Interview

Family Dinner at Roberto's

From optometry to the restaurant biz

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The opening of Roberto’s Restaurant was completely serendipitous. Owner Robert Vanderhoff was a retired optician who was looking for something to do with a chef friend. After finding a little bed and breakfast that was for sale and developing an Italian American menu, the rest is culinary history. We talked about family, food and being part of the community.

Do you think it’s important for families to come together and share a meal?
Of course, it’s very important. When I was raising my kids we had dinner together every night.

What are some of your favorite dishes at Roberto’s?
Lobster alla Dina, which was named after a very good friend of mine. She helped to concoct the dish and I tweaked it to her liking. The customers seemed to like it that way so we named it after her. Other popular dishes are the Chicken Piccatta, the Veal Carbonara and the Shrimp Pepe Nero.

What’s new on the menu this season?
Since we moved here three years ago we added a Saltimbocca that we do with either veal or chicken. The Steak Frites are also very popular and now we have wild mushroom ravioli. We tweak [the menu] every six months or so, we might take an item off and add an item or take off two and add two. The chef likes to shake things up now and again.

How does Roberto’s give back to Bristol?
We do a lot for the community. We support the local charities and participate in fundraisers. The latest one was Bristol Bloom where I donated two dinners for six with Billy Andrade, the local professional golfer, to help raise money for the flowers they hang on the lampposts all over town. We also donate to Mount Hope Farm. We are very community oriented – there are very few requests I get that I don’t grant. Anybody who comes in for a local charity looking for a gift card for a silent auction, we never say no. We donate to Saint Elizabeth [Manor] and we attend the fundraisers as well.

We hear your bar is the place to be.
The bar is full every night, even if the dining room is quiet. It’s a dining bar – it’s not a drinking bar. People come here to socialize with other people. Typically, if you walk in you’re going to know people if you’re a regular here. We see the same faces all the time in the dining room and the bar – it’s really gratifying. Bristol is a community and I really feel that Roberto’s is part of it. People who have come here have made best friends here – I’ve made dear friends since I opened this restaurant 13 years ago. It’s just that type of community.

Roberto’s Restaurant 
450 Hope Street, Bristol
401-254-9732