We arrived at the Pimeria Alta Museum in Nogales on a hot day in mid-July 2023 only to find it closed. It was noon and their website said it was open at 11:00 PM, but …
So we headed for Ragazzi Italian Restaurant for lunch. What a great surprise. Here in old, rundown Nogales is this splendid little Italian gem. Black table clothes, white cloth napkins, clean and modern in appearance. I thought to myself, this is going to be a treat. And it was.
First, we ordered a white wine. Ms. Karen ordered a Pinot Grigio and I ordered a glass of La Crema ($11.00 each). After one sip, she decided that she liked mine better, so we switched glasses. (kr- :-))
We also ordered Calamari Piccanti, which is Squid in a Spicy Bechamel Cream Sauce ($15.99). I thought it was slightly spicy and excellent. Ms. Karen not so much. Not sure why but she can tell you. Maybe the sauce was TOO rich for her.
We then ordered lunch. Karen ordered Insalada de Spinaci, which was Spinach Salad with Pears, Raspberry Dressing, Pine Nuts, and Pancetta ($11.99). I ordered Fettuccine Alfredo, which is Fettuccine pasta tossed with homemade Alfredo Sauce ($18.99). I added a slice of baked chicken. It came with a large salad, and I ordered Blue Cheese dressing for it. Big chunks of Blue Cheese. All of my order was excellent. Right up there with Vivaci’s in Tucson which we consider the go-to place for celebrations. Except Ragazzi does not have Vivace’s fine view of the city below.
I’ll let Ms. Karen tell you about her experience.
“Having read somewhere that the Pimeria Alta Historical Museum in Nogales was having a postcard exhibit and never having been there, Jim and I decided to take a day trip down to Nogales to see the museum and have some lunch. We had set out to get there at 11 am when they opened but when we got there, two women were waiting outside of the building trying to find someone to unlock the door so they could go to work. We chose to have lunch first rather than wait for the keys.
Not knowing Nogales’ restaurants and finding mostly Mexican food on the menu, we opted for Ragazzi Italian Restaurant, 8 minutes up the road we had come in on. I had no idea Nogales was that hilly. Reminded me of my mom’s hometown of Fall River, MA, with houses and churches built on the side of a hill. I had never really explored downtown, just passed through the outskirts on our way somewhere. It had the feel of a city in the 1960s.
Anyway, this Ragazzi is the original from sometime in the 1990s. there is another one in Green Valley, and we had eaten at one in Tubac. It is no longer there. It disappeared sometime before the pandemic. I did not recall the one in Tubac being quite so fancy, especially for lunch. But here we found ourselves on the outskirts of the Nogales Mall, and older style mall with older shops.
Ragazzi is a small restaurant on a strip outside of the mall off one of the main streets in Nogales. Walking in through the glass doors, I was in for a surprise. Black tablecloths and starched white napkins, also a bit of 60s elegance.
We were greeted and asked to sit at the corner table of our choice. We picked the nearest one. We felt compelled to order a glass of wine for such a chi-chi place. Next, we opted for Calamari of which we had two choices; the usual fried or sauteed in some kind of creme sauce. The sauce was good, but the squid was chewy, not crispy, crunchy. I really have no idea what texture squid should have, I suspect chewy, but I prefer not having to chew it for a lifetime. If you like calamari, get the fried one or order shrimp in the same sauce.
As we were early for lunch, I just ordered the Spinach Salad, or “Insalada de Spinaci” in Italiano. It was good. I could have just eaten Jim’s salad and been happy though. He did not eat it at all. Nice lunch. More than I would like to spend for lunch but a nice lunch anyhow.”
All in all, our Ragazzi lunch was $75.00, not including tip. Yes, it was a bit much for lunch, but really good. Quite the find in old Nogales. We rate Ragazzi with four and a half Saguaros. The service was excellent as was the food. After lunch, we headed back to the Pimeria Alta Historical Museum, but that’s another story.
Ragazzi also has a restaurant in Green Valley. We look forward to visiting Ragazzi in Green Valley next. It will make for an interesting comparison.
Monday through Thursday: 11 am to 9 pm
Friday: 11 am to 10 pm
Saturday: 12:00 pm to 10 pm
Sunday: 12 pm to 8 pm