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Voyages: Rinaldo’s Italian-American Specialties

Voyages: Rinaldo’s Italian-American Specialties

When you think about New York City, what comes to mind? Is it the hustle and bustle of the city that never sleeps? The endless pavement and infinite skyline? The streets crowded with yellow taxis and wide-eyed tourists? It could be all of these, but for me, New York City is all about the pizza. With the opening of Rinaldo’s Italian-American Specialties, you can now have a Big Apple experience in our very own city by the sea.

A family-run restaurant bounded by the North and West Ends of Halifax; Rinaldo’s is one of the newest additions to our city’s ever-growing urban food district. Once home to the Good Food Emporium, the black brick exterior and glowing red neon sign of the newly renovated restaurant captures my attention as I make my way up Windsor Street.

Upon entering the restaurant, I am welcomed by business partners and brothers Tony and Sam Rinaldo. A logo of a large buffalo on a bright red mat is the first thing I notice – a nod to their Italian-American family’s Buffalo, NY roots.

“At Rinaldo’s, we’re taking our family’s recipes and transforming them using local ingredients and modern cooking techniques to create food that is both familiar and comforting, and at the same time very exciting,” says Tony Rinaldo. “We’re also using recipes from our family that date back to Sicily via Buffalo, NY.”

Halifax is no stranger to the Rinaldo family heritage. In the late ‘80s, Tony and Sam’s father, Salvatore Rinaldo, opened Salvatore’s New York on South Street. Their father’s first employee at Salvatore’s was Steven Haynes, a family friend and now Rinaldo’s third partner. Owner of Nova Scotia’s very own Noble Grape, Steven’s expertise is responsible for Rinaldo’s impressive selection of local and imported wines.

Complete with large windows, red-and-white-checkered tablecloths, and family-sized booths, the atmosphere at Rinaldo’s takes me back to the late-night pizza runs I used to go on during family visits to New York. The industrial style lighting and high wooden counters lined with red bar stools add a modern spin to the classic red sauce restaurants you would have found in NYC circa 1980. Vintage pictures of the Rinaldo family on the wall add a nostalgic touch that reminds me of Sunday dinner at my grandma’s house.



Behind the counter from where I’m seated, Roberto Proietti, one of Rinaldo’s baristas from Rome, offers me a cup of coffee (or several, I might add… he was very insistent)! Every cup of coffee is brewed fresh with beans from North End café and roastery Java Blend. Each sip of my latte envelops my lips in a delicate microfoam that is followed by the subtle sweetness of steamed milk and smooth espresso. As I relish this carefully crafted caffeinated beverage, the aroma of freshly baked pastries surrounds me.


I take a bite of a warm and crunchy cannoli shell flurried with confectionary sugar and filled with cool, sweet ricotta cheese and chocolate chips. A hint of citrus and the nuttiness of pistachios add depth to the flavours and textures of this specialty pastry.



Tony and Sam support local sources when they can, but also rely on certain imported products to ensure the highest quality and authenticity for their dishes. “We like to use products from local farmers and producers as much as possible, but also use imported tomatoes and cheeses from Italy,” says Tony.

Further emphasizing their familial bond and influence, each of Rinaldo’s pizzas are named after a family member. Dubbed after co-owner Sam Rinaldo, the Pizza Samuele is a stone oven-baked red sauce pie topped with an abundance of pepperoni, roasted garlic, and a combination of herbs and spices. Melted on are three types of cheese: mozzarella, ricotta, and Grana-Padano. If you’re a fan of the classic meat-lovers, you’ve got to try this meat and cheese medley!


The brothers have also put their own twist on the traditional New York artichoke pizza. Named after their Aunt Fran, the Francesca is a vegetarian option that substitutes meat with buttery artichokes. The mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano are melted together and drizzled with lemon to counterbalance the creamy white sauce. As a finishing touch, the Francesca is garnished with fresh parsley. Even though I am a meat lover myself, this pizza is a definite game-changer for those with more of a green palate.


As I near the end of a freshly baked slice, the crust offers a satisfying crunch before giving way to a soft, warm interior. Their secret? Letting the dough rest for a day to achieve that perfect combination of airy and crispy.

Just when I think I can’t handle any more food, the friendly staff offer me a Boston cream doughnut. I take a bite and am met with a light and airy fried dough filled with a creamy custard centre. Don’t be fooled by its chocolate hazelnut glaze – this homemade doughnut was made for you whether you’ve got a sweet tooth or not!


The Rinaldo brothers are ready to welcome and serve the city of Halifax and hope to leave you with the ultimate Italian-American experience. Whether you feel like indulging in a gourmet pizza, a hero sandwich, a hearty pasta alongside a glass of wine, or just some casual conversation over a warm cappuccino, Rinaldo’s doors are open to you. You might just find me there devouring an entire Francesca pizza all on my own (and I won’t even feel guilty about it)!



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