The New Orleans Advocate

July 3 2017 | News

Ruzzitos Restaurante & Chop House was featured by Ian McNulty in The New Orleans Advocate!

Former home of Tony Angello’s to become Rizzuto’s, upscale Italian steakhouse in Lakeview

The former home of Tony Angello's Ristorante in Lakeview will become the new Rizzuto's Ristorante & Chop House.

Generations of New Orleanians have vivid memories of Tony Angello’s Ristorante, which closed on Christmas Eve after more than 40 years in business.

That includes Phil Rizzuto and Jack Rizzuto, two brothers who grew up eating at the beloved Creole Italian eatery in Lakeview. Now, they are developing their own restaurant in Tony Angello’s former home, one they hope will balance a new approach with touchstones of the past, including a few familiar dishes.

Rizzuto’s Ristorante & Chop House (6262 Fleur de Lis Dr., 504-300-1804) will be an upscale Italian steakhouse, serving prime steaks alongside a mix of Creole Italian and regional Italian cuisine.

The new restaurant is slated to open near the end of June and will serve dinner Tuesday through Sunday, along with Sunday brunch. Once it gets rolling, the restaurant will add Friday lunch.

Though it will be a new restaurant, the history of this address ensures comparisons to Tony Angello's. That's a dynamic the Rizzutos faced early on in their plans here. Jack Rizzuto said they quickly realized no restaurant could measure up to the memories that Tony Angello’s lifelong fans would bring to the table.

“Even if we still had Mr. Tony’s chefs, people would always say it wasn’t the same,” he said, referring to Tony Angello himself, who died in 2015 at age 88.

When Angello's family decided last year to close the restaurant, it meant the end of the line for the famous Lakeview institution. They were not interested in selling Angello's recipes, and the people who had run the restaurant up until the end all wanted to step away from the business for a while. Frank Catalanotto, the founder's nephew and long time chef here, wants to eventually open his own restaurant. Dale Messina, the ever-present manager and gatekeeper to the Tony Angello's dining room, is now considering his next gig too.

So the new restaurant taking shape in the big old house on Fleur de Lis Drive could not be a Tony Angello's part II. Still, what the Rizzutos know is Italian food, and that’s what they want to serve. They also run the Italian restaurants Amici on Magazine Street and the newly-opened Creole Carre on Bourbon Street, along with a string of bars. So they were not about to go too far afield in the next restaurant.

“For us, this is doing the food we’ve had our entire lives,” Jack Rizzuto said of the restaurant’s Italian focus.

There won’t be a “feed me” menu, the progression of small dishes for which Tony Angello’s was famous -- at least not in the beginning. But Rizzuto’s will serve some dishes inspired by the Tony Angello’s repertoire. That includes brisket and tomato salad, crab gravy, marinated mushrooms, frog legs finished with scampi butter and a version of eggplant Tina, a stack of breaded eggplant. The Rizzutos already serve a similar dish called eggplant Valetina at Amici.

For the past few months, Amici has also been serving some of the same prime steaks that will be a specialty at Rizzuto’s. At the Lakeview restaurant, though, the range of steaks will expand to include dry-aged and bone-in cuts, along with king-sized tomahawk pork chops and lamb.

Jason Caronna, who was chef at Amici, leads the kitchen at Rizzuto’s. His menu extends from the Rizzutos' own family recipes to dishes like beef carpaccio and fish crudo. It also has an emphasis on house-made staples. The kitchen will make its own pasta, to the tune of tortellacci, rigatoni and pappardelle, and produce its own gelato.

Like its predecessor, Rizzuto’s will be a big restaurant, with seating for close to 200. A renovation now wrapping up gives the interior a brighter look throughout. Large curving red banquettes mark the corners of the main room, and new mantles adorn the walls. The kitchen has been modernized too.

The layout of the dining rooms is the same, though they have new names. One room will be named for the Krewe of Pygmalion, with smaller adjacent chambers dubbed the Kings Room and Queens Room. Other rooms are named for Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. The snug Wine Room remains the same, though its wood-trimmed walls now have a cork floor too.

Tony Angello’s first opened in 1972, setting up shop in a then-quiet corner of Lakeview in a large, brick house that looks more like the surrounding suburban-style homes than a business. Over the years, many patrons came to regard the restaurant as an extension of their own homes and Mr. Angello himself as part of their families.

Before Tony Angello's closed, its dining room and bar were packed with longtime fans returning for final meals. As they prepare to open their new restaurant, the Rizzutos say they know they have a lot to live up to.

“Every one who came through here remembered the place, it was a classic,” said Jack Rizzuto.

Rizzuto’s Ristorante & Chop House
6262 Fleur De Lis Drive, 504-300-1804