It all began when I had first come to live in Carlisle back in 1985, and I found it was a good place to go for dinner. In fact, it was the place to go for dinner. The food and atmosphere were unbeatable. We went there frequently, and I even worked there for a time while attending law school. The Redskins ate there. I had my wedding rehearsal dinner there. Graduations, birthdays, Mother’s Day, date nights. All celebrated with appetizers, a fantastic main course, spaghetti with traditional sauce and a meatball on the side; and of course, lots and lots of garlic bread. As I said, a "fixture".
On a special night, Joey Rillo would come out of the kitchen onto the floor and dispense plenty of appetizers and conversation. His staple dishes included red and white sauces made from scratch, as well as house salads individually tossed and lightly coated with tangy apple cider vinegar to order. The traditional red sauce was made in-house; in big caldrons of tomato puree simmering in the back kitchen as they were stirred to deliciousness. Many of the desserts used to be made in-house as well. In fact, Margaret the Salad Lady once gave me her peanut butter pie recipe, which for years, was one of the most popular items on the dessert menu.
It's funny how little things stand out on your mind. I remember the sound of the cappuccino machine in the rear dining room and how it would temporarily drown out conversation as the steam punched through the thick potion of milk, cappuccino, and house liqueur mix, and roared like a jet plane. I’ve tried many times to recreate many of those dishes, as well as those familiar feelings of a night at Rillo’s. Sadly, I’ve never quite come close.
More recently, I tried Rillo’s Italian mix and made the traditional sauce; which I found was a successful duplication of the original flavors. I tried it with various Parmesan recipes every night for a week,cycling through the dishes I remembered on a nightly basis. I’ve also been pretty successful at making a decent re-creation of the Italian Wedding Soup, complete with little meatballs and escarole.
Here is a little help if you’d like to keep the tradition alive:
- 1 graham cracker crust
- 1 - 8oz package Philadelphia Cream Cheese
- ½ cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 tsp vanilla
- dash of salt
- 1¾ cups of 10x sugar
- 1 - 8oz container of cool whip. Place in graham cracker crust and chill.
Rillo’s Italian Mix.
Italian Wedding Soup.