has been made into a sandwich and then deep fried.   It had a lot of white wine flavor and was brightened by the lemon.  Overall . . . squishy, crunchy, saucy.  

For the entrĂ©e, I went straight for a dish with the marinara.   Renato’s has the most amazing marina sauce that I have ever had.  I feel like I make a pretty exciting and complex one and it is still nothing compared to Renato’s.   What makes their sauce so amazing is that it has a great flavor that is enhanced by a fantastic texture.  It keeps a little of the very fragile fibrous quality of tomatoes while also keeping it smooth.  There is a great taste of wine and the color is a beautiful bright red, not the darker shades of most tomato sauces.  If you get something that has their marinara, you are not going to go wrong. 

For a marinara vehicle, I got one of my favorite dishes , Lasagna Romana.  Imagine perfectly thin and light pasta noodles, salty mozzarella, lush ricotta, light olive oil, and lots of perfect tomato marinara.  Deliziosissima!
Kathy had one of my second favorites, the Linguine Vongole, cherry stone clams in a white wine sauce.  This is another solid combination of clams, some in shell and some out, lots of garlic, and a strong white wine sauce.  Molto gustoso

Renato’s is a place that some might be called “old-school,” but I would like to think of as classic.  Sure, they still use iceberg lettuce in their salads and there is no hint of reductions, infusions, and foams, but it is a meal that makes me want to drop everything and go to Italy.  It tastes real and is still true to its recipes after all these years. 
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