Upscale and family dining are not two terms that usually go together.
However, dining at Casa Italiana in the West End gives the delightful experience of both.
Formerly Pesco and Vino, this family run restaurant has been re-envisioned. Its ambiance is as warm and inviting as it is sumptuously elegant. On our visit, friendly and accommodating staff—exuding confidence in the knowledge that we are going to enjoy our experience—greeted us and set to work on making us as comfortable as possible.
One of the first things you’ll notice when entering the intimate dining space is a wall decorated with black and white photos. The photos are of the family that is set on providing you with an extraordinary dining experience. This is where Chef Kristi, of whom I am now a dedicated fangirl, gave us a passionate rundown of how this family business came to be and the family’s vision of opening more restaurants in the area with a similar family-centered focus.
The Genovas, originally from Carini, Italy, have been cooking up meals together both at home and at various family run restaurants in Pennsylvania and now Richmond for over a decade. Kristi Ritchey, related by heart and soul but not by blood, met the Genovas in Muncy, Pennsylvania and is a celebrated celebrity chef in her own right in California. They have now all converged in Richmond to raise their families and share their love of authentic Italian comfort food.
And, oh, the food!
We began with fresh bread, Bruschetta Classico, and Parmesan Risotto Fries as appetizers. Paired with the house selection of wine for the evening, I already knew we were in for a treat. The Risotto Fries were lightly breaded to perfection and filled with a tender risotto that melted in our mouths. Our eyes couldn’t help but grow large the moment the flavors hit our tongues. This exact moment of rapture would be repeated over and over throughout the course of the meal.
Several selections from the menu were ordered around the table. I ordered the Seafood Risotto which was piled high with mussels, shrimp, clams and calamari in a tangy tomato base. The meal was flavorful, satisfying and enough for two. I also got to try the creamy and rich Sweet Corn Risotto with Pesto, which was equally fabulous. Chef Kristi admitted that there was a bit of a risotto cooking contest between her and her brother chefs. They are all winners in my book!
Not to be missed is an order of the crowd favorite–Spaghetti al Formaggio. It is hard to miss the preparation of it, as the pasta is cooked inside of a huge wheel of imported parmesan cheese, splashed with bourbon and flambéed at a dedicated table in the center of the restaurant. Smoky and sweet, this dish is entertaining to see prepared and unforgettably delicious.
It’s possible that we should have stopped at dessert.
But there was no way that was going to happen with a menu that included an assortment of delicious dessert options. There was an exquisitely light and tangy lemon berry cream tart, a giant sized cream puff, tiramisu (done the proper Italian way with less sugar and more liqueur), and crispy mascarpone and chocolate filled cannoli imported from Carini, Italy! With the will power the size of Texas, we shared it around the table with intermittent exclamations of “Oh my God!” at every bite.
As if the sheer artistry of the menu itself wasn’t enough, Chef Kristi has elevated the art of customer service. She was a constant presence in the dining room–flitting between whipping up amazing dishes in the kitchen and chatting it up with diners throughout the cozy space. Her energy was as much a part of the vibrant atmosphere as the warm glow of the sphere shaped ceiling lamps.
This is a place to return to again and again to become a part of la famiglia. I can’t wait to go back and work my way through the chefs’ inspired menu.
Casa Italiana is located at:
8801 Three Chopt Road Suite B