My great-grandparents were born in Italy and eventually emigrated to the Northeast United States. They brought the tradition of big Sunday dinners with them. I grew up with Sunday pasta dinners at my grandmother’s.
My mom took the baton, cooking enough food for a small army despite our family only consisting of four people.
For my latest Dine Out on Sunday, I felt like Italian and found Cafe Roma in the far North End at 3371 Acushnet Ave.
Cafe Roma bills itself as “your neighborhood place for Italian Classics, Great Steaks and the finest local seafood.”
Cafe Roma feels more like a home than a restaurant. The building has the outside appearance of a small home with a parking on either side. At 5 p.m., the lot was nearly full.
There are two entrances. The door by Acushnet Avenue leads you to the bar. The entrance on Marlborough Street is toward the back of the building and opens to the restaurant.
Sunday, the two person staff, which worked as bartenders and waitresses, didn’t always see that people were entering.
Allyssa and I walked through the small restaurant twice in order to find someone to seat us. We weren’t the only customers who had trouble flagging down someone to seat them.
Our waitress apologized for missing us and sat us down next to the half wall that separates the bar from the restaurant. Spindles extend up from the wall to the ceiling, allowing for a view of the entire establishment. A few televisions hung around the bar. A mechanized dumbwaiter was in the wall across from the bar, which delivered the food to the staff from downstairs.
It added to the old time feel of the small restaurant which seated about six tables in the area near the bar. A private section also appeared near the back entrance.
The menu surprised me with its options. I was expecting only Italian cuisine but Cafe Rosa offered just about anything a patron could desire: from pasta and spaghetti, to burgers and ribs, fish and chips or scallops and pizza.
The array of appetizers contained the same kind of variety.
To partake in the American bar style, Allyssa and I elected to start with a half order of buffalo chicken nachos ($7.99). However, they came without chicken. A misunderstanding occurred at some point where only buffalo sauce was added. I was only charged for nachos ($6.99).
The nachos were covered in cheese, onions and what appeared to be banana peppers. They were warm and toasted, which meant they never lost their crunch. The buffalo sauce provided a nice taste as well. I do wish I could have tried the chicken.
The nachos came with salsa, but wasn’t needed, which is a good because it tasted store bought.
As for our entrees, it took some time to decide, but in the end we satisfied our Sunday Italian cravings.
We went with the Italian Pu Pu Platter for two (22.99). It came with spaghetti, two meatballs, lasagna, two baked manicotti, cheese-filled raviolis and sausage. Two salads also came with the meal, which were very good.
During the selection process, the Wicked Kick’n Burger ($10.99) caught my eye, specifically since it was served with “wicked sauce.” It was also served with onion straws and cheese.
Allyssa thought about buffalo chicken mac and cheese. ($10.99).
A couple beside us each ordered a “grinder,” which looked extremely tasty. The variations included meatball, sausage, smokey mountain chicken and chicken Parmesan to name a few ($6.75 small, $8.75 large.)
Pizza was also available ranging $8.99 for a one topping to $10.99 for three or more. The Roma Pizza ($9.99) came with sausage, ricotta and roasted peppers.
Our entrees arrived in two large plates. Two baseball-sized meatballs sat atop a heaping plate of spaghetti and sauce. The smorgasbord of pasta piled on the other plate.
The portions of the “dinner for two” could have filled at least four people.
The sauce was a bit bland, but some salt, pepper and red pepper really transformed it into something tasty. The spaghetti was cooked well. The cheesy ravioli was enjoyable, but the manicotti was over cooked.
Allyssa and I agreed, though, the star of the plate was the lasagna. We couldn’t get a enough of it. The layers of pasta, ricotta and meatball/sausage hit the spot. No one ingredient overwhelmed the other, but worked in harmony. As we fought over the portion, it’s something we’d come back to get as a full meal.
We only finished one of the two meatballs. It tasted a bit overcooked, but with some sauce, it was fine.
For dessert we debated between my favorite, brownie ala mode ($4.99) and Mississippi Mud Pie Ice Cream Cake ($4.99). The Mississippi Mud pie felt like the best of both worlds with cookie crunchies sandwiched between chocolate ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce.
When it arrived, it appeared store bought, but I didn’t mind. It was delicious.
Without tip, out Italian Sunday came to $44.37.
Dine Out's reviewer visits restaurants unannounced and at his or her discretion. The newspaper pays for the meals reviewed. The reviews merely reflect one diner's experience. Ratings range from 1 to 5 stars.
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