Roma Italian Restaurant
605 Fort Crook Rd
Cost: $50 for two appetizers and two meals
Reservations: Not needed
Greetings, eaters and readers!
With a haunted cemetery tour on our post-dinner agenda, I wanted to pick a place nearby — landing on Roma Italian Restaurant. And having read a handful of rave reviews and entering a full parking lot, we felt certain it would be good.
When we walked in, we were a little surprised by the layout. It had a warehouse meets cafeteria vibe — not exactly what you’d expect for an Italian joint. But it was packed – so we were still hopeful.
Shortly after sitting, our prompt server dropped a few rolls of garlic bread on our table. Our first bites were soft and warm. They could’ve used a bit more garlic and a side of marina, but tasty nonetheless.
I love bruschetta. Crispy bread. Chunky tomatoes. Fresh basil and garlic. Balsamic vinegar …
So you can imagine my confusion and disappointment when the pizza-style appetizer hit the table. All you have to do is Google bruschetta to see that’s not what Roma created. Once I accepted this “bruschetta” for what it was, it was good enough.
Martha, always a fan of hot fried melty cheese, wanted to see what the situation was when the menu featured “Fried Cheese Sticks.” She’s positive she’s never heard them called that before. When the sticks arrived, Martha’s fried cheese expertise kicked in. “These are the exact same sticks as Arby’s, I swear!” Are they good? Sure. But the cheese sticks should have been our first indication that – while good – Roma’s menu was probably going to feature frozen, quick-cook items.
After choosing the Tortellini A La Panna, Martha was given the choice of grilled or crispy chicken. Since most places automatically serve it with grilled, she ventured to the crispy side of things to see if that adds or distracts from the dish.
The online and personal reviews we read and heard weren’t wrong: the portions are HUGE and everything comes out quickly and very hot. Martha’s tortellini was almost too hot – if there is such a thing? Think: 15 minutes later and she still couldn’t eat the tortellini without doing that weird “bite-breath-bite-hoohhh” thing. And when it was time to box up our leftovers – the bottom of her plate was still untouchably hot, as was mine.
Overall, she enjoyed the flavor of the sauce and the crispy chicken. And who doesn’t like taking home leftovers for a creamy Italian lunch for the next day? But the tortellini doesn’t appear to be any different than what you can grab at a grocery store in the frozen department.
I tried the Penne Vodka, which is one of my go-to’s. Described as a light pink cream sauce with a dash of vodka, it came out as such. It wasn’t too bad, but certainly wasn’t the best penne vodka I’ve ever had. It didn’t scream fresh and homemade to me — no plate that arrives five minutes after you order it does. Overall, I’d describe the result as tasting boxed, canned and processed. I did like the few bites I had, but I was full on bread so it wasn’t long before I boxed it up.
We have to give Roma’s credit for a few things: huge portions, good prices, attentive and polite service, and prompt delivery of hot food. But to be honest – we’re equal parts confused by the rave reviews we read and worried about what some people deem as “authentic” Italian. We can’t help but compare Roma’s to our recent enjoyment of Spezia or the Omaha jewel Mangia Italiana. And quite frankly – they don’t compare.
We’ll leave space open for the fact that maybe the other menu items *are* made from scratch – like the lasagna and other baked pasta dishes. And Martha admits she would consider taking a visiting friend or family member there if everyone was just craving creamy carbs and comfort. But if they wanted mouth-changing flavors and dishes Mother Italy would be proud of – we’d both recommend venturing to other Omaha establishments.
For what it does right, we give Roma’s two forks sideways.