If you haven’t been back to Bristol’s beloved Roberto’s since it moved last year, it’s time for a visit. While providing much more space and elbowroom between tables, Roberto’s original feeling of casual coziness has been reprised. The dark neutral color scheme is the same, the soft lighting level is the same and the relaxed, friendly atmosphere has not changed. The only new additions are a full window view looking out onto Hope Street towards the Bay, a striking hand-painted mural by artist Kendra Bidwell Ferreira and a new and quite talented young chef, Christian Ferreira, the mural artist’s son.
I’m also pleased to report that the menu at Roberto’s has not strayed from their previous array of Mediterranean favorites. We arrived on a weeknight at around 6:30pm and the tables were starting to fill up. We were warmly greeted by our waitperson, Trish, who knew the menu by heart.
For a starter we chose a full-flavored salad of roasted apple, goat cheese, field greens and walnuts with a balsamic dressing – all very fresh and tasty. Our other appetizer, which in many restaurants could actually pass for a main course, was Roberto’s Manzo Croccante. It consisted of small slices of seared beef in a rich red sauce laced with caramelized onion, a red wine demi-glace, scallions and the chef’s own “pasta crisps.” Shaped much like a large butterfly wing, these flat, crispy treats remind one of a taco shell – but these are made from fresh pasta dough.
Other appetizers include Shrimp Cocktail, Roberto’s Crab Cakes, Fried Calamari and their pizza of the day. (Appetizer prices average from $10 to $12.) Between courses we were treated to a small portion of al dente ravioli accompanied by roasted red peppers in a rich cream sauce.
The chef’s special entrée is Roberto’s Braciole. Made up of tender veal medallions stuffed with cheese, pine nuts, spinach and wild mushrooms, it’s a perfect comfort dish for a chilly spring night (Be advised: the portion size is more than ample as are most dishes at Roberto’s.)
Another heart-warming entrée is Roberto’s robust Lamb Bolognese with small tidbits of lamb in a full-flavored red sauce heaped over a generous portion of penne pasta.
From the Pasta and Seafood menu there’s an array of choices like Fettuccine Aglio e Olio with capers, spinach, roasted peppers and summer squash.
Their Lobster Rissotto is enhanced by wild mushrooms, peas and pancetta. And for the full Mediterranean seafood experience, Roberto’s Seafood Possillipo is a sumptuous mix of littlenecks, cod and shrimp in a light plum tomato sauce served with linguine.
Roberto’s menu allows you to choose from Beef or Pork entrees, or a number of variations on classic veal or chicken dishes in a variety of traditional and original sauces including carbonara, piccata, marsala and saltimbocca. In other words, you can make up your own combinations. Roberto’s pasta/seafood entrées range from $15 to $24.
Most of the desserts are housemade including their luscious flan with a choice of caramel or chocolate sauce, or both if you so desire. I was quite pleased with my Tiramisu soaked in a sweet rum sauce with a light creamy filling. It was the perfect ending to a night of old and new favorites.