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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.