Recently, I visited my friend, fellow travel writer Carol Stigger, at her home in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. It’s a gentle way of life, full of easy beach walks, long-stay and regular tourist visitors and excellent quality food at all levels. There’s a neighborhood spot that all the locals adore and for great reason: Italian Kitchen Rapone. It was fitting, as I first met Carol in Italy, and we both have experienced absolutely authentic cuisine. I would feel comfortable recommending this restaurant to anyone of Italian descent: they’d appreciate it!
It’s absolutely come-as-you-are, with booths, bright lighting and colorful posters. Hang out with family, friends or a first date: it’s all good! Italian pop music plays in the background.
Rapone is in southern Italy. With historically more wealth and arable land than Matera — another southern Italian area I’ve been to — they incorporate the finest ingredients in their cuisine. Italian Kitchen Rapone follows suit, using San Marzano tomatoes, di Bufala mozzarella, exquisite balsamic vinegar, Illy coffee, house-made limoncello. Their pizzas are made crisp in a special wood-fired oven.
Most arancini — fried rice balls — are greasy and blah. Instead, at Italian Kitchen Rapone, they are golden brown crunchy on the outside, tender inside, filled with meat and melty mozzarella. It’s accompanied by their house-made marinara sauce, fruity with lightly cooked tomatoes. Their sauce has a freshness to it, not sticky like ketchup.
House-made Italian wedding soup here uses lots of fresh parsley, rather than cooked spinach. This adds a great springtime lift to the traditional soup. The meatballs are minis, but very plentiful. You don’t have to cut anything with the side of your spoon.
I ordered their pizza Napoletane, Margherita style. Said to be one of the original commercially successful pizzas styles, theirs is probably just like the first ones made. The restaurant showed me a unknown to me flavor trick: you can try it too! They drizzled un poco of balsamic vinegar on the top! It added complexity, but in a terrific way.
Their limoncello cake, with rich icing, is not overly sweet. It’s decadent!