When in Roma'sSep 01, 2021 ● By Lisa Ferguson
We’ve all heard the saying “Good things come in small packages.” A recent meal at Roma’s Pizza and Pasta proved this to be the case. Tucked into an unassuming strip mall on Eldorado Parkway in Little Elm, the diminutive size of this mom-and-pop-style Italian eatery belies the big flavors coming out of its kitchen.
Our family of four arrived for an early weeknight dinner and was told to sit wherever we pleased in the dining room, which at that hour hosted less than a dozen other diners. After selecting a table in the corner, one of three servers working the floor that evening (the team shared duties at each of the occupied tables) arrived promptly with menus and took our drink orders.
Soon after, another server delivered a small basket piled high with complimentary garlic knots and two small cups of zesty marinara sauce for dipping. The warm, doughy, buttery knots were dusted with parmesan cheese. We made quick work of them as we perused the menu, which is packed with classic pizzeria fare including an assortment of soups, salads, pasta dishes, chicken, veal and seafood entrees and, of course, pizza served as whole pies as well as by the slice.
We started with the Homemade Bread, a small baguette sliced lengthwise and topped with garlic, fresh basil, diced tomato and plenty of melty mozzarella cheese. The homestyle simplicity of this petite loaf made it delicious.
For entrees, my husband and teenage children went with Chicken Marsala, Manicotti and Shrimp Fettuccini Alfredo, respectively. Each also requested a small dinner salad topped with the house tomato-vinaigrette dressing. A sucker for a substantial salad, I ordered the Roma’s Salad as my entrée and a medium Roma’s Supreme Special pizza for the table to share.
While awaiting our dinners, we took in Roma’s décor. The earth tone-hued walls painted with a faux finish, coupled with light-wood tables and chairs, lend an old-world vibe to the dining room (the operatic music playing softly in the background also helps). Large oil paintings of Italian streetscapes and waterways hang throughout the space. Also on the walls are several televisions, two of which were tuned to a sports-news program the evening we dined there. Behind a wraparound bar, a selection of wines is displayed.
Additional diners (several of them families with young children) had settled in and a few takeout orders had made their way out the door by the time the cool, crisp side salads arrived at our table. Loaded with slivers of grated carrot and sliced onion, they were topped with the tangy dressing that boasted small chunks of chopped tomato. The entrees soon followed, including the sizeable Roma Salad that featured a refreshing blend of crunchy green and iceberg lettuces, sliced mushrooms, black olives and tomatoes, grated carrots and mozzarella cheese and a large pepperoncino. With the house dressing served on the side, this solid salad did not disappoint.
Neither did the Chicken Marsala, served with a side of perfectly cooked spaghetti. The fork-tender chicken breast and sliced mushrooms were bathed in a hearty, well-seasoned sauce. This was a truly great rendition of a classic. Meanwhile, the piping-hot Manicotti was spot on, loaded with creamy ricotta cheese filling and a topped with a marinara sauce that my daughter proclaimed was “not too tomatoey” (in other words, exactly how she likes it). It was as tasty as any baked pasta dish that my Italian grandmother ever made.
“Wow!” was my son’s reaction when his Shrimp Fettuccini Alfredo was set on the table. The large bowl brimmed with a pile of wide noodles and a half-dozen plump, sizeable shrimp enrobed with the most buttery, delicate Alfredo sauce I have tasted. I’ve never been an Alfredo fan, mostly because poor versions of it tend to be heavy, thick and gummy. However, this was not a concern with Roma’s light sauce, which in my book is as close to perfection as it gets.
The server set the Roma’s Supreme Special Pizza in the center of the table. I’m convinced that a medium pie here is the equivalent of a large at most other pizza joints. The thin, slightly crispy crust was not overly sauced. The wide slices successfully cradled the toppings that included ground Italian sausage, sliced pepperoni, onions, black olives and chopped green peppers (we asked to hold the hamburger meat) and just the right amount of mozzarella. We were pleased to have plenty of this pizza leftover to take home and enjoy as dinner the next night.
Service throughout our meal was prompt and friendly, with the servers checking on us frequently to refill drinks and ask whether we were enjoying our meal. Before our dinner plates were cleared from the table, we were asked about ordering dessert. Admittedly stuffed, we took a look at the menu anyway and learned that Roma’s serves a couple of my favorite Italian sweet treats: Cannoli, a fried pastry shell typically filled with a sweet, creamy ricotta cheese mixture; and Spumoni, a colorful, molded, frozen dessert that traditionally features a blend of cherry, pistachio and chocolate gelatos.
Unfortunately, the restaurant was out of Spumoni the night we dined, so we instead ordered one slice each of the Cheesecake and Tiramisu to share. The latter is a layered dessert featuring espresso-soaked ladyfingers and mascarpone cheese topped with powdered chocolate. The Cheesecake was a great take on a classic dessert – smooth, creamy and extra decadent with a generous drizzle of chocolate sauce, which also topped the rich, coffee-flavored Tiramisu. It was a delicious end to an unexpectedly superb meal.
In North Texas, where large chain restaurants occupy space on seemingly every street corner, Roma’s Pizza and Pasta is a shining example of a small, family-run restaurant that has cemented its place on the neighborhood dining scene by providing delicious, affordable Italian favorites as well as terrific service. Our family looks forward to becoming regulars here soon.
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