Photos by Justin Fox Burks
Classic chicken pot pie at the new Rizzo’s Diner gets turned upside down with vegetables on the bottom and puff pastry on the top. The restaurant's chef, Michael Patrick, is pictured below.
The tables filled quickly during the first Saturday night at the new Rizzo’s Diner, with Grizzlies fans eating quickly before the game and others settling in for a couple of hours. No liquor license yet? No problem. Customers brought their own wine ─ reds, whites, and sparkling ─ to match robust favorites such as chorizo meatloaf or lobster pronto pups, and lighter fare, like crispy zucchini cakes plated with creole tomato sauce and crumbled Cotija cheese, fresh and salty.
Located on South Main Street near the National Civil Rights Museum, the restaurant is a coming-of-age for Chef Michael Patrick, who opened the first Rizzo’s three years ago in a cramped seven-table space around the corner. A popular chef in Memphis with an impressive resume, Patrick wanted more control and space, so he closed the first Rizzo’s in late October to focus on the new place.
The work and the wait paid off handsomely. Rizzo’s exposed brick walls, rich wood paneling, and apple green accents tie together the bar, dining room, and elevated lounge with a banquette for watching people walk by. Moreover, the restaurant’s modernized rustic makeover by Memphis-based designer Ann Parker makes an appetizing setting for Patrick’s dressed up Southern cooking, a combination of comfort foods with more trendy ingredients like hemp seed (it encrusts the salmon), lamb belly (it fills the tacos) and hangar steak locally sourced from Claybrook Farms.
Vegetables and gluten-free dishes also earn their rightful place as leading ladies for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. More than half-a-dozen veggie sides change daily, as well, an apt consideration when headed for a heavenly slice of dark chocolate cake layered with chocolate chipotle filling, iced with milk chocolate buttercream, drizzled with chocolate sauce, and topped with a single plump strawberry.
Rizzo’s Diner, 492 S. Main (901-304-6985) $-$$