Twin Cities Taste® Dining Guide

1935 W. Wayzata Blvd., Long Lake, 952-473-7373
Review published December 2004

MARK NAZIGIAN IS ONE OF THE FEW RESTAURATEURS with the charisma (or is it chutzpah?) to create a suave dining experience in a strip mall. Maybe it’s his firm handshake. Or his looks: a young Richard Gere with long hair. Regardless, Ravello is situated near a nail salon and a gas station, yet it maintains the welcoming ambiance of a candlelit trattoria. And chef Andrew Webber’s cuisine seems to convince many Long Lake–area residents that they don’t need to drive to the city for a decent meal.

Webber, who trained under New York superchef Daniel Boulud, serves a five-course tasting menu that overlaps somewhat with the regular seasonally changing menu. Ours faltered a bit at the start with a wild mushroom tart. It had a beautifully flaky crust, but the mushrooms were dry—almost like a puff of smoke. But the tart was instantly forgotten when the second course arrived: a chickpea and truffle soup. This was an unexpected pairing of lowly chickpeas (puréed and sieved to achieve a smooth texture), infused with the woodsy flavor of the prized truffle. And it contained surprises: a hint of heat, crunchy bits of cured meat, and a dollop of whipped Brie de Maux.

If you’re a person who hears about dollops of whipped Brie and starts complaining that you can’t get enough to eat at these hoity-toity restaurants—a person who craves Burger King after such a dinner—Ravello might change your mind. For entrées, the grilled New Zealand rack of lamb featured six ribs, bones Frenched so each looked like a lollipop for adults, a clean white stick attached to a round of bright pink flesh. The portion of meat was easily a third more than expected, as was the case with the roasted breast of Wild Acres duck. The sliced fowl was served on a bed of puréed yucca root, with braised leeks, half a roasted pluot (a plum/apricot hybrid), and a reduction of port wine and rhubarb. The flavors were arranged like a row of dominos: meat with sweet stone fruit tumbled onto the richness of the yucca and the pungency of the leek, skewered, finally, by the sour rhubarb.

Diners also may consider composing a meal by combining first courses and pastas; the appetizer-size penne Bolognese, for example, was delicious and quite substantial. Recommended starters include a country-style terrine (thick wedges of a stiff paté dappled with cherries and raisins) paired with snappy pickled veggies; the beef tenderloin “ceviche” marinated in Meyer lemon juice; and the crispy wontons stuffed with duck confit, served with Asian greens and sweet marmalade.

Ravello is a pleasant spot for a meal that respects Italian traditions and takes some creative liberties. Despite a few distractions (overly sentimental background music, an odd mural of a waterfront promenade with white marble busts, and several tables near the kitchen and bathroom that are real clunkers), its loyal clientele should be thankful to have it in the 952.

Facebook Comments