By Sophia Ricco
Drinks and conversation flowed, as bodies and delectable dishes quickly moved around Ruvo in Greenlawn, a packed eatery that pulsed with liveliness on Friday night.
The first restaurant opened by DeNicola Brothers Concept in 2001, Ruvo Restaurant and Gourmet Store has garnered a reputation for serving appetizing Italian cuisine made from scratch every day. The restaurant takes its name after a town in Southern Italy, Ruvo, where the DeNicola family lived before coming to Long Island in the early 20th century. Abstract art adorns the walls of the restaurant, created by James DeNicola Sr. representing the beauty of the Italian town.
The Greenlawn restaurant has also been referred to as Ruvo “West” since the brothers decided to open Ruvo “East” in Port Jefferson five years later. With remarkable success, the group has opened a total of eight restaurants on Long Island, including Del Fuego, NoCo and La Tavola.
The original restaurant is not only an eatery but has a gourmet market in the back that sells fresh produce, mixed salads and menu items from the restaurant. This allows diners to take a bit of the restaurant home with them. Ruvo’s menu draws from the DeNicola’s roots in Italy, but has evolved over the years.
“Certain recipes we’ve had in the family forever, like our cheesecake, marinara sauce and meatballs,” owner Joseph DeNicola said. “Then other items we’ve developed over time just messing around in the kitchen.”
A signature Italian starter, the burrata cheese for two ($19) was heavenly. The creaminess of the cheese spilled out when cut into and blended with the light drizzle of olive oil to create a rich flavor. Topped on a piece of toasted bread with bruschetta, arugula and pine nuts, is quite the combo, as the freshness of the vegetables meets the softness of the cheese.
Another interesting flavor combination, the maryland crab cakes ($13) are served with marinated beluga lentils and a chipotle-lime aioli sauce. The aioli’s flavor was unexpected but worked with the crab cakes.
Chef’s board for two ($20) features sliced meats, a selection of asiago, parmesan, and provolone cheeses, fig jam, nuts, bread, olives and sun dried tomatoes. The bountiful spread asks to be dug into, as it overflows with tasty bites. The fig jam stood out with a fresh, natural taste.
Freshness is crucial to the DeNicola family, they feel their cuisine represents “family cooking” that they would eat in their own home.
“We change the menu seasonally, because we buy local,” DeNicola said. “We have local wines, there’s great wine on Long Island.”
Each day, Ruvo’s chefs are tasked to create a special menu. Last Friday featured steak tartare ($13) and osso bucco ($34). It was a treat to try the delicacy of bone marrow, served in the hollowed bone, that had a strange texture but sweet, fatty taste.
“It gives our chefs individuality, we give them freedom and let them create,” DeNicola said. “What is on the special menu is what they chose… As much as we want to be structured, we also want our chefs to be creative.”
Ruvo offers a prix fixe menu and lunch specials, where many of their scrumptious entrees, like the N.Y. shell steak ($34) and crispy ½-duck ($30) can be found.
“We try to make it accessible to everybody,” DeNicola said. “We get a tremendous lunch traffic and we’re still serving the same quality of food, just a smaller portion.”
A menu staple, the frutti di mare ($32) with lobster tail, shrimp, clams, mussels and calamari with squid ink fettuccine, served in a spicy marinara sauce is a must for any fish lover.
Finishing off with Italian sweets, the mascarpone cheesecake and baba au rhum ($8) with dark chocolate mousse and oreo banana ice cream were luxurious and melt in the mouth.
“We try to make this place a cornerstone of Greenlawn and it has been for 20 years,” DeNicola said. “We’re not going anywhere, we’ve been around a long time and we make our food like this every day, that’s why we have the business that we do.”
63 Broadway, Greenlawn
Atmosphere: Lively and rustic
Price: Appetizers: $12-24, Salad: $7-10, Pasta: $20-32, Entrees: $20-34
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m. - 9:30 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m. - 10:30 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.