Roma Italian Ristorante
3 President’s Drive
Roma’s osso bucco, braised veal shank stewed in a Port sauce, is served with polenta and
Photograph by Thom Thompson
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â You’ve got to give it to a restaurant that isn’t afraid of fresh garlic. Too many kitchens use it so discriminately, you’d hardly know there was any in the dish.
But garlic reigns supreme at Roma Italian Ristorante in Dover. “We use whole garlic in a lot of our dishes,” says chef Joseph Garramone, whose father, Guiseppe Garramone, founded Roma as a pizza shop in 1973. “We don’t purÃ©e it down too far. You still get the flavor, and people can pick it out if they don’t want to eat it. If you get good quality garlic, it can go a long way.”
Indeed, garlic tossed into a tangle of roasted peppers, parmesan cheese, mozzarella and greens creates a Caesar-salad effect—it bites you back. And slivers of garlic add pizzazz to the marinara sauce that accompanies fried calamari. No gloppy jarred sauce for this addictive appetizer. Give a battered ring a bath and you’ll wind up with a forkful of chopped tomatoes studded with garlic.
Roma is also unafraid of red onions—almost to a fault, when it comes to the salad. I had to pile them on a plate to reach the greens. But red onions brought a crisp sweetness to the chicken barbecue pizza, a creation of artisan dough slathered with hickory-smoked sauce and peppered with chicken chunks. Amazingly, the chicken was moist, despite being perched atop the pizza during the baking.
Many of the menu’s Italian favorites are made with Guiseppe’s recipes. Yet the menu now includes American entrÃ©es, including crab cakes and roasted salmon, as well as Southwestern and Asian dishes.
(Tip to diners: For its special seafood entrÃ©es, Roma typically gets fresh fish Fridays—and sometimes on Tuesdays or Thursdays. Since fish specials often sell out, go early.)
Admittedly, ahi tuna with wasabi-soy sauce can look out of place in the main dining room, which bears a mural of the Italian Alps and faux stained glass between the booths.
I wouldn’t get ravioli in a sushi bar, and here I crave classics like chicken Parmigiana, a juicy cutlet smothered in a red sauce. Only in good gravy houses can you find sauce with such a rich consistency and ruby hue.
Layers of eggplant, sliced amazingly thin and breaded, made eggplant Parmigiana a satisfying meat substitute. Though my lasagna suffered in the serving process—it looked less like a square and more like a casserole on my plate—the savory flavor sang, owing to the marriage of finely ground sausage and beef.
Pounded veal simmered in a lemon-butter sauce was tender but lonely. The pieces huddled in the middle of a white plate, with only a purple blossom for company. Pretty, yes. But an asparagus stalk or two would have been welcome.
About 90 percent of desserts are made in-house. Unless you are a diehard chocoholic, bypass the “big chocolate cake,” which is large enough for two (or four or five). Filled with chocolate mousse and slick with ganache, it was heart attack material without the culinary payoff.
I much preferred the cannoli, an oversized pastry shell oozing a sweet filling flecked with chocolate chips. So when it comes to Italian in Dover, nobody does it better than Roma.Â D