Sunday, October 11, 2009

Roma D' Italia - Tustin

I'd like to file Roma D' Italia's cannelloni in the category of "Where have you been all my life?" Until last week, it's a dish that hadn't yet met my acquaintance. And if my friend, who treated me to dinner, didn't order it, I would've never been introduced to this sexy Italian seductress. Even as I heard my buddy utter her name, I thought I heard cannoli, which isn't the same thing.

For those who haven't enjoyed the pleasure of cannelloni, it is essentially an Italian enchilada. Although that description doesn't quite do it justice, it's the closest approximation I can make since it has a some sort filling rolled up into a starchy tube, baked in a casserole dish, and engulfed in sauce and cheese.

But there endeth the similarities. The filling is usually veal chopped to a fine pulp, the rolling medium is a homemade crepe, and the sauce is gooey with mozzarella as stretchy as lace. Voluptuously rich and supple, it is as much an enchilada as dim sum is tapas.

To eat Roma D' Italia's cannelloni is to be seduced, immediately and completely. Brought out a fuming, bubbling, you gently lift it out of its warm slumber. The thin sauce covering slips off slightly as you do, revealing its lithe and naked skin. And when you take your spoon to it, it yields at your touch as if it were half-melted Häagen-Dazs. Every part of it that passes your lips trembles in ecstasy and liquefies instantly into a mouthful of savory protein pudding. Now that's amore!

Roma D' Italia‎
(714) 544-0273
611 El Camino Real
Tustin, CA 92780

Best of OC 2009
El Francés (the Frenchman): Pascal Olhats
May Garden - Costa Mesa


At 6:06 PM, Anonymous cdmedici said...

OMG. I used to go to this place all of the time when I lived in Orange. My favorite dish hands downs is called Prima Classe.

This is your classic family style American Italian red sauce joint.

At 6:51 PM, Anonymous JB said...

It's funny, I just drove past my favorite OC red sauce establishment, Luigi d'Italia in Anaheim...
...and now I'm at home reading this post.
Must be COLUMBUS DAY or something

After your *cannelloni* at Roma D'Italia, I hope you went a bit further east and got a *cannoli* at
Claro's Market.....

At 7:02 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Okay, well now I have to try the Prima Classe!

The menu describes it as "Fresh shrimp tossed with fettucine pasta in a creamy tomato sauce."

BTW, the last time I was here, I enjoyed the angel hair catanzaro, which I think used the same creamy tomato sauce, sans seafood. And that, was awesome!


*slapping my hands to my forehead* By golly, it is Columbus Day! This, however, was coincidence! I don't think that far ahead!

And Claro's closes too darned early for me to have made it after dinner (also closed the entire day on Wednesdays). But the most money pastry there, IMHO, is the sfogliatelle!

At 10:09 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

Sorry Elmo, I find Roma D' Italia to be one of the most over rated restaurants of all time, just behind Wahoo's.

There used to be long waits to get a table there and I never understood why. But then I witnessed long waits at places like Crab Cooker, Outback Steakhouse, Cheesecake Factory, and Rainforest Cafe. I just have come to the realization that most people don't have good taste when it comes to food and they will line up for it. Otherwise the restaurants I mentioned would not be making money hand over fist.

On a side note, I tried some of your other review places. I ate the chicken wings and Pizza & Chicken Love Letter. It was very good. I even liked the cabbage with the sauce drizzled on it. Very Tasty. I just had it plain. I then tried Baja Fish Taco. Fish Taco is OK if you didnt know any better. If you didnt know about Los Caojitas #2 or even the fish tacos at Del Taco. But you are right, it was bland. The enchiladas were pretty good, but nothing spectacular. I had shrimp on one and cheese in the other. The rice was jsut Stupid Town. Just plain old white rice??!! Totally out of place. Beans were good, but not as earth shattering as everyone made them out to be. Best beans are from Carnitas Los Reyes. Chips are aweful and the Pico Di Gayo salsa had a funny taste. Way too expensive for chips. Probably won't return. The Coca Cola was good.

Also tried the Tamale Factory on 5th Street in Santa Ana. I can't remember if it was one of your reviews or someone elses. The hard taco was decent and at a good price. Tamales were average and especially average since you get no sauce with them. The menudo was asstastic and left a weird taste in my system for a day. A bitter weird taste. Kind of like when you drink milk after eating artichokes.

Diamond Dog - The World's First "Restaurant Review Blog Reviewer"

At 11:24 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

Well, now I just learned about a new dish I haven't heard or seen in a while. I think I may remember it from a Olive Garden Commercial from a long time ago but it looks nothing like this version! I'll be on the lookout for it when I visit an Italian restaurant.

At 12:29 AM, Blogger joanh said...

mm.. put almost anything under tomato sauce and cheese and i'm happy

At 8:29 AM, Blogger christoofat said...

dang, Diamond Dog..thread drift much?

It's strange we lived in South Tustin for like 8 years & never once ate there , although we did see the lines out the doors some evenings.
Sounds like good comfort food to me, although the calories involved probably won't comfort your cholesterol levels any. That Prima Classe dish sounds real good too!

At 9:44 AM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...


I know I was kind of drifting. But one of the best things about this blog is that the author actually responds to each and every comment. After slamming one of his recommendations it was important for me to express to him and the other readers how many good recommendations he has and how many i take advantage of.

I wanted to let Elmo know what I thought about some of his recent rec's as I know he will comment back.

So there is somewhat a method to my madness.

At 10:00 AM, Blogger christoofat said... worries DD !
& yes, Elmo does good blog!

At 2:44 PM, Blogger mark said...

I like you're analogy of " much an enchilada as dim sum is tapas." Awesome writing!

I actually thought you typed "cannoli" at first. Anyways, how were the cannolis (if they had any)?

At 4:02 PM, Blogger Juliet said...

Food porn alert!
You really do know how to make eating a meal sound like something naughty. hehehheh

At 6:10 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

I have to agree with Diamond Dog about Roma D'Italia. While this particular dish may be good (and I do love me some cannelloni), I found everything there much too greasy. We've eaten there twice and it was just overwhelming. I got a side of spinach with garlic that was just drowning in oil. I actually drained it. Yick. The chicken parmesan, osso buco and ravioli, all the same, and really very bland to boot. Calamari not crisp. Dinner rolls instead of garlic bread... huh?

Very rare I disagree with you E, but I actually had an opinion about this one heh.

P.S. Steve tried Baja Fish Tacos yesterday and he felt exactly about it like I did. "Why is that place even always so busy, those tacos suck!" Yes, yes they do! ;P

At 12:40 AM, Anonymous eaterdeltustin said...

It's about time you reviewed this place, which I love. This is one of the gems of Tustin. The only downside is that it can get pretty loud....

At 9:08 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

DD and Melissa,

Your comments keep this blog honest and balanced! Please do continue to chime in, especially if you have an opposing point of view.

So here's the long of it, since I am now responsible for even more posts on Stick A Fork In It, I had to stick to the highlight reel for this one. I meant every word I said about the cannelloni. Even my buddy, who is apparently a cannelloni expert even though he's from Taiwan, said that it was one of the best he's had.

But for completeness, here's what we thought of the rest of the meal: the pizza we ordered was not noteworthy (we thought the crust was too much like Costco's), though tasty we found the chicken parmigiana to be slightly tough, and the mussels were ordinary (though its cooking liquid was so good we sipped it up liked soup).

The calamari, however, was nicely cooked, lightly dusted with crunchiness, just the right amount of give when bitten.

It wasn't perfect, but we had a great time, though let me tell you where we could've gone instead. Prior to my suggestion of Roma D' Italia, my friend wanted to drive down here from SGV just to meet up at a certain chain Italian restaurant that serves "family style meals". And that, I simply couldn't have...though I do like their pizzas.


My friend said that he usually sees cannelloni up in SGV with ground chicken, and I believe you are in his neck of the woods!


You said it sister! And even better when it's something that doesn't even need it!

christoofat and DD,

I do make an effort to answer every comment, since you guys are making an effort to write them. And DD, if I had a nickle for everytime someone says my blog is good, I'd have a few bucks from you. So thanks!


Thanks! We are on the same boat on not knowing about cannelloni! Actually, I'm not sure they have cannolis! They do have spumoni though, which isn't the same thing!


Ah! I knew you'd catch on! I had even more subliminally suggestive stuff in there the first time, but even I thought it was too much. I know that kids read this blog! And by kids I mean those impressionable students at my alma mater...UC Irvine.


As always, I smiled when I read your comment. What's a discussion board if there's no actual discussion? I've long ago given up BJT's fish tacos, but I have to disagree with both you and DD on the rice. Paired with the those soupy beans, a few hits of the pico de gallo and those whole peppers, now that's a meal! Reminds me of hainan rice. Only at the Santa Ana branch though. Lake Forest's is not so good. Too clumpy.


It's certainly my favorite in Tustin for the kitsch and Lady and Tramp romanticism of it all. All they need an accordion player in there!

At 8:11 AM, Blogger Melissa said...

I love the pintos (the black are stupid bland and dry). Lard-o-licious. Their house made salsas are pretty great, and actually spicy. I grant them those two things. The thing is, I actually do like the rice. It's cooked well, it's buttery. My problem is when I eat Mexican food, I tend to want, well, not white rice.

At 9:07 AM, Anonymous plumpdumpling said...

I so rarely read blogs for the way a person writes rather than for the actual story (not because I don't love good writing but because blog writers mostly suck), but I LOVE this:

"It is as much an enchilada as dim sum is tapas."

At 3:26 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


AH! I think I've pinpointed the difference between us. Although I'm not patently against it, I usually prefer that all rice side dishes to be uncolored. For example, though I don't completely reject Spanish rice, I'd rather have white if possible. And when ordering Panda Express (which I admit to doing...wait, what am I admitting to here!?) I never ever ask for the fried rice. Just plain steamed rice (although Panda's steamed rice is really dry) And that Vietnamese tomato rice some Little Saigon joints serve with the roasted game hen? Ugh! I like my white on rice, I guess!


Aw thanks! And I still get a kick out of your name!

At 8:32 AM, Blogger Jeff Overley said...

If you make cannelloni a habit, must try Ferrari's A'roma in La Palma. They stuff the crepes with veal, beef and pork and then top with both red sauce and bechamel. Outta hand.

At 2:53 PM, Anonymous Das Ubergeek said...

We both hit up Italian spots in Tustin this week -- sounds like yours was way, way, way better than mine.

Now I know what to try next time I'm down there. I think I may get a pizza from Luigi's for dinner though, if I can deal with the slightly socially-maladjusted people...

At 8:49 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Well of course I have to try that now! I wonder if it's the same A'Roma I know of.


Thanks for taking one for the team. I've seen Illiano's but thought it looked too much like a upstart chain. Now I know!

At 1:35 PM, Blogger Exile Kiss said...

Hi Elmomonster,

Wow, if you're saying it's that good, I'll have to try it out the next time I'm in the area. :) Thanks.

At 1:52 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Exile Kiss,

The cannelloni *IS* that good!! But I do have to warn you that the other items we tried did not meet the heightened expectations brought by the goodwill of the cannelloni. I'd still rather spend my money here than a corporate-run franchise though.

At 2:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband and I ate here tonight and I got the cannelloni and I loved it! Thank you Splenda much for recommending this restaurant and this dish. My husband got shrimp with angel hair pasta and it was good.

At 11:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Roma d' Italia is true, authentic Italian food- I'd swear they have grandma chained up in the kitchen! Those of you looking for garlic bread & comparing the food to Olive Garden please stay away- go eat your crappy chain food and be happy. I am so sick of Southern Californians dumping hot sauce on everything before they eat it...if it doesn't taste like vinegar & peppers they say it's bland. People like you don't deserve Roma d' Italia!

At 1:42 PM, Blogger robyn said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 1:46 PM, Blogger robyn said...

^funny you mention that. grandma apparently makes the canoli there. the two sisters make the cake type desserts there.

anyway, my family and i go there quite often. in all my years of eating there, i have no once tried the cannelloni. i'll have to try this the next time i go. yes, there are some things that aren't noteworthy, but i thought i'd list my favorite dishes. i always rotate between these dishes.

-angel hair estiva
-fresh calamari pasta with the calabrese sauce option
-the putanesca pasta
-the fresh clams (i always substitute the linguini for angel hair) i get the red sauce for this one.
-the gnocchi (this one is greasy, but i love it)

for those who think this place is too heavy , there's always francoli in old town orange (they moved from fashion island). their saffron pasta is to die for!!!!!


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