Renovations are expected to complete by early August and will offer more seating for varied party sizes as well as a new private dining room that can seat up to 14. In addition to a liquor license, the new space will include an open kitchen with a bar where guests can eat, drink and interact. According to owner and Executive Chef David Benstock, “The expansion will not change who we are and what we do in the kitchen. We will stay true to the quality of food our guests have come to expect.” So for those of us who know and adore IL Ritorno (it’s no secret it’s an LD favorite), it will be the same amazing restaurant, just more for us to love.
When do you expect renovations to be complete? Are you still on track for August 1st?
Yes, we are still on track for August 1.
Will you be closed during any of the renovations?
Yes, we are planning to be closed for a couple of weeks in July. We will make an announcement when we have more definitive dates, though.
Currently how many reservations/seats do you accept for dinner on an average night? Approximately how many more will you be able to accommodate with the additional space?
We are currently able to accept up to 115 on a busy night, but this is very difficult sometimes because of the size of our kitchen. Once the renovations are complete, we should be able to double that amount on a busy night.
How long have you been anticipating the growth/expansion? What factors finally allowed you to do so?
Over the last year and a half we have been contemplating what our next move would be. We didn’t want to open a second location because I (chef) wanted to be able to be in the kitchen as much as possible to ensure the quality is always to the standards I have set. About 8 months ago, we found out the offices behind us were moving out, so we jumped on the opportunity to take over the spot. With the growth of downtown St. Pete it just felt right.
What changes will IL Ritorno regulars/lovers notice?
The first thing you will notice when you walk in is the open kitchen, which will be open completely to the dining room. Along with that, we will be incorporating a “Chef’s Bar” with eight seats right up in the action. Guests who choose those seats will have the opportunity to watch the kitchen cook, and try samplings from me (chef), for an experience they will not forget. The expansion will also bring a full liquor license.
The main reason for the expansion was to create some private dining. We will have a closed-door private dining room with one long table down the middle to seat up to 14. We will also have another private dining room that can seat 60 or be split into two separate parties.
How will the expansion affect the menu?
The expansion is not going to change who we are and what we do in the kitchen. I go in early every day to experiment and create new, exciting dishes, and that will still be the case once the expansion is complete. The whole purpose of staying in one place was to make sure I could still be in the kitchen all the time. That being said, we will stay true to the quality of food our guests have come to expect. We are working on developing a bar snack menu to pair with some of our cocktails, though.
What are you most excited about?
THE KITCHEN. The kitchen we have now has done an amazing job for us over the last three and a half years, but has major functionality flaws. The floor is beat up. The walls aren’t made for commercial kitchens. It’s also tiny. We have ten burners. When I show people the kitchen they usually start laughing because they were expecting something much bigger.
Is there anything about the expansion that makes you nervous?
Of course. If someone expanded and said they weren’t nervous they would be lying to you. But we are more excited than nervous. We really feel like this is the right next step, and we are excited to be creating these new experiences like the Chef’s Bar and the addition of private rooms for our guests.