Restaurant Review

Trattoria Romana raises the bar in Johnston

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Chef Luciano Canova has raised the bar for fine Italian dining in Rhode Island, taking his high standards and homemade Italian recipes to Johnston.

I told two friends who had eaten at Trattoria Romana in Lincoln and they both described the restaurant as “authentic.”

They moment you walk through the door, you know that you are in a special place, a truly authentic Italian restaurant.

We were greeted by manager Dan Cardella, who brought his experience and talent from the restaurant’s Lincoln location.

A fresh bread basket was immediately brought to our white linen table, accompanied by a sweet dip that was quite different from the usual oil and garlic.

The extensive menu, featured a variety of appetizers, soup and salads, leaving us with difficult choices to make.

For my antipasti, I chose the Cozze Alla Marina-Prince Edward Island mussels immersed in a garlic, white wine and marinara sauce with fresh Italian herbs ($9.95).

Joyce ordered one of the daily specials, Squash Blossoms, perfectly cooked. Our friendly and knowledgeable waitress, Jessica, explained that the chef created specials based on the season.

The menu items are listed in Italian with English explanations.

I ordered from the Vitello section, choosing Veal Marsala ($19.95), tender veal medallions sautéed with button mushrooms, marinara sauce with demi glaze, and served over capellini pasta. A side of fresh string beans complemented the meal nicely.

Back in the late 1900s, we used to dine at Guido’s, a tiny Italian restaurant on Hope St. in Providence. They closed years ago, and I have never been able to duplicate their Veal Marsala. Trattoria Romana brought me back to those days with a dish that far exceeded my expectations. The veal was so tender it melted in my mouth, and the sauce was superb. I can’t recall when I have had a better dining experience.

Joyce, a seafood lover, went to the Pesce section, ordering Gamberi e Capesante Cardinale ($26.95), jumbo shrimp and sea scallops sautéed with shallots cherry tomatoes, Calamata olives, and fresh Marzano marinara sauce and herbs over capellini pasta.

Special care is given to every dish, whether it is a $16.95 (Dan’s favorite) Bolognese dish or a 16-ounce sirloin. ($29.95)

Joyce had to personally thank the bartender for her perfectly made Black Russian, as they discussed the precise ratio of vodka to Kahlua. My martini, always the judge of a good bartender, was perfect.

There are a number of ways to judge a first-class restaurant, including food, service and atmosphere.

We discovered another. As waitpersons brought the large menus back to the receptionist, she carefully opened every plastic-coated page and wiped them down.

Trattoria Romana is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Luncheons range from $11.95 for a variety of pastas to $12.95 for pollo (chicken), to $16.95 for veal and seafood dishes.

For reservations, call 519-9100. The restaurant is located in a shopping plaza at 1571 Atwood Ave., Johnston, just past Hartford Avenue and Johnston City Hall.

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