Rico’s Ristorante does it right on a New Year’s Eve

Relaxing on New Year's Eve.

Relaxing on New Year’s Eve.

My dear wife Karen and I have had good times and not so good times while eating out on New Year’s Eve.

It can be a tough night. Big crowds. Tense wait staffs. Smaller menus. Frustrated Mark.

I come here today to praise Rico’s Ristorante of East Syracuse, N.Y.

I’d chosen Rico’s as our New Year’s Eve destination for the first time this past Wednesday because, well, we like it, it’s only three or four miles from the Little Bitty in the Syracuse city neighborhood of Eastwood, and it’s a pretty big joint.

First, a little back story. For a good stretch, we’d visited Casi di Copani, also a nice restaurant specializing in Italian, and in the beginning, we rather enjoyed our New Year’s Eve dinner in that spot even closer to home. Then we noticed the wait to be seated on this special night started getting longer and the bar area more crowded, even with our reservations. And the wait staff had to hustle more to keep up. And then one year I got a salad with an Italian dressing I deemed too salty and was told that was how it was going to be because that’s how the chef thought it should be. It was a great five-year run with plenty of good food, and we continue to go back to this spot on other nights, but it had ceased to be relaxing on New Year’s Eve.

For the next few years, we had a totally fine time at the little Ruby Tuesday tucked behind the hotels off Carrier Circle, and it was always good, tasty, Ruby Tuesday food. We go there once every other month at least. The kids give us Ruby Tuesday gift cards. It lost the needed juice for New Year’s Eve.

(From ricosristorante.com)

(From ricosristorante.com)

And so I called Rico’s Ristorante, where we’d had a splendid summer meal with our visiting friends Judy and Dave, up from Florida, and Mark, all former colleagues at the big daily. On Christmas Eve, I was given a 7:30 reservation for two on New Year’s Eve. Sweet, we thought.

Karen pulled into the packed parking lot a few minutes before that appointed time and found a spot in the furthest row out. We wondered how crowded it was going to be.

But the path to the host and hostess stand was clear, and when I gave them my name, a polite, earnest and fast gentleman flashed in recognition, crossed it off his list, and led us to a table in the big and comfortable room out back.

Our waitress visited us immediately to take our drink orders of a Labatts Blue Light for Karen and Cabernet Sauvignon for me. In the short wait for them to arrive, we listened with a smile as the party of seven at the next table quietly sang “Happy Birthday” to a woman who didn’t seem to mind being there for a birthday New Year’s Eve combo with family and friends. Her teen daughter smiled next to her, and everybody in the room clapped when they were finished singing.

We read the full menus and decided upon eggplant parmagiana for me and prime rib for Karen. We pulled a slice each of fresh bread from a loaf and dabbed it with butter and enjoyed our drinks after ordering, happy because our friendly waitress had informed us that our choices would include an antipasto for two.

The salad arrived pre-dressed with a light and pleasant Italian coating. There was just enough small slices of salami and provolone among the lettuce, black olives and tuna. It was not too salty.

Half the lettuce remained on the serving plate when we had had our fill, and the waitress arrived immediately to whisk it away.

As we chatted pleasantly in the short minutes without food in front of us, I heard a familiar voice carrying over the distance from three tables over talking about the need in Central New York for a bar that caters its music to people of our age. The party of six were people of our age. Karen and I talked about how much we’d likely go out for something like that. Undecided.

Our entrees arrived, and my eyes widened at the size of my hunk of eggplant. It was high and wide. I wondered if it was supposed to be accompanied by a side of pasta, then decided I did not need a side of pasta. I loved the eggplant’s rich texture, the sauce’s depth and the melted cheese inside and on top.

Karen had ordered her prime rib medium. It arrived darker brown than I consider medium. But she dove in and declared it tasty. The accompanying baked potato, topped with butter and sour cream, was done right.

Ellie B aka Dogamous Pyle thought the prime rib leftovers were fantastic. There were no eggplant leftovers.

We had no room for dessert or coffee.

While we were tying up the check, the familiar fellow a few tables away caught my eye and said hello. I walked over and voiced my opinion. Yes, a bar with music for people our age would work, but it must have a big parking lot, and it should start the music early. The people our age at his table smiled and we all said Happy New Year.

Our check, including two drinks each, was $62. Quite reasonable for New Year’s Eve.

I will be calling Rico’s Ristorante for reservations for this night again.

Here’s the link for Rico’s Ristorante.

Did you eat out or eat in for dinner on New Year’s Eve, and why? Have you mostly had good or bad experiences eating at a restaurant on New Year’s Eve, and would you like to share one? What’s your criteria for going out to see music at a bar?

52 thoughts on “Rico’s Ristorante does it right on a New Year’s Eve

  1. This looked like quite a beautiful spot for your lovely lady and you, Mark. I am so glad you had a Happy New Year, hoping that the rest of it will be extra special, too. Hi to the whole gang and thanks for your text on New Year’s and glad you got mine. I didn’t get to a computer the whole four or five days between 23 and 28th… smiles, Robin


  2. would rather be at a friend’s house or entertaining friend’s. This year it was a taco bar followed by an ice-cream sundae bar. And the margarita bar goes without saying πŸ˜‰ Happy New Years to you and DWK!


  3. awh, how lovely Karen is looking…

    where as for me… with hair desperately needing a wash and the boyf. at home doing the ironing… ?
    (who would complain?! πŸ™‚ ) ran round to collect friends to meet at the local for drinks… did we eat that eve.?
    can’t remember….!
    πŸ™‚ but the pub was fun, chilled and much merriment, good old friends, the ironing done, a funky d.j. and New Year arrived
    and so may 2015 continue πŸ˜‰


  4. That’s enough to give you hope. If they can pull off New Year’s Eve, just imagine what they can accomplish when they’ve got the time and space to pay attention. Please tell me you didn’t actually give prime rib to a dog. Please say that’s an interesting upstate metaphor for something else.

    Happy new year. Hell, yeah.


    • On a regular Friday night they appear just as crowded, which is another sign of good food and service, Mark.

      And about that leftover prime rib for Ellie B … it was the fat and gristle. Sleep well. Happy New Year, my friend!


  5. Ate home, father and I.

    salad ; marinated mushrooms, heart of palm slices, artichoke hearts, topped grated Parmesan
    main course: baked ziti with ricotta mixed in with gravy(true Italians don’t call it sauce) topped mozzarella
    dessert: apple pie, chocolate candy

    Seems like $62 great price. But if you eat my place $362. That’s because much of the table ware matches and top of line paper towels.


  6. Just reading about the wonderful meals you and Karen had at Rico’s brought back memories of our dining together at the same restaurant during the summer. Delighted you kicked in the New Year at such an excellent restaurant.

    Dave and I choose to celebrate our New Year’s Eve at home. He grills steak on the barbecue. We have shrimp cocktail and a celebratory fizzy grape drink. After we watch the ball drop in Times Square, we go out to our lanai and bang pots and pans together – following a tradition my Mom began when I was a teen living in the country. We shout “Happy New Year!’ and “That’s for you, Mom!.” Then we call it a night. πŸ˜‰

    Happy New Year to you and Karen. Wishing you and your family the very best in 2015.


  7. I always try to avoid going out on NYE for the crowds alone. I’m actually really bad that way. I always try to go to restaurants and on vacations during times when I think there will be the least amount of people there.


  8. WOW! What a fun night! Personally, I don’t think I’d have ever gone back to Casi di Copani after the dressing down they gave you over the dressing! Rico’s sounds like it was perfect! I went to Chili’s and got the curbside service to take home. It was WAY too crowded everywhere that night. Excellent review! You should send Rico’s the link. πŸ˜€


  9. i used to love the loud, crazy no-holds barred kind of ny eve, and as time has gone on, i’ve grown to love the quiet night in or out with someone special. this sounds like a great night for both of you and i love the music idea from the table near you. this year, we planned to have an early dinner and movie out, my first ny eve with my boyfriend, but he had a loss in his family just the day before, so we’ll be celebrating later. happy new year to you and your dear wife, karen.


  10. That sounds like it was very enjoyable Mark. I’m with you in that excessive crowds, poor service, and lack of customer care.are turn-offs. When I was younger, I always thought that the bigger the crowds the better the fun. Now it’s more about enjoying myself and the company of others..This New Years was very quiet for me and I stayed in and did some writing. I had splurged on a good bottle of whiskey and then I ordered my favorite pizza about 1 am. It was very relaxing.


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