September 28, 2018

New Eats: Ronnie Grisanti’s Italian Restaurant Opens at Regalia Shopping Center

The Daily Memphian

By Jennifer Biggs

After a couple of weeks of serving a limited menu to invited guests, Ronnie Grisanti’s Italian Restaurant opens its big mahogany doors and its full menu to the public Friday, Sept. 28.

Judd Grisanti opened the restaurant named for his father to honor him and the Grisanti ancestors who cooked for generations of Memphians before him, starting with Judd’s great-grandfather, Rinaldo.

The space in Regalia has been home to Mikasa, Circa by John Bragg, Southward and most recently, Heritage Tavern & Kitchen. Grisanti signed a lease in March, hoped to open in the summer and quickly saw that an extensive remodel would push the date until the fall.

The bar is a double-L shape, seats 24 and includes an oyster bar. The dining room is atmospheric, warm and inviting, intimate despite seating more than 130 in booths along the walls, tables in the center, a large table that can be curtained off for a private party and an upstairs room that can also be private.

“We wanted something cozy, a place where you come and you might want to stay all night,” Grisanti said. “We definitely want everyone to feel at home.”

It’s a typical Grisanti’s menu but done in what Judd calls “antico and nuovo” style, taking old dishes and giving them a new spin. A few of the items from the full menu include pasta dishes such as spaghetti, ravioli, manicotti and more; there’s the beloved Tuscan butter appetizer, fish entrees, chicken, steak, pizzas and veal – picatta di vitello, vitello di parmigiana, saltimbocca and even vitello antico nuovo, a veal chop cooked sous vide then seared and served with a demi-glace.

I recently dined at a soft opening with a limited menu.

We started with calamari fritti, a plate of crisp rings and tiny tentacles served with marinara and lemon-aioli; very nice. The polpette tre amici is a plate of three meatballs in a Pomodoro sauce that was flavorful, but the best appetizer at the table was the toasted ravioli, soft pillows stuffed with a blend of meat, herbs and spinach. The pasta was substantial enough to hold it, but tender and velvety, perfect for topping with or dipping in the Tuscan gravy.

Grisanti’s zuppa di Isabella is a personal favorite: Poached lobster in an asparagus bisque that is both light and lush. The flavor is bright and fresh, yet the creamy soup is decadent in texture and generously topped with shellfish. We also tried the Original Miss Mary’s salad, one found in any Grisanti’s restaurant and a Caesar tossed with a black garlic dressing.

For our main courses (secondi, on this menu), we chose salmone all’arancia, parmigiana de melanzane (eggplant parmesan) and manicotti – which was the favorite at our table. It’s an old Grisanti dish comprising large tubes of pasta filled with house-made salsiccia, beef, spinach and mozzarella di bufala nestled in a pool of meat gravy that was deep and rich in color and flavor – a perfect old school Italian dish.

The tiramisu was a solid example of the classic Italian dessert, but the ricotta cake was the star. It’s a light cheesecake served with a Grand Marnier honey sauce, whipped crème fraiche and berries. It was an excellent choice, but I’ll also try the affogato on my next visit.

At the bar, we sampled two classic cocktails that were both expertly poured. The Boulevardier and the Negroni were top notch, made with good liquor and served as expected in nice glasses. The wine list is extensive and ranges in price from the very reasonable to pricey.

The restaurant was intentionally not full on soft openings, which are generally family and friends or media events designed to let the staff in the kitchen and the front of the house work out the kinks before a restaurant opens to the public. As such, it’s hard to gauge the noise level for a full house, but my guess is that despite the tall ceiling, the booths, tablecloths and the separation of the bar and the main dining room will keep the noise at a reasonable level.

Ronnie Grisanti’s , 6150 Poplar Avenue, opens Friday, Sept. 28 at 5 p.m. Hours will be Monday through Saturday 5-10 p.m. There is valet parking and the restaurant will begin serving lunch within a month