Carciofo alla Guida, a starter at Romulus in Englewood, draws its inspiration from Rome's old Jewish Quarter.
By VICTOR E. SASSON
An artichoke completely transformed by frying, al dente pasta in a lemony sauce and a perfectly grilled whole fish were the highlights of our dinner at Romulus, a new Italian restaurant in Englewood.
The Palisade Avenue BYO serves Roman cuisine, which is rare in a state where red sauce flows freely at thousands of Southern Italian restaurants and pizzerias.
On the short drive there late Thursday afternoon, I wondered if I would be satisfied with a meal devoid of marinara and other forms of tomato, one of my favorite foods.
Once we were seated, I noted the menu does list a couple of comfort dishes with red sauce; still, I decided to try the Roman-inspired dishes, and I was glad I did.
My wife started with a Caesar Salad ($8), and I asked for Carciofo alla Guida ($10), a Roman Jewish specialty of fried artichoke that melts in the mouth.
Our main dishes were Spaghetti Limone ($15) and a grilled whole Branzino accented by a tomato vinaigrette ($25), a fish that was big enough to share.
I stole a couple of forkfuls of the al dente spaghetti, and loved the dressing of lemon juice, zest, olive oil and Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese.
My branzino or Mediterranean sea bass was beautifully grilled, with thin slices of lemon in the cavity, and served over shaved fennel, radish and fresh herbs. Delicious.
Romulus serves bread from Balthazar Bakery, which is less than a half-mile away, and I threw out my no-bread diet and ate the chewy crusts dipped in extra-virgin olive oil, as well as the crunchy croutons from my wife's salad.
Don't dress for Romulus, where the host's flannel shirt was worn untucked, and servers were in jeans and T-shirts.
I liked the idea of a waiter bringing us a carafe of iced water, but not having to pour the first glass myself.
We arrived for the start of dinner service at 5, and shared the restaurant with another couple, and a party of 9 women and one man who said they were an Italian supper club.
|Branzino with Lemon and Rosemary.|
|An order of Spaghetti Limone made up in flavor what it lacked in size.|
|A cappuccino was $6.|
|We enjoyed a bottle of Kirkland Signature Prosecco, a sparkling wine from Italy ($6.99 at Costco Wholesale in Wayne).|
|Before Romulus, occupants of the storefront on East Palisade Avenue included The Kitchen and Blue Moon Cafe, a mediocre Mexican-American restaurant that eventually expanded to a bigger space next door.|
|A pressed-copper ceiling, above; exposed brick walls and servers dressed in jeans and dark T-shirts are among the style notes.|
Romulus Restaurant, 21 E. Palisade Ave., Englewood; 201-408-2639. BYO, metered parking until 6 p.m.
Web site: Roman Cuisine