Secret Diner

This restaurant in southern Madison County has been a staple around here for a long time, although its original location is closed now. 

While this might be the only spot left, it still holds onto those great traditions and the excellent fare we’ve all grown accustomed to through the years. 

You’ll find the current restaurant back off the main road, but not far from the interstate in this community. There are lots of other restaurants and businesses sprinkled around the winding business district, but when you find this joint you’ll notice the large paved parking lot for its patrons and the sign prevalently displayed.

Once you enter the building you’ll have to wait to be seated at the host/hostess station. There is a takeout window right next to it, too.

When the host/hostess greets you, follow them down a short, winding hallway past an extensive wine collection displayed in the wall. There is open seating to the right in the bar area also; all tables. Keep strolling and you’ll come to the giant dining room a little further back in the establishment.

The large dining area is full of booths and tables. The outside walls are brick, while the inside walls are painted a light tan. There is even a fireplace built into the wall and more wine racking displayed. The flooring is a combination of a tan tile and dark wood laminate. It features booths and tables.

I love the ambiance here. It’s great for family meals, small get-togethers with friends or work colleagues and intimate enough for a date night. 

But what really gives this place its bravado is of course the mouth-watering menu. That’s really why I was here.

Chicken, steak and pasta are the specialties here and I decided to stick to the latter on my dinner visit. I went with my mom and she stayed in the pasta zone, too. 

We got started with an appetizer of toasted ravioli. They were so plump and bursting with flavor from the beef and pork combo inside. The meat sauce that accompanied them was super rich and sweet to add an exclamation point to the start of the dinner experience. 

For my main course I ordered the king pasta pie, which got me soup and salad to boot. I got tomato basil soup and a house salad with poppyseed dressing. 

The salad was pretty straightforward, nothing to stand out, but still very good. As for the soup though, it was so incredibly creamy and had a hearty taste from the tomato and basil. It was also chocked full of homemade croutons which added some great flavor. 

As for the king pasta pie, I was filling up by the time it arrived, but when I saw it I hit my second wind; wow. The dish featured rigatoni noodles tossed in a sweet marinara sauce and baked with pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, onions, peppers, black olives and meatballs. It’s then topped with a three cheese blend and baked to a golden brown which creates an awesome cocoon to hold in the heat on this bad boy.

It was actually hard to eat because it was so hot, but I powered through. It was chocked full of sausage in every bite, as well as chopped green peppers and onions. That trio of flavors really drove the taste. Of course those giant meatballs swimming in the rich and sweet sauce were a delicious discovery when I found them. It was a scrumptious scavenger hunt.

There were plenty of leftovers to enjoy the next day also and they didn’t disappoint.

As for mom, she ordered the fettuccine alfredo, which included a house salad with ranch dressing and a cup of creamy chicken soup.

She absolutely raved about the soup. It was stuffed with chicken, corn, peas, potatoes and carrots and was super creamy.

By the time she got to the pasta she was already enjoying the experience and her main dish kept that going. She loved the richness and heavy flavors from the alfredo sauce, but did give a nod to the soup as her favorite portion of the evening. 

There are plenty of other options here. Look for the signature sandwich which is a combo of Italian beef and Italian sausage with peppers, onions, marinara sauce and a three-cheese blend to top it off. With pizza, steaks, seafood, more pasta selections and a family chicken recipe that dates back to the 1960s, you can’t go wrong with anything here. 

Any idea of the name of this long standing staple restaurant in southern Madison County?

Overall - four and a half stars

Cleanliness - five stars

Service - four stars

Food - five stars

Price - $$$

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ANSWER: Ravanelli’s Italian Steakhouse & Wine Bar, 26 Collinsport Dr., Collinsville