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.