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Address: 29 7th Ave S (Morton St)
City: New York, NY
Zip: 10014
Phone: (212) 242-1999
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Map: Map
Cuisine: Italian
2nd Cuisine:
Area: West Village


Chef Raffaele Ronca, formerly of BellaVitae and Palma, has opened his very own Neapolitan restaurant, celebrating the cuisine of southern Italy, appropriately in southern Manhattan. His Seventh Avenue South locale is home to a 65-seat two-level restaurant. The dining room, complete with a Venetian marble bar and chef’s counter at the open kitchen, sits above a 20-seat private dining room downstairs, in the glass-enclosed wine cellar. Seasonally, sidewalk seating becomes another dining option in this haven for southern Italian aficionados. Rafele – a diminutive version of the chef’s own name – celebrates Neapolitan food in a way that will have lovers of authentic cuisine drooling. A custom-made Acunto brick oven hails from the chef’s hometown, perfect for the house-made pizzas, as well as the infamous roast chicken (25). The wood is doused in different spirits, like brandy and grappa, to add even more flavor. While the equipment and chef may hail from the old world, however, Ronca has not neglected his new home. He comes from a family of butchers and fishermen, and it seems only right that the very best local ingredients, like fish from Long Island and produce from Blooming Hill Farm and the Union Square Greenmarket, add a local touch to this trattoria. Eggplant caponata accompanies bread as you peruse the diminutive menu, though the dearth of options doesn’t make choosing any easier. Appetizers vary to include four-cheese arancini (11), perfect fried calamari (13) and pan-seared meatballs (13), not atop pasta as we may be used to seeing in Italian-American eateries, but with a light tomato sauce. Primi include a variety of delicious homemade pastas, including spinach ravioli in brown butter sauce (17), melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi with taleggio cheese (16) and pettole ragu (17), a slow-roasted lamb sauce with rosemary and kalamata olives served atop ribbon pasta. Secondi are meat-based; highlights include grilled branzino (27) and the aforementioned herb-infused roast chicken. All of the desserts are made in-house, including tiramisu, panna cotta and ricotta cheesecake, the recipe for which is one of Ronca’s grandmother’s own. At the chef’s counter, overlooking the open kitchen, Ronca offers a four-course tasting menu (55) and will also tailor individual menus to small parties. As one might imagine, the wine list is mostly made up of Italian bottles, including sparkling, rosé, white and red options, selected by Wine Director Pierluigi Ossani. The least-expensive bottle runs at 38 dollars, but many cost more than 50. Several wines by the glass are also on offer. In opening this restaurant with his business partner, Romeo Palmisano, a close friend from Naples, Ronca wanted to create a homey atmosphere where the food of his childhood could be shared with the inhabitants of his adopted city. Their intention was a place where “L’appetito viene mangiando,” a place where food was moreish, a place where the menu respected the flavors of their homeland. To gauge their success, judge for yourself. - Emily Monaco