Greatest Hit: Cristiano Ristorante Lounge and Wine Botique

It seems appropriate that Gumbo Entertainment Guide readers selected Cristiano Ristorante as Houma’s best date place. After all, owner Cristiano Raffignone relocated to the area for love.

Cristiano and Kelly Barker own the High Street eatery.

He brings his Italian Riviera roots to the business. Cristiano grew up in Liguria, Italy. As an aspiring chef, he worked in kitchens in Italy, New York, Australia and London.

But then Cristiano met a hometown Houma girl who changed his life.

So the story goes, the pair moved separately to New York City in 1985, only to return home to family. They returned to the Big Apple – again, separately – in 1990. This time, fate stepped in and brought Cristiano and Kelly together.

Eventually, they teamed up to create Café La Carezza on NYC’s lower 5th Avenue.

But Kelly’s Louisiana roots run deep.

The pair made the move south and, in 2000, Cristiano Ristorante was born.

Most notably, there’s the food: fresh, hand-prepared, authentic northern Italian dishes bursting with aromatic herbs straight from the garden and fresh-ground pesto. The classic dishes are the brainstorm of Cristiano, Executive Chef Lindsay Mason, and Sous Chef Erin Michot. Graciously served by the attentive staff, the restaurant’s dedication to the smallest detail makes for a stress-free outing.

Then there’s the décor, Kelly’s vision.

Cristiano’s warm, intimate atmosphere captures the essence of an inviting Mediterranean home. With plantation shutters, distressed plank floors, authentic Italian pottery and art, the upscale venue lend a feel of Old World elegance – all ideal for a romantic visit. Guests can step up their dating game by dining under the stars by the warm, cozy fire on the patio. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a nice bottle of red wine, a delicious meal and good company.

Cristiano’s serves lunch, classic and seasonal dinners and Sunday brunch. The restaurant also offers catering.

Located at 724 High Street, Cristiano’s is open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 5 to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For reservations, call (985) 223-1130.

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Cristiano RistoranteCOURTESY PHOTO