By Lisa Capobianco
For Renaldo’s Apizza & Pasta Restaurant, it has been a long journey of 35 years. Once comprising a small part of the property when it first opened, the Italian restaurant, located at 378 North Main Street, has undergone expansions, as the business grew from take-out only to take-out, sit-down and catering services.
“It’s come a long way,” said Renaldo Riccitelli, the original owner of the restaurant, who is now retired. “We only had a small section of this building at one time.”
By 1985, Renaldo’s restaurant had two different sit-down dining areas, offering more space for local families to enjoy an Italian cuisine together. Riccitelli’s family also played a role in the business, as his children and wife worked in the kitchen.
“We expanded the dining room,” said Riccitelli, adding that he also owned a restaurant in Waterbury and Cheshire before taking over Renaldo’s in Southington. “We just kept expanding until we had the whole building.”
Although the size of Renaldo’s property has changed over the years, one part of the restaurant has remained the same for the past 35 years: the food and the loyal customers, something in which Riccitelli said he feels proud of. From specialty and Sicilian-pan pizzas to pasta, meatballs and eggplant rollatini to hot grinders and baked calzones made from fresh, hand-made bread daily, customers have a number of Italian dishes to choose from whether they order food for take-out, catering or sit-down dining.
“Most of these are my mother’s recipes,” said Riccitelli, who worked as a carpenter before pursuing his career in the pizza industry in 1972. “I’ve been cooking since I was 12 years old.”
“People have been coming in for 20 years,” added current owner Chris Quiroga, a former corrections officer who bought the restaurant from Riccitelli 13 years ago. “Nothing has changed.”
As the current owner, Quiroga said he enjoys carrying on Riccitelli’s original recipes, seeing the same faces come through the door every day. Popular items on Renaldo’s menu include the lasagna, meatball grinders and eggplant dinners, which are battered and fried. The menu also features a variety of signature pies, including the Clam Casino, Buffalo Chicken, and the Margherita pizza made with fresh plum tomato sauce, garlic, olive oil and grated cheese. Customers also have the option of purchasing pizza kits, equipped with dough, sauce, mozzarella and other toppings so they can enjoy the taste of Renaldo’s in their own kitchen.
Looking ahead in the future of the restaurant, both Riccitelli and Quiroga said they hope the loyal customers keep coming back to Renaldo’s for more pizza and other Italian dishes. Although he plans to continue providing Renaldo’s original recipes, Quiroga added that he would also add new signature pizzas to the menu in the near future.
“I’m going to add stuff to the menu to enhance what we have,” Quiroga said.
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By Lisa Capobianco