That passion for family and friends, great wine and perfectly prepared meals has made Italian cuisine an American favorite.
But rare is the restaurant that captures the complexities and nuances of fine Italian dishes while providing an atmosphere that transcends the made-in-America feel of many Italian eateries.
Welcome to Riggio's, an escape to authentic Italy. Located on the west end of downtown Steamboat Springs, Riggio's is a locals' favorite and award-winning restaurant that blends the culinary styles of northern and southern Italy with a creative revision of classic Italian dishes.
Riggio's opened 15 years ago under the leadership of Karen and Dominick Riggio. Since its first days of business, the restaurant has built a reputation founded upon the consistency of its food and service.
"Consistency is one of the biggest aspects of success for any restaurant, and that's something Riggio's has been able to accomplish for 15 years," Most said.
Most and his wife, Stacy, recently purchased Riggio's from its founders, and everyone can expect to see the same favorite dishes on the menu with the same great service.
From the decor to the menu, Riggio's has maintained the aspects that have made it so successful over the years.
That success begins in the kitchen, where Most and his professional staff use only the freshest ingredients. The aromas of sauteed garlic and fresh lemons, rosemary and sage float from the kitchen into the main dining room, where a raised ceiling with exposed ductwork provides the industrial feel of an urban eatery while old black-and-white family portraits and closely arranged tables exude a sense of intimacy and comfort.
A large upstairs seating area is ideal for private parties and banquets.
Riggio's menu has been carefully crafted with years of tinkering and adjusting dishes until a perfect balance is found.
For appetizers, Prince Edward mussels have been a long-standing favorite of Riggio's, prepared Fra Diavolo or garlic cream. Broccoli steamed in lemon and garlic is simplicity at its best.
Classic entrees include the Salmone Mediterraneo and the Pollo Florentino, Riggio's originals that capture the essence of authentic and classic Italian food. The salmon, flown in fresh, features a handsome filet hand-sauteed with capers, roasted garlic and fresh Roma tomatoes. The dish is finished in a delicate lemon butter sauce.
The Pollo Florentino is the restaurant's unique revision of an Italian classic -- steak Florentino. The chicken breast is marinated, grilled and layered with spinach, fontina cheese and prosciutto and finished with a mushroom sauce and potatoes vincenzo.
"It's a perfect example of how we use classic, traditional recipes and modernize them," Most said.
Riggio's offers nightly specials in addition to its extensive menu of appetizers, entrees, pizza and pasta dishes. A special high-protein, low-carb menu was added to appeal to patrons on special diets.
The restaurant's extensive wine list is constantly revised to offer patrons top selections from California and Italy.
"The wine is as important to the restaurant as the food is," Most said.
Saving room for dessert is a must at Riggio's, which offers a variety of homemade and locally prepared pastries and Italian standards. On any given night, the dessert tray can include a fresh fruit dish, a rich chocolate dessert, Karen Riggio's famous peanut butter pie, cheesecake and classic Italian desserts like tiramisu and cannoli.
A full selection of after-dinner drinks, including espresso, cappuccino and latte, will warm any stomach.
Great food and exquisite wines are a Riggio's staple, but an experienced, professional staff is as key to the restaurant's consistency as the food and drink, Most said.
"We're fortunate to have one of the best staffs in Steamboat," he said. "The staff here is really a family."
And family is how all patrons are treated in this superb Italian eatery.