Roberto's Italian (Second Visit)
Youngstown, Ohio    Date of Visit:  03/12/16

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Going to the symphony, returning to Roberto’s on the way. The place is tightly packed wall-to-wall, symphony good for Roberto’s. Instead of the unique rolls we were delivered warm and seasoned slices of bread and a bowl of strongly seasoned oil for dipping. Lots of oil, stiff with garlic as the bowl was deep. The small, fresh salad on teeny plates were served with rich dressings and arrived before the appetizer, which realistically, was the sole serious disappointment.


Calamari. Not an easy thing to get right, but our server recommended it, said it was very popular. I’ve never had calamari in an Italian joint completely plastered with a thick and sticky sweet and sour sauce. Instead of a little cup of red gravy for dipping, there was so much sweet sauce it disguised the flavor and obliterated any crisp the breading may have had. Didn’t matter much, cause the squid itself was chewier than rubber bands. Bummer top to bottom.

Nice Dressing On Cold Crisp Salad

Not Sure If This Is The Right Plate Though..


Y-Town Staple With Loads Of Garlic

Least "Italian" Sauce I've Ever Seen On Chewy Seafood

  The entrees were much better. They still have a very clean and straightforward sauce (would be great with tender calamari).

The pastas (cavatelli and spaghetti) are all done exceptionally well. I had the chicken parm this time around and it is tender and juicy, has a nice crisp interior intact beneath a blanket of cheese and sauce. The meatball in the cavs was the same as the previous stop, soft and meaty without much to distinguish it.

Mother dear had the scallops, which were wonderfully done, a crispy brown sear, tender translucent center, and a seasoning almost as aggressive as the sweet and sour sauce but this one worked. Right up to the line of peppery/salty/herby but without blowing out the scallop itself.

All in all a great stop before a nice night of culture, just skip the calamari.   

Pastas Are Well Cooked


Tender Coated Chicken

Excellent Tooth & Simple Sauce

Scallops More Interesting Than Most

Music & Ansel Adams, There's Your Whiskey

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 Youngstown, Ohio        Date of Visit  02/24/12         
 No Known Website

Finding that our initial destination wouldn’t be able to seat us for hours my brother remembered a new place had opened downtown. It wasn’t til later I learned they haven’t been open a full month yet. We the party of four, with one under the age of four, pull into Federal Square in downtown Youngstown and I couldn’t believe there was nowhere to park. The last time I was downtown at night without a show at Powers Auditorium I watched someone throw a gallon sized Molotov Cocktail out a window and we waited to see how long it would take Police/Fire to show up. They never did. Something is going on downtown, there are people everywhere.



Our Tiniest Diner Appears To Be Enjoying Himself

We walked up to the small front of the restaurant and it looks dark and fancy-dancy inside. We in our ratty jeans and with a smaller diner that might not be appreciated at some restaurants. The place remains very dark once you step through the door. The servers are all clad in black and sort of fade into the corners of the very small but swanky space. The first clue they have not been open that long was that no one had any idea if they had booster seats or high chairs. I was worried maybe they were interested in discouraging families from eating there, not that I cared, but it turns out they had the equipment, a special menu and were happy to see us.

 Associated with their happiness to see us was my worry that only one other table was occupied by a single diner. To their credit the service was fine and continued to be as the place quickly filled up…in downtown Youngstown…at night…a full restaurant…whoda thunk? Regardless they took good care of all four of us. Just plain smart.

Different and Functional Biscuit/Rolls and Killer Garlic Oil

Pretty Standard Salad

Catering From the Kids Menu, Went Over Well

Clean Sauce, Excellent Pasta and a Pretty Good Meatball

The menu is Italian without exception, like the sign says, Roberto’s Italian Ristorante, Eat the Boot. Bread came to the table and in a unique wrinkle, instead of sliced Italian from the kitchen or a local bakery, they delivered what appeared to be biscuits in a lined colander along with a small plate of oil. The biscuits were not flaky in the southern style but doughy and full of Italian herbs and spices. The olive oil was just loaded with enough pepper, pepper flakes and garlic to take down a cadre of Nosferatu.

We ordered chicken parmesan, cavatelli with a meatball, chicken strips with fries and Fiocchi. The chicken strips arrived hot so it took a while before they were consumed but once they left the red zone they were dismantled and dispersed with some vigor. Way to do the kids right! The chicken parmesan looked great, fresh and juicy with a seasoned breading, slab of mozzarella and pool of sauce. The sauce also coated the side of cavatelli and the cavs and meatball in the other bowl. The sauce at Roberto’s is smooth and clean with a sharp acidic tang. It’s not my favorite gravy in town but it is unique and I could see myself going back for another round. The cavatelli were really well done, tender but resistant and took a liking to the sauce for a nice combination.


The Chicken Parmesan Looked Great

And Came With It's Own Load of Cavatelli

Have Never Heard of Fiocchi, Pear and Four Cheese Pasta, Interesting and Tasty

Cheesecake Needed Something

I have never seen nor tried Fiocchi before, so it was a given. The description sounded pretty good. Little pasta beggars purses filled with pear and four cheeses. Even the cheese combination sounded unique to me. A mildly tangy and sour Robiola, the Parmesanesqe but grainy Grana Padano, a stinky but mild Taleggio and the twice cooked and young Ricotta are all in the little bags. The pear is definitively sweet and but balanced against the succulent weight of the cheese mixture. The large bowl is loaded with a pile of these bite sized satchels which are swimming in the seasoned butter in which they were sautéed. I would get them again but not often…I am a red sauce and noodle kinda guy at heart, but they were interesting and tasty.

Dream Bomba Had All It Needed

Inside and Out

We were going to take desserts for a later time but since we had settled on one that was frozen we stayed table side and left with distended bellies. The less successful dessert we ordered was a Ricotta cheesecake which was effused with a bit of orange and topped with a berry sauce. A hint more orange or sweet would have made for a better dessert. I expected the Ricotta version to be less sweet than a cream cheese or it might have been the sweetness or intensity of the sauce on top which left the bulk of the dessert bland and flat. A distinctive step up was the Dream Bomba. A small center of caramel was ensconced in a peanut butter gelato and the whole sphere was then encased in milk chocolate. Way rich, way desserty, worth the stuffed feeling. Roberto’s offers another distinct Italian voice in the Youngstown area with friendly service and some new (to me at least) twists. I hope they do well downtown, who knows what else may follow. Definitely worth a visit.




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