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story.lead_photo.caption A stromboli at Roma Italian Restaurant in Jacksonville is filled with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms and cheese and served with a side of marinara sauce. - Photo by Rosemary Boggs

When it comes to food, Jacksonville is quite the melting pot for such a small town. Offerings range from the usual fast-food restaurants and home-cooking havens to Thai, Mexican and barbecue. Even Italian.

Roma Italian Restaurant in Jacksonville -- in a strip center with plentiful parking -- looks rather nondescript. Inside, the walls are a deep plum, subdued and a bit elegant. Diners can choose table or booth. The sophistication continues with white-cloth covered tables.

An order of the creamy Alla Panna Sauce at Roma Italian Restaurant in Jacksonville is perfect for dipping the restaurant’s warm and tender rolls.
An order of the creamy Alla Panna Sauce at Roma Italian Restaurant in Jacksonville is perfect for dipping the restaurant’s warm and tender rolls.

Our server brought drinks and a basket of big, golden, soft and yeasty rolls. I asked for an order of the Alla Panna Sauce ($4.95), which is, I think, a light creamy tomato/Alfredo sauce mixture. The sauce has the tang of tomato with the smoothness of a creamy Alfredo sauce, and it goes perfectly with the roll.

We started at a table for four, but when our food started arriving we realized that it was not big enough. Our friendly server moved us to a large booth in the corner to better accommodate the large plates, saucers, cups and the basket of huge rolls.

An order of stuffed mushrooms at Roma Italian Restaurant in Jacksonville is made with crab meat and covered in a creamy mixture of Alfredo and marinara sauce.
An order of stuffed mushrooms at Roma Italian Restaurant in Jacksonville is made with crab meat and covered in a creamy mixture of Alfredo and marinara sauce.

First came the appetizer, an order of five stuffed mushrooms ($8.95). They were covered in a sauce much like the Alla Panna, but it overpowered the flavor of the crab meat mixture that was piled on top of the silver-dollar size mushroom tops.

My mother ordered the Linguine Tuttamare ($19.95), a dish of shrimp, scallops, mussels, calamari and baby clams sauteed with shallots and garlic in a white wine sauce that is served over linguine. The portion, as with most of the dishes on the menu, was huge. More than enough to take home for later. The sauce had a mild garlic flavor and the seafood swimming among the pasta was pretty much cooked to perfection. The mussels in their thin black shell were tender, not rubbery, which shows a bit of skill in the kitchen.

The Veal Marsala at Roma Italian Restaurant in Jacksonville is made with sauteed shallots and mushrooms in a Marsala wine sauce served over spaghettini pasta.
The Veal Marsala at Roma Italian Restaurant in Jacksonville is made with sauteed shallots and mushrooms in a Marsala wine sauce served over spaghettini pasta.

My son chose the Veal Marsala ($13.95), made with shallots and mushrooms in a Marsala wine sauce and served over spaghettini pasta, which is very thin. The veal cutlet was cooked well and there were plenty of tender sliced mushrooms. The tangy wine sauce was just the right consistency, coating all the dish's components for a very flavorful bite.

The Chef’s Special at Roma Italian Restaurant in Jacksonville is made with chicken and shrimp sauteed with hot cherry peppers and capers in a white wine and creamy Alfredo sauce served over tortellini pasta.
The Chef’s Special at Roma Italian Restaurant in Jacksonville is made with chicken and shrimp sauteed with hot cherry peppers and capers in a white wine and creamy Alfredo sauce served over tortellini pasta.

My nephew chose the Chef's Special ($15.95) of chicken and shrimp sauteed with hot cherry peppers and capers in a white wine and Alfredo sauce served over tortellini pasta. The peppers did add a bit of heat, but not enough to be overwhelming. The creamy sauce was plentiful and the tortellini pasta held it nicely. The shrimp were big and tender. A nice helping of grated cheese on top made it sublime.

We decided to try takeout and ordered a stromboli ($8.95) to go. We were not disappointed after a nice round in the toaster oven at home. Stromboli is pizza crust that is filled and rolled into a fully enclosed tube. This was made with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese, and it was served with a side of well-seasoned marinara sauce. It comes with a tossed salad, with slices of purple onion and crunchy croutons. It was plenty for two to share.

Roma's menu is extensive, with house specialties, many of which include choices of chicken, sausage, shrimp, veal, tilapia or salmon. Also sub sandwiches, baked pasta and pizzas. A lunch menu is served from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.

Dessert selections ($4.95-$6.95) include cheesecake, chocolate mousse cake, Italian cream cake, tiramisu and cannoli cream.

A side order of Shrimp Napolini at Roma Italian Restaurant in Jacksonville is made with jumbo shrimp sauteed with shallots in a white wine, lemon butter and garlic sauce.
A side order of Shrimp Napolini at Roma Italian Restaurant in Jacksonville is made with jumbo shrimp sauteed with shallots in a white wine, lemon butter and garlic sauce.

Weekend on 12/27/2018

Roma Italian Restaurant

Address: 2126 N. First St., Suite L, Jacksonville

Cuisine: Italian

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Sunday

Credit Cards: AE, D, MC, V,

Alcoholic beverages: No

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Carryout: Yes

(501) 241-1632

RomasJacksonville.com

Print Headline: Roma Italian joins area melting pot

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