Restaurant review: Casual Romano's features feast of Italian flavors
EVANSVILLE—Casual dining at its best, Romano's Pizzeria is an excellent choice if you're in the mood for Italian food and not in the mood to dress up.
At the corner of Highway 14 and Union Street, Romano's is easy to find and offers plenty of parking.
Early on a Tuesday evening, we entered an almost full dining room. The kitchen is to the left of the entrance, and as we walked in, a head popped out to welcome us.
We waited by the door for the hostesses, two high school girls, to guide us to a booth. The restaurant gives the impression of being small, but there is an additional room available to seat an overflow crowd.
Decorated with wall murals in the trompe l'oeil style, the Italian-themed room is informal and relaxed. Though it was crowded and the lounge has big-screen TVs, it was refreshingly easy to hold a conversation.
Our waitress promptly took our drink orders, and I was pleasantly surprised to receive my Chianti ($4.50 per glass) chilled. I had previously only had Chianti at room temperature, but this tasted wonderful. Romano's also offers a full bar, and its tap beers come in 16- and 23-ounce glasses.
The menu left us with many decisions to make, as everything sounded so good. Since we've had Romano's pizza before, we decided on Italian entrees—all of which come with salad and dinner rolls.
I ordered the baked lasagna ($11.99). I like all variations of lasagna, and there are so many to choose from. This was the thick and cheesy kind, Americanized by hamburger. While the mozzarella had a pronounced and delightful flavor, I should have asked for an additional side of Romano's homemade marinara sauce—my favorite. But I had no complaints and truly enjoyed the dish.
Both Jennifer and Helene chose from the “Specialty Pasta” portion of the menu. Jennifer's choice, Penne Bascaioli ($12.99), was a smoky, classic Italian dish featuring penne noodles tossed in a luscious tomato cream sauce, packed full of fresh mushrooms and delicious, sautéed, sweet Italian sausage. This became the favorite dish of the night.
Helene's choice was Spaghetti alla Sicillana ($11.99), which featured a much lighter sauce of olive oil, garlic, fresh mushrooms and basil. Fresh tomatoes covered a bed of al dente pasta, which gave the dish more volume. Assuming the flavors would be light, Helene was surprised by the lovely garlic aspect that made it savory and pleasing.
Nikki is a big fan of Romano's thin-crust pepperoni pizza, but she decided to try one of its sandwiches instead. Like me, she would be happy with just crusty bread and sauce, so she ordered the meatball sub. Featuring huge, homemade meatballs covered in sauce and melted cheese, it was almost too big to bite. Served with an extra side of Romano's marinara and french fries, it was a hearty and filling dish.
Our salads, which were delivered to our table pronto, featured iceberg lettuce. Normally, I am not a big fan of salads centered on iceberg lettuce, but this was so crisp and cold with cherry tomatoes, red cabbage and shredded carrots that I found it surprisingly enjoyable. The rolls also were good, although they would have been better if they had been warm. They were served at room temperature.
While ordering, I somehow missed seeing Romano's offers eggplant parmigiana, which was listed as an appetizer. I look forward to stopping by to test it soon. I also like the restaurant's small 7-inch pizza, which is a perfect single serving. I might pick one up as I zip by on my way home from Madison.
Romano's dessert menu features Italian sweets such as cannoli and tiramisu as well as chocolate cake and other after-dinner favorites. What caught our eye was the Exotic Bomba, which features layers of raspberry, mango and passion fruit sorbetto in a white chocolate shell. This prompted a discussion on the difference between sherbet and sorbet, and where does sorbetto fit in? Is it just a language difference, or do the ingredients vary?
I'm not sure there is a definitive answer, but as a summer treat they all are delicious. This dish was big enough to share, and the bright fruit flavors were a refreshing way to end a lovely meal.
The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.