How do you define success?
Well, try this for a definition: in the Cavaliere family’s Rinuccini restaurant, in Kilkenny city, they enjoyed their most successful year in business in 2015.
26 years in, and they hit their peak.
26 years after Antonio Cavaliere first opened the doors of his restaurant, back in the dog days of 1989, and the family have their best ever year of cooking and selling superb food and beautiful wines.
That seems like the true measure of success to us. Organic success, patient success, success that comes at a time when the economy isn’t booming. Success built on a time frame that is almost geological.
That’s the kind of success you experience when you do something that is not simply a job, but which is truly your life’s work, your vocation.
Rinuccini has achieved this success by answering one of the big questions: they manage to make running a restaurant an act of curation, as well as an act of culinary creativity.
Solving this paradox is the biggest difficulty for Italian restaurants. When people go out to eat Italian, what they are seeking is familiarity. They want the room and the food and the service to be the same as the last time. But this is difficult for restaurateurs, who get their animus from being creative, from doing things differently.
In Rinuccini, Riccardo Cavaliere and his team solve this paradox without the slightest trace of tension. They offer the staples of Italian dining – the clubby room with its genius of place, the super-Tuscan wines, the smart service, the white tablecloths, the tiramisu – but their twist is to bring an attenuated attention to detail to everything.
So, the service is pin point sharp. The ingredients are superbly selected. The cooking is right on point: a mushroom risotto is deeply flavourful and conforting; raviolo of Gorgonzola and spinach is pasta cookery at a peak; sautéed prawns are sweetly delicious; squid and zucchini fritters are crisp and bracing. You have to nitpick to say that the tiramisu could have had a shade more coffee astringency.
On a Friday evening, the room was filled with people at ease with enjoying themselves, helped by superb staff who read your every thought and gesture. We have the feeling that, in another 26 years time, Rinuccini will be enjoying another peak of success, at the capable hands of another generation of the Cavaliere family.
Kilkenny's Rinuccini has been a defining restaurant in the city for more than 25 years. John McKenna applauds their expert curation.
How do you define success?
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