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Detroit's Roma Cafe overrated?

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Went to the buffet the other day and was underwhelmed. The food was just very ordinary and your run of the mill American Italian. The pasta was overcooked. The bread wasn't fresh and was probably leftover from last week.

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  1. i think the problem is that you ate buffett food. have you ever had a good one that is not cook to order stations (i.e., old country buffet, big boy, sveeden house...). they have too many good things on the menu to pass up. but don't expect anything cutting edge or fancy. roma is a 100+ year old place that does old school italian rather well. veal parm, paglia e fieno, pasta with tuna, ravioli, spaghetti with meat sauce, perch, petite filet - all very good. but if you got one of these after they were sitting in a chaffing dish for more than 5 minutes, i would expect you to be very disappointed. no chance it is good straight out of the kitchen. give roma another chance but stay away from the buffet.

    1 Reply
    1. re: xman887

      I agree with xman887 - if The Roma Cafe isn't Detroit's oldest restaurant, its Detroit's oldest Italian restaurant - they celebrated 100 years back in the 90's. Most folks that frequent this place have been doing so their entire lives and so did their parents. The old-timers call the Monday night buffet "Amateur Nite." They have old school 'stick to your ribs' fare. I've never ever had a bad drink, bad service or bad meal here. They buy the best veal and their veal dishes are amazing, the Roma Salad is sublime (every waiter makes their own) and their lasagna is legendary. Its a Detroit tradition for many.
      Do give it another chance.

    2. I went with wife-enstein about two months ago and had a dull and uninspired chicken marsala. Spaghetti side was equally dull. Sausage starter and soup were okay. Wife's scampi tasted good. I looked around at what others were eating, and some dishes looked good. Dessert was tasty. The waiter sang the sweetest "Happy Birthday" to my wife that I've ever heard. He actually made it sound like a song. Overrated? Hard to say. What's their rating now? I'd go back, if I were in the area, to give them another chance. I wouldn'g go out of my way to eat there, however. Paesano's in Ann Arbor remains my "go to" Italian restaurant.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Summerfield

        Can you elaborate why Paesano is your favorite Italian?

        1. re: ilsorpasso

          Sure. The restaurant itself is very warm and inviting. The waitstaff are reasonably informed and non-intrusive. The menu varies from season to season, with a wide variety of choices. The food is always well-prepared. It's obvious that the cooks care about how it shows up on your plate. The wine list is fairly extensive, with many reasonably-priced wines to choose from. I've never felt cheated there, in terms of value for dollar, even on the odd occasion when the main dish was not to my liking. There are other, non-restauranty, things that they do, like wine tastings, the retail selling of wine, Italian lessons, that make it seem like the owners really want to offer up a slice of Italy to their clientele. Jeez, I'm making myself hungry.

          1. re: Summerfield

            It's interesting to hear that about Paesano's because it isn't considered the best Italian in Ann Arbor by locals (that would be either Bella Ciao or Argiero's.) I have only been there once in the past 10 years, for a business group dinner that was only okay. If you think it's worth a visit, I'll go sometime.

            I've been eating at the Roma my whole life, and have some real favorites there - the hay and straw pasta is my gold standard, and the veal dishes are very well cooked. If you're a regular, they treat you like a king. I'd say you might have a better experience with going for a regular dinner rather than a buffet.

            1. re: brendastarlet

              I'm an Ann Arbor local, and I think Paesano's, even on an off night, is way better than Argiero's and usually better than Bella Ciao. They can be uneven, but avoid fish and you'll do great. Pastas and salads especially recommended.

              I also like the Roma a great deal, especially the hay and straw. Even like the buffet, but of course that's going to vary.

              1. re: brendastarlet

                Argiero's? I'm surprised that the place is still open. I passed by there last week and no one was inside the place. I signed off on Argiero's years ago. Bella Ciao used to be our favorite, but we've had several downhill experiences there and we don't go anymore. And Jim M is right about Paesano's and fish.

                1. re: Summerfield

                  Sunday nights at Argiero's, you can't get a table. It's a great spot for a family dinner, because there's something for everyone. The homemade marinara beats anything I've had elsewhere, and the bread comes from Windsor.

                  1. re: brendastarlet

                    Really? Who could've known? So, it's a so-called "red sauce" Italian restaurant? I can't remember, it's been so long. Maybe hafta drag wife-enstein along and give 'em another chance. God knows, I'm at Sparrow Market enough.

        2. Well it was a buffet. What do you expect? And as far as I know, Roma operates as a regular restaurant during most of the week. The pasta was probably blanched, then used for something else, resulting in it being cooked twice. Buffets/brunches at restaurants that don't operate as Buffets all week long are literally for the sole purpose of moving food almost old enough to be thrown out. Essentially, you're paying them to remove their garbage. How thoughtful of you.

          7 Replies
          1. re: gastronomical

            Wow, gastromomical.....I never thought about it quite like that. I had been wanting to try Roma's buffet, but now I think I will pass.
            As for Italian in A2, Paesano's is superb......but NOTHING beats Giovanni's on the edge of Detroit and Dearborn (Best I have had ANYWHERE!)

            1. re: SuperSam30

              Amen to that SuperSam, though "anywhere" maybe not so much as my husband and daughter who just got back from Italy would think. But they both said the food at Giovanni's was AS good as anything they had in Rome and environs.

              Plus it's an adventure to get there through our "Mordor" manufacturing alley and end up at a place that welcomes you as though you've been there 100 times.

              I don't think this place always gets the props it deserves...you will never go wrong with a meal there and may even have a treasured family memory sharing the good food and atmosphere together, plus great wine.

              1. re: SuperSam30

                Sorry to rain on your parade, SuperSam30, but I had an absolutely crappy lunch at Giovanni's about two months ago. It was Bolognese, and the pasta was clumped together in an unaesthetic tangle with the sauce ladled across the top and not penetrating the tangle. Plus, they didn't bring me the style of pasta I ordered. I ate it as it was edible, but it wasn't anything that would inspire me to return. This was doubly disappointing because of the raves I had read here a while back. That said, a couple of my colleagues did enjoy their meals (chicken dishes), so I probably should take another sampling, out of fairness.

                1. re: Summerfield

                  Sounds like you still have a level head on your shoulders, Summerfield. But I have to ask this: why didn't you send your dish back? It sounds like you honestly got the wrong order served to you, and they would have been *more* than happy to accomodate you by bringing you the correct (and certainly better) dish.

                  I wish you'd said something.

                  1. re: boagman

                    Hindsight is always 20-20, boagman. I have to learn how to "send it back" better. There's a certain mentality required. But, I'm getting pretty good at sending back poorly prepared, or not prepared to order egg dishes. Perhaps next time out, I'll just send everything back, regardless of prep, just for the practice. (Last line was a joke.)

                    1. re: boagman

                      And another thing, I ordered a soda with my lunch (stupid, I know), and had a refill, and they charged me FIVE DOLLARS for it. That's just...ridiculous. I can't even remember that last time I ran into a situation where refills weren't "free". I mean, it probably costs in the range of 35 cents to pour a fountain diet coke. After remembering this little billing surprise, I'm strongly tempted to go into my "will not return" mode.

                      1. re: Summerfield

                        Jiminy...really? Five bucks? Did you say something about it? That sounds wrong, quite frankly. If they're doing that, then sheesh...that's a pretty big strike against them. I'd have complained *bitterly*.