Rino's Ristorante sits on the east side of the Tollway, just south of 121. As with Rino Brigliadori's prior creation, Modo Mio, the unassuming strip-mall exterior belies the quality of food and service once one steps in the door.
Rino's is, happily, larger than Modo Mio. There's a roomy, boisterous bar, well-spaced dining room, and a huge patio (though, at present, there isn't much to look at outside). A brightly lit open kitchen runs along the back of the dining room. Decor combines '80s warehouse chic (open ceilings, track lighting, polished concrete floors) with more modern, Euro-styled accents (terraced ceiling pieces, flowing blonde wood furnishings, etc.).
Service was good. Mr. Brigliadori, as he did at Modo Mio, works the dining room like a politician, shaking hands, paying compliments, even (no joke) kissing a baby. Waitstaff seemed very competent--no glitches at our table--but with a much more casual feel than I expected. Valet parking is available (but not necessary, given the size and proximity of the parking lot).
The menu at Rino's comes in at a significantly lower price point than Modo Mio; I'd estimate about 30% less. (With the savings, you can almost afford the gas to get back to Dallas.) But, from the dishes we had, there were no compromises in quality. We started with a pureed zucchini soup and carpaccio. The carpaccio was good, but we were both surprised by the delicious soup--a thick, mellow green with biting undertones from freshly ground black pepper. Our first entree--spinach and ricotta ravioli with tomato sauce and sage butter--was outstanding. The tooth of the pasta, the play between the two sweet sauces, the mild filling...it all came together (and for only $12.95). Our second entree consisted of two grilled pork chops, plated with sauteed green beans, roasted potatoes, and caramelized pearl onions in a balsamic reduction (a generous portion for $15.95). While it was a thoroughly unsexy, homestyle preparation, the chops were flavorful and tender, the potatoes crisp on the outside, and the sauce (modest in amount) intensely flavored. For dessert, we shared the tiramisu and flourless chocolate cake (with raspberry puree). Both were adequate, but nothing exceptional.
With the emphasis on simple dishes, perfectly prepared, and at reasonable prices, Rino's seems like the ideal neighborhood Italian restaurant. The only problem is that it's too far away from my neighborhood. If you're ever in far north Dallas, though, it's definitely worth a visit.
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