The I Ragazzi Experience
Canlelit Tables and Boisterous Conversation Set the Scene: Mediterranean Flair on a Budget
I discovered I Ragazzi just around the corner of Volkstheater and the Museum Quartier. An Italian Restaurant specializing in pasta and pizza, its large windows look out over the a plaza at the corner of the Burggasse and Kirchhofgasse – hard to miss and magnetically inviting.
Through the thick red curtains at the entrance, to keep out the winter cold, candle-lit wood-tables lend a rustic, even romantic touch to the restaurant, although the crowd is generally noisy, and fills almost every seat.
At I Ragazzi (The Guys), the waiters are all Italians – always a good sign – dressed in black, rushing frantically about their business, shouting quick commands:
"Eh Tony! Clear this table!" one shouts.
"We need two beers over here!" calls out another. "And where does the Chianti go?" But most of it is drowned out by the incessant sound of laughter and boisterous conversations.
In spite of the bustle, though, everything seems to work smoothly. Orders arrive at the table in good time, and are served with a smile. Special wishes for extra parmesan, exotic pizza toppings, and meatless sauces, were graciously and promptly fulfilled.
On a recent visit with my friends, we were seated in full view of the pizza oven glowing warmly across the restaurant. A semi-transparent glass wall separates the kitchen from the tables. Through it we could see the flares of the flambéed beef, and the back-and forth bustle of busy cooks adding to the vibrancy of a well-frequented restaurant.
To start we ordered a couple of appetizers, and soon the table was covered with servings of bruschetta, three pieces of crisp roasted bread with chopped tomatoes and garlic, and caprese, listed as a salad, a combination of thinly sliced tomatoes and mozzarella, with a few leaves of basil, two traditional Italian starters. In addition to this, we also ordered two portions of pizza pane (pizza bread) to dip in olive oil.
After enjoying the numerous dishes, I wondered if I would have any appetite left. But when the waiter came holding another big round platter with pizzas, pastas, and gigantic salads, I saw that I was clearly mistaken, and I was happy to dig in.
The varied menu is geared to satisfy a wide range of culinary tastes. The pasta offerings are extensive, including the popular penne arrabati, spaghetti with garlic and oil, and fettuccine bolognese, meats include a beef steak grilled with ruccola, and there is fish - including grilled squid, and halibut, as well as Tuscan salads with mixed seafood.
However, I Ragazzi’s trademark pizzas are a must. One of us had the pizza Pavarotti (the name tells it all) which includes everything from bufallo mozarella, to ham, bacon, shrimps, carpaccio, and an egg.
Choosing something simple, I decided to put the Mediterranean pizza to the test. I would normally order my favorite margherita, but the prospect of fresh basil and cocktail tomatoes seemed more compelling. And indeed the crunchy dough, the spicy tomato sauce, the tender mozzarella, and cocktail of fresh herbs and vegetables brought a true sense of Italy closer than the standard fair could ever have done.
My friends were less enthusiastic about their linguine with shrimps and ruccola, veal scaloppini and grilled calamari, as it did not compare with the pizza I had ordered. But all agreed it was above average and good value for the money.
Given my busy schedule the next day, I limited myself to a small beer while my companions tried a carafe of the house Chianti – a small wine, they tell me, that lacked refinement but was pleasantly fruity and natural. For the more demanding, the menu offers a good selection of Barolos, Brunellos, and Vino Nobile di Montepulcianos. The list of whites come mostly from Orvieto, Sicily, and includes a few Austrian ones as well.
Nearly satiated, I decided I had just enough space for a traditional Italian dessert and selected the panna cotta over the profiteroles. In minutes, I was served a white molded custard covered in a spill of raspberry sauce, and a split grape, as well a thin slice of kiwi. Presentation mattered at this restaurant.
A further pleasant surprise came with the bill – about €20 per person, including wine, something even students can afford every once in a while. An elaborate McDonald’s meal will set you back by just as much – without the candle-light, the Mediterranean flair, and – yes – the pleasant, lingering aftertaste of fresh garlic.
I Ragazzi (The Guys),
7., Burggasse 6-8
Open daily 11:30-24:00
Phone: 01 -522 63 25