food

Tastes Like My Childhood

“The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you’re hungry again”

-George Miller

So I may have an obsession with Italian cuisine, but in reality…who doesn’t? For me it’s more of the memories it brings back. Growing up in a military family meant a lot of moving around as a child, which is fine. Gave me settlement issues and a need to be on the go at all times, but it’s fiiiine. Anyway, somehow we ended up hitting the jackpot when I was nine by being sent to the home of pizza itself: Napoli. Three miraculous years and a lot of good eating meant a lot of tears when it was time to leave. Since coming back to the states, I’ve struggled finding an Italian restaurant that felt…Italian. And trust me, I’ve been to scores of them all over the US. The closest was probably some hole in the wall we ate at in New Jersey during our three years there.

Fast forwarding to a little over a year ago, we stumbled upon a little restaurant called Roma Italiano Ristorante. I was slightly skeptical. I’ve been to “Romas” before and they always missed the mark, but in need of carb loading I agreed and we went. As you walk in, the first thing you see is a very happy staff. Needless to say, that’s not always the case at restaurants.

Originally opened in 2015, new management came in right before we decided to try it out for the first time. All I know is the family that owns it now is doing incredible work. The pasta is freshly made, the garlic knots are the best in the area, and don’t get me started on the house made sangria.

The very first time we went, I got the chicken and spinach stuffed shells. They’re served with a creamy tomato sauce that is to die for. I’m not a huge stuffed shells girl, but I’d order them again in a heart beat.

It doesn’t look like much from the photo, but the shells are massive. I could barely finish it. Alex played it safe that night and ordered a Calzone which was also delicious. Yes, I did try it. Of course I did. He’s ordered the Calzone a few times and is always super happy with it.

The second time, we went for my birthday last year right before the pandemic hit. My birthday is always a fun one because it’s the day before Valentine’s so it’s always a romantic affair. Roma’s was no different. With a heart cut out and string lights to take pictures in front of in the waiting area, Valentine’s was set up for the restaurant. We ordered our wines and tucked into another great meal. I had the shrimp scampi and Alex…had the Calzone. The scampi was divine. All of their dishes are huge portions and there was plenty of jumbo shrimp included in my opinion. The sauce was a stunning lemon garlic white wine sauce that went perfectly over the fresh linguine.

For dessert we went with cannolis and tiramisu, the latter being my favorite dessert ever. Both made fresh in house and spectacular. I currently have a cannoli leftover from last night that I said Alex could have…but I don’t think I’ll be able to leave it alone.

We went last night and realized that we just don’t frequent Roma’s enough. However, we’ve been enough times that the staff recognized us so there’s that. Friendly as ever, we joked with the staff and felt right at home. I’m sure they’ll never forget us parking up front during the massive storm we had last night, me running out thinking Alex was with me only to turn and see him still in the car laughing his ass off. It’s maybe a few yards from where I was parked to the front door, but I still managed to get soaked. I felt like one of those kids at the edge of the pool who is all “We jump on three” and then on three only he jumps in while everyone else laughs.

Anyway, we both tried something different last night. I went with the Penne alla Vodka and had sausage added in. First of all, I love a good vodka sauce and sausage combo. This however was the best damn one I’ve ever had. It was creamy and flavorful to a point that I told Alex it was a meal worth savoring every bit. When I got full, I had a bit of post meal depression but then I remembered it would be my lunch the following day. That’s how good this dish is.

Alex played it safe with the spaghetti and meatballs and the meatballs were REALLY good. They were different than any meatballs I’ve ever had. They were herb-y and had a hint of what tasted like rosemary? It was incredible. However, don’t go in expecting a lot of meatballs. In true Italian fashion he was served four* large ass balls. Hehe.

All in all, Roma’s reminds me of Italy and all the wonderful memories that go with it. It’s an unassuming small restaurant located in a Kroger parking lot that is an absolute hidden gem in Duluth. The food, the people, the over all atmosphere make me miss my Italian home which no other Italian restaurant has made me yearn for yet. Do you have a ristorante for me to try? Let me know in the comments and as usual, travel safe and travel often!

*Alex wanted me to correct this by telling me he had four big ass balls.

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