Sunday, July 23, 2006

Roma Ristorante Italiano

Yesterday, I became a duly sworn election officer, attending a 5 hour class that ended at 6 PM. I was in no mood to cook. My husband suggested that we try Roma’s. This Italian restaurant has been around a while. A couple of years ago they moved to a new location at the corner of Staples Mill and Hermitage. I also discovered that there are three other Roma’s (Tappahannock, Petersburg, and Sandston).

Roma’s boasts an Italian villa d├ęcor and Neptune (complete with fountain) greets guests as they enter. Rustic ceramic tiles and faux-plastered walls, tall sky-blue ceilings with clouds evoking an open-air atmosphere, street lamps lining the aisles – for the most part tastefully done (I’ve seen some very cheesy versions of this theme in other places). We were seated and handed a six page menu, a special drink list (including an impressive selection of Red Bull concoctions), and an extensive menu of mixed drink selections. After taking a few minutes to scan the offerings, we discovered that the wine list had not been included. Bill, our waiter, produced it forthwith. Compared to the mixed drinks, the wine list was tiny (about 15 wine offerings total) and contained Italian red standards – Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale Gold for ~$75, Chianti Classico for ~$24, Col-di-Sasso Cabernet-Sangiovese for ~$19. We stuck with a middle of the road 2002 Volpaia Chianti Classico – bright fruit, easy to drink, and, of course, good pairing with all things tomato-esque.

We ordered garlic cheese bread to start. We were presented with a 12 inch sub roll split in half, slathered with artery clogging buttery garlic spread and topped with a good amount of melted mozzarella. It was served with a side of tomato sauce. For us it was comfort food of the Italian/American variety. The sauce went very well with the cheesy bread. Nothing too fancy, but a real crowd pleaser.

For the main course, my husband ordered Baked Ziti with meat sauce. I went out on a limb and selected Pasta alla Puttanesca. All entrees arrived in huge portions and steaming hot. Mine also came with a tossed salad – iceberg lettuce, chopped peppers and mushrooms, onion slivers, bacon bits, and Italian dressing in a little plastic cup. The Baked Ziti was good. My husband really liked the meat sauce and was very pleased that the mozzarella cheese was nicely browned on top. For the Puttanesca I was able to choose my own pasta (Bill, our waiter, only offered me two choices with some coaxing on my part, so I’m not sure if Roma’s only had two choices or if Bill didn’t know what the choices were). I selected the fettuccini. The menu describes this dish as “Hot and spicy! Chunks of tomatoes, black olives, hot peppers, and capers in its own special sauce.” The description did not disappoint. Lots of chopped black olives, but the sliced, pickled cherry peppers did not allow the olives to overpower the dish. And the peppers added spiciness which blended well throughout the dish. I was quite pleased. The dinner came with bread and butter, but after the garlic bread there was no way we could eat more bread. We ended up taking the dinner rolls, two-thirds of my dish and half of my husband’s dish home. Leftovers this week should be marvelous.

The only thing that seemed a little disturbing was how the tables were bussed. A guy would roll a utility cart filled with grey plastic bins over the tiled villa floor clinking glasses and silverware. Although I understand the efficiency of this practice, the visual and aural experience of the dining public is not very pleasant.

Both hubby and I thought Roma’s would be a great place to take relatives. Nice family atmosphere, decent decoration, great food, huge portions, and a lot of menu choices.

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