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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Weekend on 12/27/2018
Roma Italian Restaurant
Address: 2126 N. First St., Suite L, Jacksonville
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
Print Headline: Roma Italian joins area melting pot