Review: Trattoria Roma

Note: this is for the previous Trattoria Location, in what is now the 21C hotel. A new review, for the new location, is forthcoming.

Do you guys ever watch Kitchen Nightmares? I love that show. It would be fun to make a drinking game from it: every time Gordon drops the f-bomb, drink a tequila shot. I’d be down for the count by the first commercial break.

It’s also helped me, in a small way, to become a critical diner. It’s not that I subscribe to WWGRD? (What Would Gordon Ramsay Do?), but there are some things he’s pointed out that I agree with– one of which is, if available, use high quality ingredients.

Trattoria Roma has been a favorite of mine for years. I’d never ventured much past pasta with them– I loved their tortellini alla vodka (which is off the menu but supposedly you can ask for it) and their tiramisu (which I liked until I had better tiramisu). Trattoria Roma feels really fancy when you’re 18 and you’ve not spent a lot of time downtown. Now, it feels just a tiny bit dingy, but in a charming way. It is incredibly slow if there’s nothing going on at the Aronoff, but when there is, you’re greeted by a maître d’ who is straight out of the Godfather, slicked back hair, Italian accent and all. At times you wonder if someone is going to burst in with a tommy gun and take people out, St. Valentine’s Day Massacre-style.

Our first problem with the high-quality ingredients? The “Mediterranean salad”. It looked like a good idea– mozzarella, olives, and red pepper with Balsamic vinaigrette. Its execution, however, wasn’t. The black olives were the big ones that come in a can, and the red pepper wasn’t freshly roasted, but also jarred. The mozzarella was tasteless, and it was all served atop iceberg lettuce. This is a “dump” salad– dump a can of this and a can of that. Really not worth the $10. Gordon would send it back. He might even throw things around and make the chef cry.
Trattoria Roma
Pasta? Come here for pasta. Terry got veal Parmigiana, which was good, if overly sauced with a very good, richly flavored tomato sauce. There’s not a lot of subtlety here– big flavors, big portions, moderate price tag. If you think about the owners targeting their clients, which is the theater crowd, it makes sense. The theater crowd is looking for something fast, fancy (but not too fancy) and familiar (but maybe slightly exotic). You can take your grandma here, and you can take a date here. It won’t blow them away, but it’s not chain Italian, either. Gordon would probably be OK with it, but comment on the oversaucing.
Trattoria Roma

I got the tortellini in cream sauce with artichokes and peas. This is where we get into the “use quality ingredients”. The peas and the artichokes were canned. Frozen would have been better– and understandable– but it didn’t detract from the very nice cream sauce. Gordon would cut out the peas and artichokes and just call it tortellini Alfredo.

Trattoria Roma
In all? This is a totally safe restaurant. It’s not amazing, but would probably please someone with simple tastes. It fills the “downtown, traditional Italian” craving pretty well, and it is a good pre-theater choice. Is it Nicola’s? No. It’s not trying to be. It could be improved with fresh ingredients, but for a simple bowl of pasta, this is a good choice.

Trattoria Roma on Urbanspoon

  • Work With What You’ve Got

    Can I just say, that I understand the CONCEPT of over-sauced, but for me, pasta is pretty much never oversauced.

    And that cream pasta LOOKS good enough I may make that soon.

  • Julie

    For a good Alfredo recipe (like 10593875 WW points), try Giada’s.

    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/fettuccine-alfredo-recipe/index.html

    Just sub tortellini and really feel your arteries clog.

  • Kate The Great

    Reason #77 why I’m a masoschist:

    I am starving.
    I have no groceries.
    I just caught a glimpse of the fabulous pasta pics.

    Dammit.

    Looking forward to seeing you (and the other gals) tomorrow!

  • Julie

    Kate! I’m sorry. I won’t be there tomorrow. :(

  • lauren

    I like Trattoria Roma but the one time I went there (during lunch) service was INCREDIBLY slow and they didn’t get it right, either: Bringing only three out of our four drinks, forgetting one girl’s salad, etc. The bread and salad were generic by anyone’s standards; I can make better out of a bag at home.

    The pasta, however, was fantastic. I had the lasagna and it was AMAZING. A little too sauce-y (I’m seeing a trend here…) but cheesy, hot and delicious. It’s incredible the difference that fresh pasta makes, too.

  • Julie

    If you notice, I didn’t even bother to review the bread (which was definitely frozen but at least freshly baked) nor the salad (simple lettuce, carrot, tomato and balsamic dressing) which were both on par with what I’d make at home (except I’d do my no-knead bread and kick the premade bread’s butt with no real work!).

    Slow service during lunch is sort of unforgiveable to me.

  • Michelle Lentz

    I used to love the place, until they accidentally threw my friend’s credit card in the trash, accused her of losing it, found it, and then didn’t compensate us in any way for the chaos. That was after a lackluster meal. Before that experience, I used to order the tortellini alfredo, without veggies of course, so Gordon would have approved. :-)

  • joe

    I am old time patron of Trattoria Roma it was the best I’ve ever had next to Italy authenic foods, and New York finest Italian resturants. I go to the Trattoria Roma whenver I am in town for business

  • kathy

    Trattoria Roma serves the best italian food I’ve ever had! I think the critisizm here is just unreasonable!

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  • Zaget

    Trattoria Roma is a restaurant that has quality and the Italian atmosphere has flair. Obviously leave it to people that know nothing about the food or the culture . If you want to be Authentic you have to be different then the rest. While other put foo foo in the food that is tasteless. This small Restaurant has a captivity of it’s own . Zaget

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com Julie

      Well, I don’t know that Nonna would have used canned peas, but note that this review is from 2008. I’ve noted it in the review itself.

      • Zaget

        I am old time patron of Itailian Restaurant’s in New York, next to Italy this is authenic food, and New York finest Italian resturants. I go to the Trattoria Roma when I am in town for business . What do you know about food or culture

        • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com Julie

          I certainly hope the food has improved in the past 6 years (if you noted, I told you this was an old review). Insulting me, however, doesn’t help your cause.

          • Zagat

            how I wish I could been part of the business, I would of been proud. I just love there food when I am into town. My fav. place to eat italain food. Kudas to the Chef