By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
Gnocchi di patate stumbled too. The red meat sauce was rich, tangy, and well herbed, but the gnocchi, especially the plumper pieces, was gummy and chewy.
Unlike many conventional Italian restaurants, Raneri's has lobster. Lots of it. There's broiled lobster tail, baked lobster tail, lobster tail in hot sauce with clams and mussels, whole lobsters stuffed, broiled, or bathed in hot sauce, even surf and turf and a fisherman's platter. We locked our tongues on the aragosta cude scampi, a pair of baked tails with a ramekin of garlic-lemon-wine sauce for dipping the meat into. The tail meat, speckled with garlic particles, was extracted from the cylindrical shells and draped perpendicularly over the husks. The meat was firm and tender, but it was a little shy on sweetness.
Raneri's was opened roughly six months ago by chef/restaurateur Peter Raneri, a transplant from New York. The décor of his restaurant, like so many Italian haunts in Dallas, is perhaps an unintentional lunge at camp. Suits of armor, diminutive ones, as if custom tailored for Robert Reich, are positioned on each side of the entrance. The ceiling billows with sheer canopies that surround, swathe, muffle, and otherwise wrap every utilitarian fixture. Folds flutter like flaccid jowl flesh absorbing laughter every time the air conditioning system kicks in. The tuck and billow of the ceiling resembles the interior upholstery of a casket.
Unfortunately, all of those billows have little effect on the sound absorption of the place; when a crowd is present in the dining room, Raneri's is loud. But it also has a few amusing touches. Whitewashed latticework, snarled with plastic grapevines and Italian lights, separates the dining room from the bar and the foyer. Roman columns topped with an arch and wrapped with light strings in barber-pole style form a threshold to spill guests from the foyer into the dining room. It all comes off like a quickie wedding chapel in Reno.
However, the food is far better than the feeding trough buffets you'd most likely exploit after tying the knot in Reno.
There's a modest wine list with several California selections and a modest number of Italian selections, though not enough for my taste. One good entry is the Eco Domani Barbera D'alba (actually an E&J Gallo wine), a deliciously inexpensive drink ($22), smooth, tight, and luscious. It paired well with the braciola di manzo, rolled pounded beef stuffed with eggs, cheese, parsley in tomato sauce, and breadcrumbs. This homey dish was hearty and delicious.
Instead of cantaloupe, the prosciutto was draped in strips over a slice of sectioned honeydew, making for a stark contrast between pinch red and icy green. The melon was lushly fragrant and juicy, and the thick slices of prosciutto were tender, sweet, and briny.
Even the tiramisu, so often a Dallas dud, surpassed expectations. It was smooth, rich, and creamy with a firm cushion of sponge cake at the bottom, well sauced in marsala. Maybe it's possible to find tiramisu in a freeze-dried pouch too.