As part of my continuing pilgrimage to the locally owned Italian restaurants in Des Moines, I dropped by Baratta’s Restaurant at 2320 South Union on Des Moines’ south side. Baratta’s began in the 1950s as a small south-side grocery store owned by the Barradi family (Hey, that’s how they spell it on the Baratta’s web page). Since 1993 the restaurant has had new owners who keep the original traditions alive. More history on the restaurant is available on its website. There are two locations with the other, newer, location in the State Historical Building. I’ve eaten at both locations a number of times (but not enough) and they both offer great food, though the menu at the State Historical Building is smaller (go for the Butternut Squash Ravioli) and it seems geared to the East Village. The State Historical Building also offers a very different dining experience. Unless you ate at both locations back to back and have a good memory for sauces, I doubt that the average person would know that they are different branches of the same restaurant.
Our visit to the South Union location was during lunchtime, but Baratta’s offers an extensive lunch menu, with enough food to satisfy all but the most gluttonous (more on gluttons in a later posting). I chose the Cavatelli. It was fantastic, being made with hand-made pasta and stuffed with wonderful filling. The sauce was very rich and obviously had a lot of spices cooked into it. Although it was not as sweet as the sauce at, say Tumea’s, it just depends on what you are in the mood for. I thought that this rich sauce was a great way to set off the flavor of the rest of the dish.The Ravioli Casserole was also very good, with gooey cheese and that fantastic hand made pasta again. It is amazing to eat fresh pasta after years of eating pasta at chain restaurants or pasta made by just plain lazy cooks. It is so much easier to get it from a box, but it is worlds apart in taste and texture. The service was very energetic and every need was met or anticipated promptly. I have to mention that they did serve nice, warm and soft dinner rolls, though with the amount of food that they offer you do yourself a disservice by toking up on bread. The ambiance was very pleasant, with new artwork on the walls and a freshened look to the place. I had not been in this particular room before but it was very well lit. An old brick archway was evident and apparently it hearkens back to the original grocery store. The owners of the place were very much in evidence, making sure that things ran smoothly. I highly recommend either location, but if you are looking for a bit of that authentic south side atmosphere, try the South Union address.