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Feb 23, 2010 03:22 PM

Roseland Apizza: ambiance doesn't affect price. Warning: pizzas can cost $85!

Apparently many people find Roseland Apizza "Nirvana in the Valley" while others say there is no competition. This place has a cult-like local following and gets good press, even though the service can be spotty and with an attitude. How does a typical Derby "Joe six-pack" family afford to eat here where pizzas can easily reach $20 and specials soar to $30?
It was not easy to find Roseland. It is up on a hill, in a residential area on the north end of town. It just about looks almost like any other house except for the neon signs and small parking lot.
Over and over people speak of the charming, comfortable,down-home, down at the heels feel of Roseland. It looks like a house with neon signs and may have once been a home. It's not very big and looks like it might seat 75, max. The interior is sorta "old Italian pizza joint" or country cafe. Lots of booths. It could be transported anywhere in the US and look at home. However, there is no lobby, foyer or bar. There is a place for about six to squeeze into a small corner while they wait, ala the long waits at the big three in New Haven. Obviously there is some connection between pleasure and pain when it comes to apizza! Like waiting in line, in the cold, snow and rain to be served by ill-tempered waitstaff. People exiting Roseland must run the gauntlet of those packed at the door waiting to be seated. I was "rammed" by a short, heavy-set woman as she bulled her way in without a word. She was obviously a local as she went right up to an employee and started having a long, congenial conversation.

We arrived at 6:30 and were seated about 7, even though they had some empty tables in the next diningroom. When we left at 8 the place was almost empty. They are not open for lunch. We had a chance to look at the large chalkboard across the room where they have appetizers, pizzas and specials listed. Once seated it was impossible to clearly read the board and the menu is very sparse. Sparse too is the wine and beer selection.
When our table was ready a waitress pointed across the room and said, "That's your table". On it was stacked three odd plates, of different sizes, three paper napkins and three forks. That was our seating and setup. One fork was a small salad fork.
We ordered a $25 bottle of 2006 Beringer Founder's Estate Cabernet. This is an $8-10 bottle of wine in a store! That's a big markup. And they were out of several other reds, when they only offer nine reds and three whites, total. They do offers some wine by the glass. Six beers in bottles and six beers on tap. Nothing real fancy except Sam Adams on tap.
We wanted to share a shrimp with prosciutto pizza. The waiter immediately asked us if we had been there before. He said the pizza was going to be $42. After we got off the floor we said OK. We were there for "the experience" based on the hype.
A sliced boule of Italian bread was brought to our table. It was cold and very cold in the middle. It was ordinary and was too similar to "white bread" to suit our tastes.
For the table I ordered zuppa de clams with white sauce (meaning fish-wine stock with basil). The stock was super salty and inedible when you dipped bread into it. What a waste! The dish obviously sat under the lights for a while. It was hot but the clams were partly dried out and were a little tough. That dish was $20!
The pizza we ordered was very much like a pizza from the big three in New Haven, with a thin, well cooked crust. There were 25-30 butterflied medium shrimp and a little prosciutto on it. We felt like they were skimpy with at least the cheese and sauce. The pizza was quite good and the shrimp were obviously fresh.
We ordered penne with sausage and marinara sauce. The sausages were probably the best Italian sausages I have eaten. They were extremely flavorful in a subtle way and the quality was very high. The meat was not ground, but chopped. Though flavorful, I was surprised to see that the marinara in the dish had only a small amount of oregano and parsley. A very good cheese was melted on top. For the price and the amount of pasta, we felt they skimped on the amount of sausage. This dinner came with a nice-sized, high quality salad. The house vinegar and oil was very good and just the right amount.

The three of us dropped $129, didn't have dessert, and only had one $25 (inflated price) bottle of wine! For the cost of the meal we thought service would be better. We poured our own wine and they didn't offer us anything else to drink when we ran out. They were slow to remove dishes and we did not ever get clean plates, fresh forks or additional napkins during the meal. One meager paper napkin apiece.

The menu itself is sparse and once seated it was hard for some of us to read the chalkboard. Why not a printed daily specials menu and some prices?
They have a policy of not permitting tips to be charged on your credit card. This seems very strange! How can they do that and why do they have that rule?
With prices at high-end downtown New Haven Italian restaurant levels (higher than apizza joints in New Haven), we thought we deserved more, regardless of the reputation. The food may be good and some portions large, but it is a very expensive no-frills joint.

Roseland Apizza
350 Hawthorne Ave, Derby, CT 06418

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  1. Judging from the picture of the pizza you have provided, the pizza looks pretty good. The price of $42 for the pizza including 25-30 pieces of butterflied medium sized shrimp seems reasonable to me.....considering most Italian restaurants would charge you over $20 for 5-8 shrimp if it were a Scampi Entree.

    5 Replies
    1. re: fourunder

      I wanted to add more pictures and comment that I have done a little research.
      Cooked, extra large or jumbo shrimp at Stop & Shop cost $8-10/lb. One pound of shrimp = 11 to 15 (Jumbo) or 16 to 20 (Extra-large). I really doubt there were over 30 shrimp (and remember they were butterflied, so they spread out), that means there were $12 of shrimp (on the low side) or $27 on the highest side). Median=$20 retail at S&S. Add this to a $12 pizza and you get $32. On the low-end with wholesale shrimp? Sure, there is some labor involved. Just sayin.
      I had to redo this review. Geez, I did not know there were unmentionables on CH! I hope those who responded before will repost so the thread is fair and balanced. This was our first time to go to Roseland Apizza.

      1. re: meatzaaa


        I'm not trying to be mean to you here, but any argument comparing food costs purchased at your local supermarket, to that of a food establishment, even though they purchase at wholesale is really not valid and pointless. If your argument is it should be cheaper, because you can purchase shrimp for <X> amount, then you should not be going to any restaurants at all. Most restaurants need to charge a minimum 300-400 percent just to cover overhead....

        but I will agree with you that there are many pizza establishments that are taking advantage of their customers claiming flour and cheese is expensive. There was a time it was so, but the wholesale prices have leveled off.....unfortunately, the prices of the pizzas did not in correlation to the reduced wholesale prices

        1. re: fourunder

          The shrimp issue reminds me of a friend of mine who refuses to eat at The Olive Garden because a plate of pasta costs about $10, and she can buy a box of Barilla for $1 on sale. Though I do not personally know the owners or staff and am in no way affiliated with Roseland -- other than being a customer who buys a takeout pie every 6-8 weeks and eats in a couple of times a year -- I am pretty sure their shrimp do not come from S&S.

        2. re: meatzaaa

          "Cooked, extra large or jumbo shrimp at Stop & Shop cost $8-10/lb."

          If you really want to play the game of comparing ingredient prices at the grocery store with the cost of eating out, you really will never win. I mean, how much does some flour, a can of tomatoes and a little cheese cost - surely not $12-15. How much do you spend on a chicken breast? The comparison is unfair and misleading.

          Also, re: the issue of whether or not there are 30 shrimp on the pizza - most of the time when a restaurant specifies a number with an expensive item like shrimp or scallops, they are very careful to give that exact number. People do count and will make a stink if shortchanged. I know the one time I was there, I checked the quantities on the seafood pie we ordered, and everything was as it was supposed to be.

          To my mind, honestly, the seafood pies are a bit overloaded - were it my joint, I'd lower the prices and put half the amount of seafood toppings on. That's another story altogether though.

          1. re: meatzaaa

            Just to comment on your second set of photos - it's a pretty boring wine list, but I'd suggest going for the chianti - either the Gabbiano ($25) or the Ducale ($40) both of which are passable bottles. And while the beer list isn't any more inspiring, a $10 pitcher of Blue Moon doesn't sound like a bad deal at all.

        3. Prices don't sound inflated. They sound like "market" prices for atypical pizza toppings. Wonder what these pizzas would cost at Tarry Lodge in Port Chester though?

          But family style Italian joints are common like this. Just look at Sally's in New Haven. If one person doesn't accept their "Style" there's four more people behind them in line willing to for the food quality alone.

          1. The original comment has been removed
            1. What was on the pizza that cost $85?

              1 Reply
              1. re: southernitalian

                lobster, scallops, shrimp and calamari. This was from another hound that posted previously before the thread was wiped out.

              2. "The food may be good..." - that's usually enough to make me like a place. I've been to Roseland and do like their food; also agree it's no-frills and pricey. But if I amortize the meal cost over the number of meals I get out of the purchase - and factor in the satisfaction of liking every single bite of what I'm eating - I'm happy to pay the price. The penne with lobster seems to contain the meat of at least one whole lobster, while the sauce is so rich it makes me think of that phrase "heart attack on a plate." It cost $29 or so when I had it, but I definitely felt it was worth it.

                It also sounds like either you or Roseland was a victim of excessive hype. Whenever I go anywhere I've heard a lot about, I try to rein in my expectations, otherwise I'm often disappointed. Perhaps you expected Roseland Apizza to be something it just is not.