When it opened a year or so ago, Ravello was an upscale Italian restaurant with tuxedoed waiters, steep prices and an extensive menu with an emphasis on seafood. But new management has brought more modest aspirations.
Now the staff is in shirtsleeves, the prices are relatively low and the menu is mainly standard Italian restaurant fare. (Except on Sundays, when the menu switches to Latin American.)
Although the results may not be a total success -- this is not a restaurant in the same league as Amalfi, say -- there are enough solidly good dishes here at reasonable enough prices to make Ravello worth considering.
The decor remains essentially as it was: an attractive dining room and bar with comfortable booths and tables, white linens, soft lighting. The service has been prompt, although on a busy night it's been tinged with a certain amount of confusion. (Growing pains are understandable, with the new management at the helm for just a short time.)
Among the first-rate appetizers are fried squid -- fresh-tasting and tender, with the lightest of batters -- and fried zucchini, sliced in strips rather than the more common disks. There's also excellent sauteed crab with mushrooms and brandy and an equally good cold antipasto assortment of tiny squid, shrimp, sweet red pepper and spinach, all glistening in an olive-oil dressing. The appetizers are made all the better by the excellent bread: real Italian loaves, thick-crusted and chewy.
When it comes to entrees, tread a little more carefully. For example, it's probably best to aim for the red sauces and steer a wide berth around the white ones. Those fine squid can be had on a hefty mountain of good al dente linguine (all the pastas are served in generous portions here) in a fine fruity marinara sauce.
Judging from what we saw at a nearby table, the Italian sausage and linguine might be another promising bet, with an attractive vegetable-laden tomato sauce. Eggplant parmigiana is graced with a lovely fresh-tasting tomato sauce and, thankfully, it's not buried in an overdose of cheese -- if the eggplant itself were a bit firmer, this would be a top-notch dish.
Other than the red ones, the pasta sauces are problematic. Both the rigatoni carbonara and the linguine with shrimp and garlic butter are excessively oily, and the nicely filled cannelloni is drowned in a thick glue of a cream sauce (which means that the fettuccine Alfredo is probably chancy, too).
We found the grilled swordfish a nice rendition, fresh, firm and reasonably juicy. We've grown so accustomed to having this dish served dried out in restaurants that it was a happy surprise. The veal is of good quality, too, and in "veal brandy" the sauce is a nicely zippy mustard-brandy blend.
All entrees come with a decent small salad of romaine and head lettuce, and the non-pasta ones are also accompanied by well-prepared vegetables.
The desserts, mainly waxy-tasting cakes and sugary parfaits, are best left on the serving cart.