Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rraci’s Ristorante: Worth the Trip

pssssss… do you want to know the best-kept secret in Putnam County? I’ll tell you.

But first, come a little closer.

That’s right, don’t be shy… A little closer…

RRACI’S RISTORANTE IS WORTH THE DRIVE TO BREWSTER FOR SO MANY … Hmmm? What’s that? Please don’t shout? Oh, right, gotcha. Rraci’s Ristorante is worth the drive to Brewster for so many reasons: you’ve got authentic, homemade pasta (I’m loving all these Italian places popping up that are actually making their own pasta), generous portions, stupefyingly creative desserts, reasonable prices, and practiced, ninja-like service. (If anything, go for the ninjas.)

My mom alerted me to the genius taking place at this Italian restaurant after two memorable meals—the first had blown her away, while the second confirmed her initial rating of “excellent.” My mom has high standards when she dines out, so my antennae did a little ping! when I heard her review. Then my dad mentioned celebrating a birthday there (he rarely comments on food, so when he said he really enjoyed his meal, I started to get a little itch). Then, two friends emailed me saying they couldn’t believe I still hadn’t visited. “Enough!” I cried. “Someone take me to Rraci’s!”

My mom didn’t need much of an excuse to return, so a few weeks ago, she brought something up about a “late birthday present” (my birthday was in April), and off we went to Rraci’s.

A preference would’ve been to sit on the private, well-maintained outdoor terrace on the day of our visit, but because weather looked iffy (big surprise considering the summer we’re having), we were seated by a window right next to the patio. Inside, the décor was elegant and dark. Servers floated by, some softly speaking Italian to one another, while Josh Groban sang from the speakers … but this last part has to be filed under “complaints.” My apologies to those who say Josh possesses the voice of an angel, but the music sounded so… produced. I would’ve preferred something more rustic to match Rraci’s traditional setting, like one of those opera recordings where you can still hear the scratches in the record … does that make sense? No? You love Josh Groban? Excellent.

Let’s get to the food:

To start, there was the Malfatti, a house made spinach and ricotta dumpling with light tomato sauce ($10):
It was as soft as a cloud.

Next, there was homemade pasta. My mom had been raving about Rraci’s meats, partly due to the custom-made broiler used to sear the meat at 1500 degrees (a temperature declared perfect for sealing in juices and producing flavorful proteins). But there was homemade pasta on the menu, I worried. What to choose, what to choose?

Rraci’s very thoughtfully offers half-orders of pasta for $10. We were able to share two half-size orders, and then tack on one meat entrée. Take a look:

Half-order of Cavatelli, with sweet Italian sausage, broccoli rabe, and freshly-chopped tomato ($10)
Half-order of Pappardelle, with duck meat ragu in tomato sauce ($10)
And the meat: Costoletta d’Agnello, or, broiled rack of lamb ($28)
Both pastas were exceptionally well-made. And can you believe those are half-sized portions? The cavatelli was the winner. It resembled a light gnocchi.

As for the rack of lamb, look at that generous portion. There are 10 pieces on our plate! 10! The meat was indeed tender and flavorful. While my mom wasn’t disappointed, she did mention that the other times she had ordered the lamb, it had been more seared. I suspect it’s because it sat so long while we were taking our pictures and divvying up the food, and not due to any gaffe in the kitchen.

Service as a whole was accommodating yet unobtrusive, to the point that my mom and I began referring to our servers as ninjas. It wasn’t until my tenth sip of water that I realized my glass was still completely full, yet I hadn’t once seen my server refill my glass. It was particularly remarkable to me because Rraci’s is a very large restaurant that employs a sizeable number of servers. They float about, yet still manage to remain inconspicuous. (Except for one guy who couldn’t be inconspicuous because he reminded me of James Bond.)

For dessert, my mom told me I had to try the Key Lime Pie:

“Where’s the Key Lime Pie?” I asked.

I assure you: the pastry chef is not on drugs (that I know of). That alien-looking thing was instead the best Key Lime Pie I have ever tasted. Throw out any preconceived notion of what you think Key Lime Pie is, and let Rraci’s show you what it should be. The meringue is lightly toasted, and the graham cracker crust is a sweet, crumbly suggestion under a refreshingly tart (yet not lip-puckeringly so) key-lime filling.

Then there’s the Ricotta Cheesecake:
This dessert may look less acid-induced than the key-lime—just a cheesecake with a splash of raspberry on the side—but amidst the moist, fluffy ricotta was a hint of something tropical. It took me three bites before I put my finger on it: passion fruit.


Go to Rraci’s and be blown away by authentic yet simultaneously innovative cuisine, invisible filling-of-water-glasses magic tricks, and the all-around good times you will experience.

3670 Route 6
Brewster, NY 10509
(845) 278-6695


  1. Wow. Looks great. I always feel like it's easy to find good Italian food, but great Italian is rare. If a place is doing homemade pasta, that is definitely a way to get me in the door.

    This reminds me of a pasta dish I had a few weeks ago at a local Italian/American festival.

    This was far from haute cuisine. It was cavatelli and meatballs in a red sauce, served in a toasted garlic bread bowl. My wife picked one up,and made me try it. Then, I got my own. Quickly.

    Hey, i know it sounds like a low-rent Italian/American carb overload, but my god was it delicious. The pasta had the perfect chew to it (tasted homemade), and the meatballs had a nice amount of fresh herb depth, and definitely had some pork (and probably veal) in them. The sauce was fresh and slightly sweet with a little red pepper flake to it, and plenty of sweet onion and garlic slightly carmelized and basically melted into the sauce. The tomato dice in the sauce wasn't mush, but still had plenty of substance to it. The bread bowl was a circle tuscan-like loaf which was grilled and sticky, buttery, salty/sweet and garlicky on the outside and soft but still chewy inside.

    If this dish was made from processed and/or industrial pre-prep food, they sure fooled me. Even if that were the case, it was so good, I would eat it again without hesitation.

  2. Hi Madgreek - what a great description. Now I'm hungry. I used to think pasta was pasta, but once you get used to homemade, you just can't go back.

    And yes, Italian restaurants in general were starting to get a bad rap around here due to the sheer number of mediocre places (not even "good," mediocre). When you see a place do Italian REALLY well, then I remember that there is really not much that is better.

    As for the relationship between haute cuisine and Italian, I think my preference has always leaned more towards simple and (my new favorite word) rustic, as well. Don't want my music overly-produced and I don't want my Italian over-produced. :)

  3. this is our favorite restaurant, hands down. I'm talking "of all time". I'm talking "I used to live in Manhattan". Seriously, the way you described the food made me pick up the phone and make reservations for tonight! Luckily, we now live about 4 miles from Rraci's and I am happy as a suburbinite clam as a result. The key lime pie will most certainly find its way into my belly in a few hours; their specials never dissappoint and I will likely have trouble deciding on a main course. I also highly recommend the insalata d'arugula... we create our own little version at home but it of course can't hold a candle to Rraci's.

  4. oh, and yes I know exactly which James Bond (a la Daniel Craig) that you're speaking of. His name is Tony. Always tops of the experience if you're lucky enough to have him as your server. Keeping my fingers crossed for tonight!

  5. Yes! The Daniel Craig James Bond! Tell him he has a fan! :)