It’s difficult for anyone driving along Park Avenue, or its cross streets, not to notice all the new and unique businesses that have opened along the stretch of storefronts between the train station and the band shell and green space of Lincoln Park.
“More businesses coming to the neighborhood. More people walking the streets,” notes Carlos Reinoso, co-owner of the Risotto House at 88 Park Avenue. A man who’s been doing business in Rutherford long enough to realize all of the changes recently taking place.
Ask many other store owners and they’ll talk eagerly about how much Park Avenue really is changing. New business signs hang over redesigned front windows, while ground-level retail spaces undergo renovation, waiting for new tenants to further transform the character of the neighborhood. The more downtown Rutherford changes, however, the more certain things stay the same. One of those mainstays, a Park Avenue institution really, is the Risotto House.
As a fixture in downtown Rutherford for twelve years, the Risotto House, nestled in the block where Spring Dell meets Park Avenue, has also kept up with the changes around them by making some itself. Most notably, the restaurant opened a new party room in November of 2015, creating additional dining space for its loyal customers who typically visit Risotto House every week or several times a month.
“We have parties for businesses, christenings and communions, bridal and baby showers, birthdays,” says Carlos, The Risotto House’s familiar face manning the host stand. “We can now do many more parties because of the new space.”
With an extensive menu overflowing with classics like the tomato bruschetta or the fried calamari appetizer, to veal francese and chicken parmigiana, what sets Risotto House apart from so many of the Italian restaurants in the area is its namesake and its specialty: risotto.
Risotto with shrimp, risotto with smoked salmon and fresh mozzarella, risotto with sausage and broccoli rabe, risotto with mixed vegetables, are but a introductory list of what hungry customers will find in that section of the menu.
“It’s what really makes us unique from the other restaurants,” says Carlos, whose own personal favorite is the Risotto Del Mare, which includes scallops, shrimp, calamari, clams, and mussels all blended together with the signature creamy rice and delectable seasoning.
“The most popular is the Pollo, Asparagus e Funghi” Carlos adds, referring to risotto with chicken, asparagus, mushrooms.
In addition to all of the delicious selections on Risotto House’s regular menu, Chef Alex Tito, Carlos’s long-time partner, conjures up an assortment of dazzling daily specials that both perfectly complement the array of risotto choices, but also make each dinner at the restaurant a unique experience.
Just a sampling of those nightly specials include lamb shank with mushroom risotto, veal braciola with homemade gnocchi tomato sauce, and a sea bass with shrimp, francese-style. Of course, for appetizers there’s likely to be a special arugula salad, clams oreganata, or beef, peas and mozzarella-filled rice balls, all just waiting to be tried.
More than anything, The Risotto House has earned its reputation for great service and delicious food, most by the word-of-mouth of its loyal clientele. Carlos fondly recalls a number of occasions when first-time customers have come for dinner and take a moment afterwards to compliment him on how much they loved their meal.
“They’ll tell me, ‘We never even knew this place was here,’” he says.
With all the changes happening in downtown Rutherford, there’s sure to be fewer and fewer people who’ll be able to say they’ve never heard of The Risotto House.