Rastrelli’s begins my journey into a couple weeks of food judging for the 2014 Dine Iowa Grand Tasting Gala in Des Moines, Iowa.
Chef Robert Anderson and I are the main judges. It is a privilege to get to work with him, the IRA staff, and members from the Soy and Beef Council.
During the next couple of weeks, leading up to the September 25th event, we have 10 different restaurants to visit. These restaurants are all across Iowa. Last night, we visited the first.
Rastrelli’s is an Italian restaurant that is built around family, and tradition. It was started by Pete and Ida Rastrelli dating all the way back to 1939. The business originally started out as a candy shop in Clinton, called Rastrelli’s Revere Candy Shop which, from their website says, boasted “a long soda fountain with a marble and stainless steel back bar, fifty mahogany booths, a popcorn machine, glass cigar cases”. In 1950, the Revere Hotel at 4th Avenue South and 2nd Street was sold and all of the tenets had to get out. Along with that, there was some major competition coming from national brands so the Rastrelli’s had to figure out a new plan because candy wasn’t really making the cut. They decided pizza was going to be their next venture. After Pete had perfected the pizza they were back in business.
Ever since then, Pizza has been their staple. As the restaurant grew, so did their menu. It now includes steaks, seafood, and Italian dishes and a variety of others. At Rastrelli’s you’ll always know that you’ll be getting the freshest meat, and sauces because it is all homemade. Their midset has always been if it’s homemade, you have better quality control.
The chefs at Rastrelli’s restaurant are Mike Rastrelli and Tristan Kao. It was fun to meet with them after our meal. You can see that the two work together very nicely. It was fun when Mike talked about how he hadn’t really worked with tofu but Quinton had some experience. They got their creative minds going to make their salad unique. It’s great when two can work their own area expertise into one dish!
Rules: With this event, each competitor will prepare a main entrée recipe utilizing Braveheart Black Angus Beef Ribeye, donated by Performance Food Group (at least six ounces of cooked beef must be used). Additionally, each competitor will prepare a Tofu (soft-silken or water packed) side dish or sauce (at least a 1⁄4 cup of tofu must be used).
Besides munching on Rastrelli’s delicious bread, or as Jessica calls it “magic bread”, we started our meal with a salad. This was one of the first time we saw tofu incorporated in our outing. Mike and Quinton had created a very unique dressing that featured blended soft tofu, orange juice, sour cream and a variety of other ingredients. I loved how the citrus perked the taste buds. Another unique way that they incorporated tofu into the salad was by frying soft tofu and then adding sesame seed oil to it. This created a similar texture as if it was fried cheese. It was something I hadn’t seen before!
Boy, oh boy. I’m pretty sure that all of our jaws dropped the minute the first plate was placed. We guessed that we received about a pound of prime rib. Cutting into it was so flawless. Tender, nicely cooked, and flavorful, this was piece of meat to enjoy. What I found unique was that every bite was different than the last. In a good way. The prime rib had been smoked with apple wood chips, which you could taste on the crust, and then there was a tofu and Gorgonzola cheese stuffing along with bits of garlic placed throughout the cut of meat. I always started from the outside in. I loved the smokey flavor, and then when I wanted something more powerful I would go for the stuffing. I do believe that the green beans were cooked in bacon grease. Mike and Tristan, great idea and wonderful job with the prime rib.
Rastrelli’s Restaurant, 238 Main Avenue, Clinton, Iowa 52732
I’m so excited for the next couple of weeks and I am eager to see how creative the competing chefs can be!