Italian restaurant with Rome roots opens in Palmetto

  • Jordan Chancey
  • 07/14/22

Ristorante Ragu Cucina Italiana recently opened in downtown Palmetto in a distinctive, two-story Victorian house built in 1890. During its long history, the house at 336 Eighth Ave. W. has been a home, an ice cream shop, and several different restaurants. Ristorante Ragu, which takes its name from ragù, an Italian sauce made with ground beef or other types of minced meats, is the latest restaurant incarnation and specializes in serving 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 set with white linen table cloths. “I like the fact that the staff is from Rome. They are very nice and very helpful,” said Daugherty as she stopped by 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 across the country. Restaurant manager Gianmarco Nannic is the brother of Gabriele Nanni, who was second in charge at Angelino Palmetto, before it closed. Gabriele is now back in Rome, working at another family restaurant. “We are an authentic Italian restaurant with good Alfredo and chicken Parmesan. Our guests come back and give us good reviews,” Gianmarco said.

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. Asked what he likes the most, he says, “Pasta. I’m Italian.”

The menu changes weekly, but has several main sections. Secondi are the meat and fish dishes, such as tuna steak, veal cutlet or chicken parmesan, and are priced at about $25. Contorni are side dishes, such as French fries, mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach.

Antipasti are the appetizers — fried eggplant in tomato sauce, meat balls, or fresh cuts and cheeses, for example. Primi are the first dishes (lasagna, cannelloni, fettuccine and linguine and more) and start at about $16. Rounding out the menu are salads, pizzas and desserts. Pizzas start at about $15.

Gianmarco Nanni says it’s a dream to be in the United States, sharing Italian cuisine but also soaking up American culture, making friends and enjoying the beach. “Everything here is new to me,” Nanni said. He regularly samples other Italian and American restaurants. One of his favorites is the Shake Station in Ellenton, and he is a fan of their hamburgers. Ristorante Ragu is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and is closed Mondays.

For more information, visit www.ragu.club or call 941-776-7473.

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