“I find a lot of satisfaction when my customer leaves here with a smile on their face. They’re happy, they’re satisfied and they’ll return.” Chef Giuseppe Di Gristina has known since he left high school he wanted to have his own restaurant. That dream took form in August 2006 when he and his wife Vincenza opened the doors to Raviolis! in Lake Elsinore. The name Raviolis! came about almost by accident. The original idea was to call the restaurant Mozzarella, but as the menu evolved they decided they needed a name that reflected fresh pastas and fresh ingredients. They had the name for the restaurant two years before they opened the doors.
Giuseppe is Sicilian born and came to the United States twenty four years ago. His master plan was to study International Business with Culinary Arts as a secondary field, but life has a funny way of throwing you curves. He wound up having to fight legal battles to stay in this country and had to abandon his idea of studying his first choice. His brother Carlo owned a restaurant in Vista, so he went to work for him: first as a prep cook and then working evenings as a busser, he moved up the ranks from a line cook to chef. “There are no shortcuts.” He says Carlo loves what he does and is a great teacher. He closed the Vista retaurant, but now owns two others called That’s Amore, one in Hemet and one in Rosarito Beach.
Giuseppe had a business plan and knew he wanted his own place. He wasn’t quite done paying his dues, so he helped open Rusticana in Lake Elsinore in 2001 and moved to Lake Elsinore to be closer to work. He moved on to Crivello as a chef/partner where he stayed for three and a half years and then worked at Gourmet Italia for a year. That’s when fate stepped in. The owners of La Tré Vietnamese restaurant knew he was looking to open his own place. They were ready to sell. He and Vincenza opened Raviolis! in 2006 and a year later bought the adjoining property and expanded into the bar area.
Vincenza is a third level or advanced sommelier, no small feat especially for a woman. She selects wines designed to compliment the cuisine, also focusing on quality, boutique wineries that stand out from the crowd. She is in charge of the wine list and creating specialty cocktails. Vincenza and Giuseppe compliment each other beautifully.
Giuseppe believes consistency is the key to remaining successful. “Good service, good food and good quality go hand in hand.” He says he “cracks the whip” on his staff daily to remind them how important it is to please the customer. When I asked him what sets Raviolis! apart from other Italian restaurants in the area, he mentioned what you won’t find on his menu. Dishes like spaghetti and meatballs and Chicken Parmigiana may be considered Italian, but he says you’ll be hard pressed to find them on any menu in Italy. Instead you’ll find a wide array of ravioli dishes, several different pasta dishes, chicken, veal and decadent desserts. Ask Vincenza what wine she recommends and she’ll hit the target every time.
The Di Gristinas are gearing up for the opening of the second location of Raviolis! in Murrieta and hope to have the doors open by early April. Giuseppe says his goal is to have three restaurants before he retires. If he hits that goal before then, his may set his sights higher. He has a commitment to quality and takes pride in all he does. He loves to mingle with his customers. If you haven’t paid a visit to Raviolis! yet, you’re missing out. You’ll find them at 123 N. Main St. in Lake Elsinore. (951) 245-7242