Colleyville restaurant serves up romance

Morris Gambino moved from Calabria, Italy, to the United States in the late 1960s. The Italian bought his first restaurant, Mario's Restaurant, in Dallas 20 years later. After that, Gambino decided to settle in Colleyville, where he purchased and took over Ruggeri's Italian Ristorante in 2004.

His daughter, Julie Gonzalez, joined the team and divides her time as the general manager and as a waitress, serving customers a range of dishes crafted in a way its owners call Italian seafood. Gambino and Gonzalez did not want to deviate from the original owners' design of the restaurant, including the menu.

"We did not change anything, we kept everything the same," Gonzalez said.

Dimmed lighting reflects off glass goblets that decorate each table, providing the atmosphere. Each week, Gonzalez buys six dozen red roses for the women who walk through the restaurant's doors on Friday and Saturday, and the roses are often delivered by Gambino himself. When Frank Sinatra isn't playing faintly over the speakers, diners can listen to live piano music on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. There is no children's menu, but Gonzalez said children are not discouraged from dining.

While Gambino has never taken on a chef role at any of his restaurants, Gonzalez remembers her father cooking often in the kitchen while she grew up. A stroke a few years ago has kept him from cooking but hasn't kept him out of Ruggeri's kitchen.

"He actually comes back here and tells them how to prepare new items and things like that," Gonzalez said. "He's very good at doing that."

Will McCusker is a regular diner at the restaurant who said he comes with his family "many, many, many times."

"Actually this is kinda like our second kitchen," McCusker said.

Taste of Italy

Cioppino: The Italian fisherman's stew includes shrimp, scallops, clams, oysters, calamari, mussels and fish in a spicy marinara sauce. $19.95

Ruggeri's Special Veal Chop: A 16-oz. grilled veal chop is topped with wild oyster mushrooms and Marsala wine. $38

Homemade crabcakes: The entree is served over linguini and topped with lobster sauce. $24.95

Osso Buco: Veal shanks are served in a bordelaise sauce. $30.95

Ruggeri's Italian Ristorante, 32 Village Lane, Ste 100, in the Village at Colleyville, 817-503-7373,

Hours: Mon.—Thu. 11 a.m.—2 p.m. and 5 p.m.—9 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m.—2 p.m. and 5 p.m.—10 p.m., Sat. 5 p.m.—10 p.m., Sun. 5 p.m.—9 p.m.