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Roman's in Fort Greene

Went last night. It was pleasantly full but not overcrowded at 8pm.

The waiter recommended ordering the whole menu for four people, so we did. (4 apps, 4 primi, 2 secondi, 3 sides, 1 dessert) Since the menu changes every day I won't rate each dish. The food seemed mostly quite good, especially the pastas, octopus and the gelato. But it was a little hard to judge because we each literally only got a mouthful or two of each plate. For $45 each (incl. wine) I felt disappointingly un-full.

I would go again and order a three-course small-plate flight for myself just so I could actually get enough food to judge (and to be sated!). But it wouldn't be cheap to do so.

The space is cute but very loud, maybe due to the subway-tile paneling. Service was quite good. The entrance was disconcerting though: a NYC stop-work notice taped to the door, along with a scruffy sheet of white paper taped to the door crookedly with red duct tape reading, "Roman's-- OPEN". Not sure what that was all about.

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  1. It would be nice to hear a little more about the food, its an italian place?

    1 Reply
    1. re: jen kalb

      I guess it's Italian-inflected New American. One app was bacalao fritter-balls and one was thistle salad. Primis were two pastas (one with pork ragu and one sweet potato ravioli) while the mains were marinated rabbit and a seared skate wing with wilted greens. Sides were grits with sage and fontina, and collards. Like I said, the menu is handwritten and the whole thing changes every day.

    2. The stop-work notice concerns the wood-burning oven, which requires a follow-up inspection before it can be used to prepare meals for customers. According to Department of Health regulations, Roman's must keep that forbidding-looking notice on their door until the oven passes its inspection, even though the restaurant is otherwise operational.

      1 Reply
      1. re: DaveCook

        We've been twice, disappointed the first time by the menu choices and the food (we wouldn't usually order steak but the options were slim, and the steak was badly cooked and expensive), but very impressed the second when everything was more unusual and tasted great. Because the menu is so limited and changeable, what they've decided to put on it really matters. I think the night you go might also count, as our bad meal was on a Saturday night and when we were thinking of going yesterday, also a Saturday, the menu once again looked quite boring (tame pastas, egglant parmigiana, steak, chicken and striped bass for entrees). How did we know? Because they now post the day's menu online, a big improvement. We guess that Romans maybe cooks less adventurously for the Saturday night crowd. Interestingly, we went to Williamsburg for dinner instead and checked out the dinner menu at Diner, which has the same owners -- many of the options were close to identical (also chicken, steak, striped bass, eggplant parmigiana)!

      2. Not to hijack this post, but I very strongly recommend Saraghina for very good local Italian. They have a standard menu of wood oven pizzas - all of which are delicious - as well as a changing menu of small plates. No exaggeration, I have loved everything I've eaten here. I live in Clinton Hill and happily make the trip to Bed Stuy at least once a week because this place is more than worth it.

        As a big fan of Marlow & Sons, I'm disappointed to hear that Roman's has not lived up to its sister restaurants' reputation. I haven't tried it myself so can't offer an opinion, but it seems like most reviews I've read are either negative or just underwhelmed given the bar that Diner/Marlow has set quite high.

        435 Halsey St, Brooklyn, NY 11233

        1. I would recommend Dino over Roman's.. However, do not get wine by the glass.. the pours are pretty pathetic.. Also, do not get sparkling water..

          3 Replies
          1. re: Daniel76

            @ chewbie, Don't get me wrong, Roman's can be very good, but only inconsistently it seems. I actually think its highs outdo Saraghina at its best, but at least Saraghina is always very decent and if the specials don't appeal you can fall back on a pizza. (The ambiance is far far better than at Roman's, at least to our taste.) Although it's annoying how at Saraghina they bring everything at once unless you order in spurts. Last time we went we forgot about this quirk and ordered appetizers and entrees at the beginning, the waiter didn't pass any comment, and 6 dishes, hot and cold, large and small were all crammed onto the table at once.

            435 Halsey St, Brooklyn, NY 11233

            1. re: johannabanana

              Totally fair point regarding the sequencing of apps/entrees. It can be a little scattered but last time I went they did ask me if it was OK that they bring out plates as they were ready. This was, however, the only time they have asked me so maybe they are getting this feedback consistently.

              The question I have on Romans is whether or not the "highs" are worth it? Again, I haven't been so can't pass judgement but irrespective of whether people love it, hate it or fall somewhere in between, they all seem to think similarly that it's overpriced for what you get. There are a number of places both within Brooklyn and in NYC where you can get really good food at a price, but one of the things I really love about the Ft Greene / Clinton Hill dining scene is that there are alot of places that offer good "value" and people don't seem to think Romans falls into this category. What are your thoughts?

              1. re: chewbie

                The time we had a great meal, the prices didn't seem so bad. I think we had an excellent whole, grilled fish of some kind for less than $25 (but it wasn't dover sole or anything) and two fresh pasta dishes: one buckwheat pasta with honey and nuts, the other ravioli. Neither pasta was generously portioned (I think this small pasta portioning is what many people complain about) but both were quite inventive. It's not a pasta restaurant, really. In the end, the meal came out at about the same price as a meal at Franny's, which I wouldn't classify as "value" but certainly as tasty and not too overpriced (bar the wine at Franny's, which could definitely be cheaper).

                On the other occasion we went, the steak was extremely expensive (but it was a fancy cut of steak) and so we were especially disappointed when it didn't come out that well-cooked (I requested rare to medium-rare but it was basically just chewy rare, and not that black on the outside). I suggest you look online and go on a weekday when the menu looks appealing. The daily sour and bitter cocktails are very good, incidentally.

          2. We had a really awful, really expensive meal here recently. Brussels sprouts were annihilated and then luridly drenched in honey and cheese. A bucatini was unremarkable. We had one decent salad and one dud.

            But the real problem with Roman's is that for all its farm-to-table ethos, they haven't really figured out how to use their ingredients. The grass fed beef they serve here leaves something to be desired. A T-bone steak we had (for $60) didn't have good marbelization through out the muscle, leaving the meat tough and flavorless, while the fat has a pungent musky quality--it also seemed to be devoid of any salt. The brisket we had over polenta was also similarly unbalanced by the musky flavor. This is not a critique of grass fed beef--I've had grass fed with good flavor. One positive note was the service--the staff are sweethearts, casual, attractive, and smart. But sadly I think Roman's is getting lost on the way from farm-to-table in the kitchen.

            243 DeKalb Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11205

            1. Terribly disappointed by the New Year's Eve meal I had here-- so much so that I thought I'd post and revive this old thread. Even with some of the lukewarm comments up here and other online sites, I've been excited to try Roman's, and decided to ring in the new year with them. Ultimately I can only say that the ambiance is wonderful and what everyone has remarked about the servers-- very knowledgeable and very sweet people, they seemed like-- are the two good things about the joint. Otherwise, I wish I'd kept my hard-earned bucks in my wallet.

              A bunch of friends and I made reservations here for their New Year's Eve prix fixe, which was $65. The place was pretty crowded, but nothing can excuse the fact that they seated us 45 minutes late for our seating, even though we were all on time (why bother to have different seatings at all?)

              They were doing a family style menu, so the entire table either had to choose the set menu, or everyone had to go a la carte from the regular menu. That was our first mistake. There were no options on the prix fixe; you had to go in wholesale for what was on the special menu, and every course had meat in it. I was pretty shocked that they seemed so confused by the fact that there was a vegetarian among the crowd; the waitress needed to check with the chef to find out if it was okay to make an exception for her to order from their regular menu and forego the prix fixe with us! In the end, they allowed the rest of us to do the special menu, and she ordered a la carte; I think she ate the best, actually.

              The meal was HEAVY. I guess to make up for the very long wait, the server brought us a complimentary dish of fennel and oranges; it was almost hysterical that they did so, since it was so tiny it looked like miniature play-house food in the middle of the table-- a few shavings (like, with a peeler) of fennel and some tangerine slices. But I guess it's the thought that counts.

              The first course was fried veggies-- included in there was something like a fried meatball; all of it was pretty bland and a really intense way to begin a meal that was take-no-prisoners kind of fare. There were also oysters, which were tasty, but considering that we were each paying $65 it was a bit of a puzzle that they brought over one plate of about ten oysters for all us. (The fried veggie plates were also small, but we didn't mind that.) On the server's suggestion (and for my veggie friend), we also got two orders of one of their menu dishes that has a special kind of cheese that apparently gets flown in weekly; that was truly tasty, and it was my first inkling that I should have skipped the prix fixe and gotten what I wanted from their regular menu, since the cheese plate was more $$ outside of the price-per-head. But it was New Year's eve, so we were feeling indulgent, I guess.

              Next up was pasta-- incredibly oily and while they did pack a lot of seafood in there, it was smothered in sauce which made it hard to taste the seafood. The next dish was a huge plate of meat-- and here they went so over-the-top, it was almost unappetizing; giant ribs that didn't have much seasoning and were fairly dry; big lumps of pork loin that provided the tastiest bites of the night; and some sausage discs which were pushed to the side of the plate by everyone who tried one (odd consistency, kind of odd flavor). By that time, between the breaded & fried appetizer and the seafood soaked pasta, looking at undercooked pork loin just didn't feel like the right thing to tie it together. And oh yeah, on the side they brought us two bowls of green lentils cooked in pork-- merp.

              By that time, I oddly felt both under- and over-whelmed by the entire meal. They brought us little scoops of chocolate sorbet for dessert-- never asked if we wanted coffee or tea, etc.-- and then they cranked up the music, which was one of the highlights of the place; someone's got a great iPod. Worth $65 a head? Not exactly.

              I wonder if other folks have been so disappointed, or if Roman's just isn't the kind of place you want to go to for a big-check dinner like that-- as some here have mentioned, it's just not high on the "value" for money thing-- which is, uhm, a problem. I'm kicking myself for going for Roman's instead of the other options my friends suggested-- Buttermilk Channel and Farm at Adderley to name two-- which were about the same price for their seatings and I'm guessing would have left us far more pleased. Other posts have mentioned that it depends on the night that you go to Roman's, as their menu changes regularly, so maybe judging them on their New Year's blow-out isn't fair. But while it's great that they post the menu online on "normal" days, they didn't have the New Year's menu posted; serves me right for not calling ahead, I guess. Learned my lesson...

              243 DeKalb Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11205

              4 Replies
              1. re: foodpyramid

                I've only been to Roman's once and, based on my experience and the posts above, I think "hit or miss" is the right way to describe it. I had a decent-to-good braised pork pasta dish and a very good whole dorado. Given the prices and other options that exist in Brooklyn, Roman's is not a must-try spot for me. Not to say that I wouldn't go back, but I would adjust my expectations accordingly.

                1. re: chewbie

                  Agree with chewbie's comment re Roman's. I've only been once and had a good, but not great meal but have heard many stories to the contrary. Sorry to hear about your experience, maybe it was an off night since it was New Years? Many restaurants do have set menus for nights like this, although the lack of vegetarian options is alarming, even if they do Roman-style food...

                  Initially, was really excited about this place since I really like Diner and Marlow and Marlow and Sons. Enjoyed the gnocchi and steak we ordered but wasn't overwhelmed with the lack of options listed on the menu. Mind you, this was before they had their new/current website which lists a daily menu...That said, not that I wouldn't mind coming back at another point, but I'm not exactly in a rush either, especially when there is other good Italian (i.e. Frankies, Al Di La).

                  Al Di La
                  248 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215

                2. re: foodpyramid

                  I suspect - just suspect - that the sausage in your meal was cotechino, - also lentils with cotechino is a classic italian New Years dish .

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    Thanks for the info--- you're totally right about the cotechino, the name had slipped my mind; Roman's makes it very crumbly and moist, whereas I admit I like mine a bit more firm! But I suppose that's personal preference.
                    And I'm all for lentils on New Years; I think I'll cook them at home next year! 8-)