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Top 5 Mid-Cape Italian

Italian restaurants are everywhere on Cape Cod, more than any other ethic cuisine. My picks for the top 5 after far too many samplings to admit....

1) Tomatoes - Rte 130 Sandwich. never a bad meal and many terrific ones. Standouts include the Veal Saltimboca, Ciopino on pasta, Chicken Rollitini, grilled Lamb Chops, and more. Generally excellent service. Nice wine list. Nice room given it's strip mall location.

2) Girardi's Cafe 902 Main St. So. Yarmouth. Nice intimate setting with well prepared quality ingredients. Veal Parm is my go-to dish to determine if an italian restauarant is worth it's salt and it didn't disappoint. Crunchy and tender pan fried cutlet with just the right amount of melted cheee and a tasty, tangy marinara sauce. Shrimp scampi has generous garlic and shrimp on perfect al-dente pasta. Service is friendly, efficient, and excellent.

3) Alberto's Main St. Hyannis - Nice outdoor seating in the summer. Very broad menu featuring high quality ingredients. The kitchen can sometimes be inconsistant but generally is on their game. Favorite dish is Chicken Capris, which is a breaded chicken breast topped with fresh lobster in a brandy pink peppercorn cream sauce.

4) Gina's By the Sea - A sentimental favorite as I grew up in the area and know the owner. The menu, except for the prices, hasn't changed in 30 years but what they do, they do very well. Love the Veal Parm and Shrimp Scampi. The bar and 2 dining rooms are tiny and cramped and thoroughly original, quintessential Cape Cod.

5) Villa Roma - Rte 28 Harwichport. The building looks like a dump from the outside. Potential diners are greeted with a sign outside that essentially says " if you have kids with you and you expect that we'll accomodate them in any way, you are sadly mistaken". Once inside, it's a cramped and funky dining room and bar, and the food is delicious. Great Veal Parm, Seafood on risotto, and steaks. Clams on linguini are sweet perfection. Not a bad meal to be had.

Honerable mention:

Colombo's Cafe - Main St. Hyannis - A nice addition to Hyannis. A few misses, like the Veal Saltimbocca, on the menu.

I'd Skip:

Giardino's and DiParma -both on 28 West Yarmouth. Barnstable Tavern and Amaris both on 6A.

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  1. You definitely got a chuckle out of me about the sign outside Villa Roma about accomodating kids. What does the sign really say?

    6 Replies
    1. re: joan mar

      It actually says "Our clientele anticipates an adult environment at the Villa Roma. Thus, we have no childrens' menu, no child's portions, and no pizza. $6 split plage charge."

      My paraphrasing isn't far off, no?

      1. re: CapeCodGuy

        that's about as subtle as the sign at my vet's office which says "All pets are welcome but children must be on a leash." Thanks for your initial post, I printed it out & plan to use it when i can't stomach the thought of another fried clam.

        1. re: BlueSoup

          Just a little further out . My wife and I ate at Bucas in harwich. Its right on 28. Very cozy, staff was nice and and food was good

          1. re: luv2eatct

            Tomatoes is tops...and love the Sinatra music...the service is always top notch..also...the restaurant right next to Cumberland Farms on West Main...cant remember the name! they have really great food tho it is small and crowded... ambience is lacking...Alberto's is always great ..Felis Barreiro has operated that restaurant as a class act for many years!

            1. re: WestHyPortchick

              Il Maestro, Hyannis
              I ate there quite awhile ago. I don't remember the food. The ambience is totally lacking. I remember that clearly.

              1. re: seaville

                Yes, Il Maestro's food is rather forgettable. Not horrible. Just not memorable. And as mentioned, the room lacks.

                Felis has done a great job since he had Alberto's across the street with maybe 15 tables. Over the years he's battled consistancy a few times, but many recent visits prove his kitchen is still putting out a quality product. He also handles large gatherings better than any other mid-Cape.

    2. Haven't been to Vila Roma but have been wanting to check it out. I agree with most of what you said with the HUGE exception of Gina's. I get the sentimental feelings for an old place and the local ambiance thing, but the food tastes like Italian food served from a bad diner. Their red sauce tastes like it comes from a jar. There was absolutely nothing special about it. To this day, it may be one of the most overrated restaurants I have ever eaten at.
      Of what you listed that I have been to, I would rank Girardi's and Alberto's as the top 2.
      Based on you putting Tomatoe's #1, I'll really have to make an effort to check them out on my next visit in August.
      As for Buca's, we only went once (about 2 years ago) but left very torn over the dinner. It was like we had 1 good appetizer and one bad appetizer. One good dinner and one bad dinner. (This same some good/some bad food patern also matches our assessment of Barolo in Hyannis). And I also recall that Buca's wine prices being a complete rip off. I do owe them a 2nd visit before casting final judgement, but if our first dinner was any indication it was just so-so with a fancy atmosphere that was utilized to cover up average food and average preparation.

      8 Replies
      1. re: foleyd7

        Well now. Clearly you had a horrible night at Gina's at some point. Throwing all sentiments aside, I still can't agree with your assesment of the food. Sure, the red sauce is a simple marinara, but I like it. As far as I know, it's the same sauce they were cooking almost 30 years ago; crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce, olive oil, garlic, fresh basil and oregeno, red pepper, and anisette. It's a traditional simple Sicilian recipe I that I find rather tasty. I know the place can be a bit off-putting due to the longish wait for a table most nights, but there's a reason people wait. Remember, this place couldn't be more off the beaten path and as such gets little tourist trade. It's been a very successful restaurant for decades due to a loyal, repeating local clientel. And the locals know good food when they get it.

        1. re: CapeCodGuy

          I'd be interested to see other people weigh in on Gina's. I still contend that the food is boring, the red sauce is bland and uninspired, and there is nothing special about the preparation. I usually give all restaurants a 2nd chance before passing judgement, but I was so thouroughly unimpressed by Gina's that I can't justify a return visit.

          1. re: foleyd7

            Also meant to mention that Barolo in Hyannis closed its doors some time ago.

            1. re: CapeCodGuy

              Has anything replace it? I actually liked the setting they had.

            2. re: foleyd7

              I go to Gina's for Ginas atmosphere and nostalgia. The wonder bread like Italian bread, predictable garlicky shrimp scampi and their delicious mustard salad dressing. It's familiar faces and a great setting..the food is what it is, decent and predictable..I never get the specials.

          2. re: foleyd7

            I just want to formally retract my recomendation for Girardi's as a top Italian destination on the Cape. My wife and I went to dinner there a few weeks ago and they have regressed from our initial visit in 2008.
            First I'll start with the inappropriate menu:
            Since when is bolognesse made with sausage only (as opposed to beef/pork/veal)?
            Since when is piccata made with mushrooms and artichoke hearts?
            Since when is milanese made with capers and mushrooms?
            Making dishes like that is fine... callling them what they aren't is just inappropriate.
            Onto the food we had:. We started with 2 appetizers that included the risotto cakes and chicken with prociutto in a cream sauce. The risotto cakes were very dense and the accompanying red sauce just didn't cut it. It was heavy and seemed to be more paste-based than whole plum tomato based. Despite the prociutto being a bit thicker cut (and therefore tougher) than I would prefer, my chicken was very tender and very good and based on portion size could have been a main course all by itself.
            Our main courses were spag & meatballs and veal picatta (without mushrooms - - I gave the artichokes a try). The meatballs were decent but again the red sauce just wasn't worthy and the pasta seemed to be of the basic store box variety. (Note: I don't mind dry boxed pasta, but you CAN tell the differnece between a $1 box and a $5 box of pasta.) Unlike the chicken I had earlier, the veal in my main course, despite being farily thin, was a bit too chewey and overcooked and required a knife to cut it. The picatta sauce was good without the mushrooms - - - even though over-saucing everything seems to be the norm here. For dessert we shared a gelato which was just OK.
            In our visit last year, I sensed some promise - - especially based on the "special" offerings on their nighlty menu. (see my review last year: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/621545
            )This year their specials seemed to be ulta-basic and cater more towards kids and families instead of fine dining. The crowd and atomsphere seemed to reflect that, too. We arrived at 8:30 (in pants with shoes and a collared shirt) and approximately 75% of the tables had young kids (under age 10). Toss in plenty of shorts, sandals, and tee shirts on adults and kids alike, and this place definitely isn't striving to be upscale. I have kids that are 3 and 5 and we never had considered taking them to Girardis... but having seen kids of similar age jumping on chairs and running throughout the restaurant, I wouldn't hesitate to take my own.
            Last year I gave them a B+ with hope of some upside.
            This year I've given up hope on their upside and rate them in the low B- to C+ range.
            No longer is Girardi's on my list of restaurants I'd attend for a nice dinner with my wife. It does however make my list of places to grab OK Italian food with my kids.

            1. re: cape year rounder

              Haven't been in a while (over a year) but we always had success if you stuck to their homemade pastas and their pizzas.

            2. Thanks Cape Cod Guy, always appreciate your posts. As we are staying in a new area of the Cape this summer (Mashpee), it seems fairly accessible to many of these spots...alas we have 2 boys and will stay away from Villa Roma! Would the others be welcoming of kids?

              4 Replies
              1. re: mohotta

                I'm not sure who has or hasn't a children's menu but I've seen all manner of families eat at all the listed restaurants (even the supposedly surly Villa Roma). I wouldn't hestitate to try any with children.

                1. re: mohotta

                  We recently went to Mashpee Commons for the day and took our kids to Siena (age 3 &5). I'll have to say, for a place that has a childs menu and is so child friendly, it still had plenty of adult dinner selections.
                  We were there for lunch so we had pizza (very good) and the regular dishes they were brining out to other folks looked pretty well too. I'd definitely go back for a dinner with our kids.... or without (and I think that says a lot - - - not too many places around where you can take your kids but would still consider if you didn't have them.)

                  1. re: foleyd7

                    This board's opinion seems to be split pretty evenly on Sienna in Mashpee. About half hates it, the other half loves it. Me? I'm on the fence. Never had a bad meal there but never a great one either. Admittedly, have only been for lunch but don't see what the fuss is all about. Mashpee also has Soprano's which I'vew never tried.

                    1. re: CapeCodGuy

                      I have observed the same split and have wondered about it -- Foleyd7's post points to why we have always liked Siena -- we first went there with kids, but with the idea that the adults at the table wanted a real night out. Everyone liked it, and the staff wasn't fazed by having a kid's menu and a bottle of wine at the same table. We now go there pretty regularly without kids, and sit in the bar or on the patio -- best patio in Mashpee Commons.

                      We have had great meals there -- there are certain dishes that they frankly do better than other places on the Cape. The salads come to mind - any of them. The pizza, if you like a thin crust. The Cioppino. Roast Chicken. Veal Saltimbocca. Our daughter now craves the crab cakes. Hmmmm - lots of basic dishes, quality ingredients, good job with the seasonings. That probably defines their sweet spot.

                2. This is great! We've been wanting to try both Girardi's (especially since it moved) and Villa Roma. BTW, totally agree about Giardino's.

                  1. Tried Villa Roma for the first time and it was quite a disappointment. Large portions and low prices seem to be the draw here, which would explain the "older" crowd . By older, I mean "Medicare" older, lol.
                    I had the veal parm and another member of our party of four had the chicken parm. They both suffered from a common problem with lower priced Italian resto's. A proper version should be breaded and fried to order and then immediately baked just enough to melt the cheese. Here the cutlets are fried in advance and then baked as they are ordered. This ties up the kitchen less at busy times, but causes the breading to get very soggy in the sauce, not especially appealing. The marinara sauce was ok, but lacked the depth of flavor one would hope for with the proper use of herbs. It tasted basically like cooked tomatoes. Not bad, mind you, just sort of bland. The one dish that seemed pretty good was the lasagna. Our DC who got it said it was quite flavorful, with a mix of veal, ground beef, and sausage.
                    I suppose if you want inexpensive Italian and your not overly picky, its a decent value for the buck. Just not my cup of tea.
                    BTW, the sign is pretty funny.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: terrystu

                      I am quite surprised to read your negative report on Villa Roma (and foleyd's on Girardi's as well) as I've always found both to be consistantly good. Neither would be confused with 'gourmet' or upscale, but they both do a nice job of providing a good 'red gravy' locale. That said, neither compares to the experience that can be had a Tomatoes or Alberto's. Perhaps it was a bad night, or the stress of a long season coming to an end, but I honestly don't believe they fry the veal ahead of time, only to bake it off in the oven when preparing the veal parm. It only takes a few minutes to fry or saute breaded veal cutlet, so it wouldn't be much of a time saver. I know what you mean about mushy veal parm, it's the worst, but it's not only a problem with lower priced Italian resto's as you say. I've have the same veal mush at Amari's in Sandwich on two occasions and Amari's is anything but inexepensive! Usually it's a result of leaving it in the oven too long smothered in sauce. The Parm I've had at Villa Roma was just the opposite; tender, crispy, and expertly prepared. I do tend to avoid it on season however, as the crowds are just too big. Lastly, I'm also surprised about the "Medicare" comment as I have always found a mix of young, middle aged, and retired couples with a few young families (despite the sign) mixed in. Too bad you hit it on a bad night.

                      1. re: CapeCodGuy

                        I feel the need to apologize if my "Medicare" comment came off as a negative to the restaurant. I'm just not used to being the youngest one in the place. As for the parm, when I inquired the waitress said the chicken is always fried in advance to save time at rush times, she didn't specifically address the veal, though it would make sense to do it the same way.
                        Maybe this shortcut is only taken "in season" because of the crowds.

                        1. re: terrystu

                          Wife & I ate at the Villa Roma Sat night. First time this summer. Tried a couple of times this summer but the place was packed! She had the chicken piccata & I had the lasagna. Both dishes were very good. This place ranks has our "go to" for red sauce although wife had the piccata. Although we both are not collecting medicare yet ( pretty close however) the crowd had a nice mix of ages. Even some kids who's parents paid dearly for their dishes!!

                    2. We've only been to Villa Roma once, had chicken piccata - quite good.
                      DC had veal parm. Nice tender veal but soggy coating and bland red sauce detracted. I'm sure they don't get it from a jar, but thats what it tastes like. FWIW, definitely an older clientele. Overall I'd say middle of the road Italian.

                      1. bouvier
                        Barolo's is supposed to be reopening soon
                        Italian menu and steaks, sounds like they have ambitious ideas
                        cannot wait

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: bouvier

                          That's great news, but generally opening a new restaurant on the Cape in October spells disaster. This is especially true in the current economy where so many long standimg places are barely hanging on.

                          1. re: bouvier

                            I wonder how the Italian place at the former Girardi's is doing? I also would love to know how Amari is on 6 A in Sandwich, please?

                            1. re: mrwynter

                              The place that replaced Girardi's old location is called Norabella. I asked about them a few months ago but there has beel limited response so far. See link below:

                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/624105

                              1. re: foleyd7

                                I dine frequently at Girardi's. Regulars and locals know not to wear t shits and shorts. I have seen tourists dressed down but I don't mind. I am there to dine and enjoy. I have never seen any rude disruptive kids. My teen works there and has never told me any such story. We have been dining at Girardi's since they opened at their former location.

                                As far as kids and dining, I started bringing my daughter fine dining when she was 1 week old and we have never stopped. She is well mannered and well behaved. If she was NOT we would not go out. Girardi's is for sure a family friendly spot. Ask for a booth and enjoy.

                              2. re: mrwynter

                                Skip Amari's. Sugary sweet tomato sauce. Parmigianas (veal, chicken and eggplant) that are overbaked to a chewy and mushy mess. Exremely high prices given the lack of food quality. They even use premade pizza shells (simialr to Bobolis) on their over-priced pizzas. Nice room, though, so it's a shame the kitchen is so inept. For a fabulous meal, go down the road a bit to Tomatoes. First rate.

                                Anybody eat at La Cucina Sul Mare in Falmouth center? I've heard some excellent things from a friend of a friend who came from Florence. Says it's very authentic.

                            2. Winter is almost over (calendar wise, not temperature wise) but that means I'm already thinking of summer vacation. I'm planning a 2 week visit around July 4th and I'm hoping to get in a long weekend before that too.
                              With that said, I wanted to dredge up this old thread. Anything new going on in the Cape area related to Italian restaurants?
                              I still contend that the BEST Cape Italian would only be mediocre (at best) in Fairfield County, CT. And with the new thread breakdowns, I don't need to argue this on 2 different boards now!!
                              Anyway... I'm hoping to find something new and authentic (not Italian-American like Girardi's) to help me over my Italian cravings while staying on the Cape. I stay in the Yarmouth area, but I'm willing to drive if it is really worth it.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: foleyd7

                                In this economy, restaurants are closing down. Sadly, no uber-chef from Tuscany has moved on Cape and invested his life-savings to open up an "authentic" italian restaurant here. You clearly have a disdain for what IS here, however. Have you tried Albertos in Hyannis? Tomatoes in Sandwhich (our fave)? Nauset Beach Club in Orleans? La Cucina Sul Mare in Falmouth ? Osteria La Civetta also in Falmouth? Until you do, it may be best to refrain from statements that the BEST of Cape Cod pales to what's mediocre in Fairfield, CT. Just my 2 cents.

                                1. re: CapeCodGuy

                                  I've done Albertos (many times), Tomatoes (though not Sandwich) and Nauset.
                                  I actually think Albertos is underrated. There are a lot of posts on Chow that have them as being poor (or worse). I actually think they are towards the top end of Mid-Cape Italians.
                                  I do recall Nauset being very good a few years back. I keep planning to give them a try again but we haven't had a return visit yet.
                                  I never make it to Falmouth. Too far of a drive to come home at night after dinner.

                                  1. re: foleyd7

                                    Don't confuse Tomatoes in Sandwich (a full service fine dining establishment) with Sweet Tomatoes (Sandwich, Osterville, Yarouthport, Falmouth) the pizza joints. If you like Albertos, and I do very much, you'll love Tomatoes.

                                  2. re: CapeCodGuy

                                    As an aside, I dine out almost exclusively at Italian places in Fairfield (where I live) and Cape Cod (where my parents have a summer cottage), so I do have frequent, tangible results to make comparisons.
                                    I don't expect every Italian place on the Cape to be New York Times 3 or 4 star worthy. After all, it is a huge seasonal tourist location which often tends to lead to a more homogonized style of restaurant.
                                    However... I'm searching for that diamond in the rough that isn't in a huge parkinig lot on Rte 28. I'm searching for something along the lines of the original Abbicci's (3+ years ago before the tried a restaurant and menu "facelift" and then closed).

                                    1. re: foleyd7

                                      Sounds like you should try Oseria La Civetta in Falmouth, which I haven't been to, but heard is authentic trattoria (as opposed to Italian-American) style--the menu looks good, and the place is small and cute. La Cucina Sul Mare in Falmouth is very good, and worth a try.

                                      There's also Soprano's in Mashpee, which is distinct cut above the red-sauce places.

                                      Hopefully you'll find somewhere new that you like!

                                      1. re: foleyd7

                                        Agreed. If foleyd is intent on finding that authentic trattoria experience, he's never going to find it in the honky-tonk tourist hell that is Yarmouth. Take the 30 minute drive to Falmouth and all your wishes come true!

                                          1. re: phelana

                                            Girardi's is good for what it is, but it is not an authentic representation of an Italian trattoria. It's Americanized italian food, and I find nothing wrong with that. I do wish, however that they made their own pasta. It's really not hard to do.