Ristorante Castello
The joys and comforts of exceptional northern Italian cuisine abound at this Blue Bell mainstay
by Bill Donahue

“We should get another order.” This is what my dining companion said from across the table, mere seconds after we had consumed the last marinated stalk of the artichoke Romano. I nodded in agreement and, in truth, I felt myself wanting to repeat her words for the rest of our meal at Ristorante Castello in Blue Bell.

We sat by the window, far removed from the road, looking out into a dark night lit by quaint streetlamps on a night that felt like it could snow. With the temperatures outside barely out of the 20s, we sought not only the joys of good food but also the comforts of conversation and the ambiance that only a good Italian restaurant can provide. Italian restaurants abound in our neck of the woods, so when you find one that really knocks your socks off, you alternately want to keep it to yourself and scream its greatness from the rooftops. Ristorante Castello, which is located in an upscale yet unassuming strip along Skippack Pike, is one of those places.

In addition to that fabulous artichoke starter, we decided to begin with the tomato avocado mozzarella—a house specialty that is a deliciously fatty upgrade to the standard mozzarella Caprese—and a well-dressed special arugula salad. From there, it was time for the entrées. The menu abounds with traditional northern Italian cuisine; as Ristorante Castello owner Habib Troudi told me, some notable specialties include the osso bucco, the veal chop and fish preparations such as the Chilean sea bass and the salt-crusted branzino. We opted for the porcini mushroom risotto and the homemade potato gnocchi in red sauce.  

Every time I sit down to a table at a restaurant, I’m trying to answer two questions: What stood out, and what could have been better? I was left scratching my head on both counts, as every course was memorable and unveiled a defining truth: This is a kitchen with some real talent. The risotto was a miracle of hearty flavor, and the gnocchi prepared in a way that made each savory pillow somehow lighter than expected.  

I figured my one critique would come at the meal’s end: dolce. Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of desserts, no matter who is serving them. To me, they are indulgent and unnecessary calories to be enjoyed only on special occasions—say, while dining with friends you haven’t seen in sometime and you just don’t want the evening to end, so you order coffee and something sweet to go with it, simply to extend your time together. The magic of Ristorante Castello’s in-house pastry chef is making me question all that. Expect to linger over the dessert tray, though my decision was rather simple: the housemade pistachio cheesecake. Light, and lightly sweetened, this little slice of heaven served as a fitting end to a meal I wanted to keep going.

When I pulled into the parking lot of Ristorante Castello, I didn’t know quite what to expect. Now I know: confident service, a surprisingly nice wine list (even though you can BYO a favorite bottle any night of the week, with no corkage fee) and, above all, food that is truly transporting. This Montgomery County mainstay, which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year, hasn’t lost any of the passion and creativity that has kept it a destination for restaurant lovers ever since opening its doors in 2005. As for me, I know I intend to be back in Blue Bell soon, and when I am I will have my fork at the ready when those wonderful artichokes arrive at my table.

Ristorante Castello
721 Skippack Pike, Blue Bell
215-283-9500 | ristorantecastello.com

Chilean sea bass photograph by Rob Hall