By Ingrid Weidman

The road of life tends to take us down many different paths before we find the perfect rest stop. For Angelo D. Patruno and his wife, Maria, that road took them from Europe, to a tropical paradise and finally to Bucks County. After settling in Doylestown, they found not only their home, but a place to share their passion for food with the lucky patrons of Ristorante Il Melograno.

Born in the Puglia region of Italy, Patruno was indoctrinated by centuries of cooking heritage. After attending the Culinary Institute of Italy, he spread his wings and explored Europe’s gastronomic treasure trove. Soon after marrying, Patruno was enticed by a chef’s position in Bermuda. But after close to three years, fate pulled the Patrunos one step closer to their adopted home, when his brother opened a restaurant in Philadelphia. After eventually taking a job in the area, Patruno saw a restaurant in Doylestown had recently gone on the market. “There comes a time when you have to go on your own,” he says. “We jumped on an opportunity. The rest is history.”

In 2000, the Patrunos opened the doors to Ristorante Il Melograno. Located in the Genaurdi’s Shopping Center at 73 Old Dublin Pike, Il Melograno has established a reputation as one of the top Italian restaurants in Bucks County. Choosing not to focus on just a single region of his native country, Patruno offers a wide range of the best Italy and the Mediterranean have to offer. “We like to mix the menu up with other European influences,” Patruno says. “After that, we adapt to what people want. We use all fresh ingredients: meat, produce and fish. And all the sauces are made from scratch.”

Il Melograno’s dinner service holds true to the traditional Italian way. Starting with antipasti, the restaurant features carpaccio di manzo, thinly sliced raw beef drizzled with lemon juice and truffle oil and topped with a spring-mix salad and Parmesan. Seared scallops are also prepared in an antipasti-sized portion and served in a truffle-butter sauce.

And while the first course is delectable, Il Melograno’s pasta and entrees truly shine. Whether it’s the spaghettini del pescatore, spaghetti tossed with scallops, shrimp and squid sautéed with garlic, olive oil and a splash of white wine in a light spicy marinara sauce, or the ravioli al granchio, crab-meat ravioli served in a pink vodka sauce with sun-dried tomatoes, you’re sure to indulge in Italian authenticity. “Once you have a good ingredients and it’s fresh, it can speak for itself,” Patruno says. “Keep it simple and use fresh ingredi- ents. That’s my goal.” Other entrees at Il Melograno include the vitello saltimbocca, thinly-sliced veal topped with sage and prosciutto sautéed in a white-wine brown sauce, and the bronzino al pomodori secchi, fresh Mediterranean sea bass grilled and topped with a marinade of sun-dried tomatoes, scallions and olive oil.

“Keep it simple and use fresh ingredients. That’s my goal.” – Angelo D. Patruno

But Patruno also likes to keep it fresh beyond mere ingredients. “We have additions to our menu, which we run every night, including up to five seafood offerings,” Patruno explains. “A lot of people come just for that.” And to complement the faithful’s meals, Il Melograno offers over 70 varieties of wine. While the food is a certain nod to Patruno’s heritage, his business philosophy reflects the same tradition. One man, the owner and chef himself, personally prepares every dish at Il Melograno. “My philosophy is we don’t do volume, we do quality,” Patruno says. “We want our patrons to feel great about the services we provide them. We want them to feel like they are part of the family when they come.” And it’s this intensely personal, hands-on approach that has garnered Il Melograno its unwavering reputation. “We personally get to know our customers,” Patruno adds. “They are the ones I have to thank.

This summer marked the start of Il Melograno allowing customers to bring their own bottle of wine, Tuesday through Thursday nights, for a corkage fee of only $10. And with autumn weather knocking on our doorstep, Patruno is adding a new twist to his fall menu. “We will be offering rabbit, pheasant and venison,” he says. “People always request our osso bucco [cross-cut veal shanks] around this time of year, as well.”

Still considered a hidden gem on the Bucks County restaurant scene, Patruno hopes the reputation Il Melogrona has established over the past 11 years continues to flourish. “We are still the best kept secret in town,” he says. Ristorante Il Melograno is open for lunch Tuesday through Friday, featuring a smaller version of their dinner menu. Dinner is served Tuesday through Sunday nights.

Go online at ilmelogranodoylestown.com