Roseland Apizza: ambiance doesn't affect price. Warning: pizzas can cost $85!
- meatzaaa Feb 23, 2010 03:22 PM
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.
350 Hawthorne Ave, Derby, CT 06418
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.
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.
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
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.
"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.
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.
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.
"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.
In terms of price, service, ambiance, wine list, and all that, Roseland is very normal for a pizza and red sauce joint like you'll find anywhere from Philly to Boston. It's also among the best I've been to. They do have some higher end items, but I don't see why this should be a negative thing. Sure, they make a $40 pizza. They also make a $12 spaghetti and meatballs, $14 lasagna, and $20 sausage pizza, just like everyone else. And that $40 pizza is a good value, as far as I'm concerned. They aren't using the - as far as I'm concerned, low quality - pre-cooked frozen shrimp you'll find at Stop and Shop, or even the stuff from a restaurant supplier. It's high quality product from a local fish market - I think Swanson's in Bridgeport, but it's been years since I learned those details. There's at least $20 of ingredients in that $40 pizza, and 50% ingredient cost is an amazing value when dining out.
Roseland can just as easily be an inexpensive meal out as an expensive one. And the food is great, which I think is the most important part. The high end Italian restaurants in New Haven, like L'Orcio, aren't a good comparison. Roseland is pure Northeast US Italian. L'Orcio could be anywhere in the country. Most of the local Italian Americans don't want white tablecloths and cloth napkins and Tuscan pappardelle. They want lasagna like mema made in a comfortable setting at a fair price. Roseland does that better than anywhere else in the area.
I'm sorry you didn't like Roseland, but I'm reluctant to re-reply at the risk of 1) angering the Chowhound gods and 2) repeating myself.
That being said, I like this neighborhood (it's actually in my neighborhood) red-sauce place. We probably qualify as a typical Derby Joe Six-Pack couple (and thanks for promoting that stereotype!), and we often get a large, two-topping pie for $22. The hubby loves a good wine list and matches wine to dishes all the time at higher-end places we eat, but here is perfectly happy to get the house chianti - because odds are, we're eating pizza, and it's just a casual meal. The pizza itself - thin, charred crust, just a smattering of sauce, and fresh, tasty toppings (the mushrooms are canned, but the meatballs, sausage, fresh peppers, etc. make up for that particular shortcoming) - is seriously the best I've ever had.
The help can be, uh, interesting, largely because they're working in the family business, some with varying degrees of enthusiasm. I know they're family from hearing them talk to and/or about "Mom" or "Uncle Gary," not from personally knowing any of them, which I do not. On nights when we've had bad help - and we have - we concentrate on enjoying the food, which in our case is easy to do. I would bet that the waitperson asked you if you'd been there before because he wanted to make sure you knew the pie you selected was $42. Myself, I appreciate when people do that, and give me the chance to back out of a choice. And if I've ever needed additional napkins, I've asked and received.
The standard procedure I've noticed is that if you can't see the blackboard when seated, you get up and go to where you can read it, get some idea what you want, and return to your seat. From what I've seen, nobody bats an eye when people do it, and everyone knows what you're doing and why. And I thought prices were posted on the chalkboard, except in the case of a M/P item.
I have run into not being able to put a tip on a debit card at other venues - the non-Roseland restaurant said they could only run it for the amount of purchase -- perhaps Roseland made the rule across the board rather than explain this over and over and over again to diners. The acceptance of plastic at Roseland just came about in the last few years, so we're firmly entrenched in the habit of paying cash.
You seem shocked at the markup on the wine. The price is completely normal, and exactly what I'd expect to pay in a restraurant for a $10 bottle of wine. Maybe even a little cheaper than I'd expect. You also say they didn't offer you anything else to drink when you ran out of wine. Did you ask?
$42 isn't unreasonable for a shrimp and proscuitto pizza.
Been going there for over 10 years. Nice to have a real family -run place with no pretensions.
I don't think that this was mentioned, but the portions of the pasta, main dishes & appetizers can easily feed 3 people!
Personally, I love the arugula salad. That & a slice or 2 of pepper/mushroom pizza is about it.
My wife occasionally orders the lobstah[sic] ravioli & doggie bags most of it home [a waste IMHO].
Like Sally's in New Haven, this place hasn't even though of opening "satellite" operationsin the Indian Casinos and elsewhere where "the family" cannot oversee the operation properly & is using just the name to draw the crowds.
Eventually disappointed with almost all facets of Roseland after many years I eventually just said "to each their own but I've personally seen all I care to see". There are a few who reposted here but if a particular entry is objectionable it certainly would be ideal if that specific post was deleted as opposed to an entire thread. That's already happened a couple of times this week so I'm assuming it's a bit much to respectfully ask for consistency in moderating but annnyway....I can plainly see where this poster was disappointed.
In speaking to their high end offerings....No, Roseland doesn't blindside you with their upfront and clearly announced prices but they instead do it with an almost ballsy lack of distinction in the food FOR those prices. Roseland offering these high end items isn't necessarily "a negative thing"(especially if they can in fact deliver a quality product)....but should someone else's experience be questioned if they feel Roseland falls short of the same expectations with the heavy hitters that their supporters have with their more modest offerings?
It would be one thing if the OP felt it was a bit much in the "price to play" at Roseland but that the food itself was great across the board. That wasn't the case in either attempt to post and it's there that I can agree. Yes, it was brought up that the bread is homemade but it's not such a high note to save for example their laughably priced and lacking "real"-veal grinder. That's surely a "basic" isn't it? As for what is on their board and supposedly special, most is priced to where you'd be convinced that it MUST be good and worth the cost or why would so many bother for as long as they have. Regrettably, after some time Roseland just left us wondering: "All prices aside, do they(operators and raving customers alike) actually believe it's that good period?". Obviously countless numbers still do but we concluded that it wasn't for us any longer so just moved on. For those that haven't been there I'd say it's one of those places where you can indeed have some luck with certain items for a while but with more regular visits the inconsistency across all of the various offerings is likely to become more apparent. Yeah, the antipastos are big...but so are the expectations.
We used to make a point to get to Roseland and most times thought pretty highly of their shucked clam pie with no mozz(can't forget that squirt of lemon at the table). At mid-twenties for a true large it was more often than not pretty good but occasionally inconsistent(to varying degrees... although not enough to dismiss them altogether). On what was to be our last visit they didn't have the clams for this somewhat safe-bet clam pie but they somehow had the clams for their embarrassingly inferior Zuppa Clams(red). Huh? We should have just called it a night there but I attempted to make the best of that evening for my darling DC who wanted to continue to like this once fairly favored spot of ours. Having experienced unevenness in some other previously enjoyed "basic" dishes that we had gotten leading up to this, we instead figured to try going to the drawing board one last time. Willing to pay for something extraordinary(of course you have to have that streak in you to be a regular here anyway), we always saw that "special" Lobster Borsa dish listed for Market Price. For what they wanted it had better be good, well it wasn't...
regardless of its price. I didn't list a dollar amount for that isn't the issue, it's a matter of quality which I firmly feel Roseland gets more credit in this area for than they deserve or at times even care to offer. In the case where their portions are larger than other spots: If the quality isn't there or the finished product isn't consistent- what good does it do to have any more on the plate? It's not as if EVERYTHING that appears on their menu and on that board is so plentiful in portion beyond compare to anywhere else like many are quick to have everyone believe.
In addition to the dishes that were supposed to have you recall Gram's cooking, we particularly used to enjoy those huge signature homemade Lobster Raviolis, the at times quite noteworthy weekend special of Fried Calamari, and the Broccoli Rabe with housemade Sausage(quite interesting with no casing). Unfortunately as time went by either the portions varied from one visit to the next(shrinking Rabe and disappearing Sausage), the dish just plain sucked("We actually once liked this Calamari?"), or items were less filled to the point of insult(as in the case of the Lobster Ravioli). More importantly the basics themselves suffered from marked inconsistency thus our overall experience diminished greatly. Couple that with their attitude that the food is somehow better than it really is(don't forget to throw in some less than lovely interactions with their largely indifferent staff of servers) and it got to the point where we just don't bother anymore. As with what actually counts which is what makes it to the table, there was just no reason to. To those who still enjoy, I'd say all the best meals to you and you can indeed have it "all to yourselves" because for us we had enough of their "family" experience to know we're not missing a thing.
Oh and the wine. Let's not forget it wasn't that long ago that Roseland only served plonk from a gun and/or jug for the same prices they're charging now for their modest but at least "not entirely insulting" list of by-the-glass options and bottles of usual suspects. I have to say they were at least receptive in agreeing that there was a happy medium which was that they'd still be making plenty by charging the exact same amount a glass but for something serviceable if not memorable. For those that are happy with "house" selections with "casual" meals I'm right there with you. Many of our favorite and most modest of "ethnic" spots these days offer the same...they've just had the decency to charge accordingly all along. It's one thing for Roseland to charge what they do for some of their food which is viewed by many as the best of its kind in the area but that same reasoning didn't necessarily translate to their stance on wine before they made the changes.
I think most of what can be said, has been said. I found the pizza good, with a Linus' Pumpkin Patch kind of sincerity to it. When I went, the ingredients were fresh and good, the portions were generous, and the server was lovely. I thought the ambiance was cozy and charming. But no, it is not in the same league as Sally's. It is a neighborhood pie.
Mostly I'm posting to upload a better photograph. Low-end cameras have gotten a lot better in the last couple of years, so it was easy for me to get a decent shot even with using my flash (so as not to disturb the other diners).
I've only been to Roseland once, and I generally thought it was really good. The ridiculously expensive pies are the ones with seafood on them, and in my experience, they tend to have huge portions of seafood (like your 30 shrimp) that are actually fresh and tasty and properly cooked - to my mind the costs are not too out of line with the portion and quality of seafood, it's just a shocker because it's on a pizza.
My take on the place was that it's the sort of place where you order the expensive pies once or twice just to say you have tried them and then you stick with the fairly delicious basics, like a sausage and rabe pie and an arugula salad. It's not super cheap but it's not insane for a sit down place with a little ambiance and table service.
The wine list sucks, but neither selection nor markup are much worse than any number of other small family run red sauce joints.
That's my two cents on it anyhow - I'd go back.
I pretty much agree with your take - the chi-chi stuff is very good, IMO, but who eats like that every day? Roseland's strength (again, my opinion, which I know others don't share) is in its regular red sauce menu items.
We went in last week for a birthday, so got the lobster ravioli and lobster baked penne. Compared to the other times I've had the lobster penne, I thought the sauce had lightened up a bit; overall, not a bad thing, definitely more healthy - but I did miss the rich, cheesy heft to the sauce. I must admit the sauce was nice in its silkiness, and there was a boatload of lobster in the dish. Not complaining! We also chuckled because our dishes had lobster tails decoratively placed, and for us Roseland has never been about the pretty, but about the food.
I did notice that they have Wed-Thursday specials up - spag/ziti with meatballs or sausage, chicken parm, maybe one or two other basics for about $12 dollars so will probably have to head back there soon - especially since I've started thinking about the meatballs.
The bread, as always - a nice crust, great density to the bread itself, yet with enough give that you don't lose any teeth eating it. It's a white bread, but a damn tasty one.
For two normal eaters, I'd say probably - especially if you also split a small antipasto to start. If one of you is a light eater, definitely. My husband ate the whole thing - there were 9 nice-sized pieces - but he has a hollow leg. From the baked lobster penne, I got dinner, lunch and an afternoon snack. We also split a small anitpasto, though.
Roseland’s prices are not inexpensive, however, they do not offer a pizza for $85.00 as previously stated in the thread title. The poster who originally posted on this thread about his seafood pizza at Roseland is a friend of mine. He no longer posts here but we recently had a conversation about this thread and he reminded me that the pizza he had was called the “Ponsinella” and it cost $64.99. That’s still quite a tab for a pizza but since it was loaded with lobster, scallops, shrimp and calamari he thought it was worth the price tag. It’s not something he would order on a regular basis but rather as an occasional indulgence. He also pointed out that the server warned him about the price of the pie before he put the order in. My friend is a big eater with a huge appetite. He managed to eat just three slices, with a knife and fork. Since he has a reputation to protect, he blamed his poor showing (downing just three slices) on the beer he was drinking but admitted that the pizza was quite formidable. He rarely takes food home from restaurants since there is usually nothing left to take. However, this time he was compelled to enjoy the remainder of the “Ponsinella” the next day while reluctantly offering his wife just one slice.
By the way, Roseland offers many dinners and appetizers on their regular menu that are quite reasonably priced. They’re not just about extravagant indulgence and “sky high” priced pizza.
I used to live nearby and yeah the pizza is good but I haven't been back in at least 10 years and probably never will go back.
I don't care how good the food is, the service is horrible, employees are rude, the place is small.
I had ordered take out once. The woman got my order wrong and she yelled at me. I would not recommend Roseland to anyone EVER.
Don't you suspect, or hope, that in ten years either they've had a staff turnover, or else the woman in question might have learned a thing or two? I have only been in once, but the server was lovely, really nice, and very capable as she seemed to be dealing with pretty much the whole restaurant and it was rather busy.
It's a family-run place; the only real turnover is the grandkids who work there, then graduate college and move on. One of the worst waitpeople (in my opinion) is the daughter of the owner. That is, if you're her friend, she gives great service, lots of attention; if she doesn't know you, you're fed and watered, but not really tended to. But that's one person out of the bunch - I've had very good experiences with the others, and try to get one of them when eating in.
I've heard the same allegations about the help at Sally's, but the staff is passed off as "colorful" and bad experiences are kind of laughed off. For me the bottom line is, if the food is good - and I like Roseland's food a lot - a little pain, fear, aggravation or whatever can be endured.
Okay, so after 10 years, probably longer I did go back and well it was the same Roseland.
I will say the food was fabulous! I mean really fabulous. We had a party of 6, two had the lobster ravioli, I shared a med cheese pizza with another gal, one had chicken parm dinner and one had shrimp and scallops marinara. We had a large antipasto and mozz garlic bread for the table. We had two rounds of drinks and with tip it came to $275. I didn't see the bill so not sure what it was before the tip.
As fabulous as the food was I have to say the place is a dump. It was filthy! just about every chair around our table had a serious size rip. The bathrooms were not only freezing but very dirty.
We had asked for extra oil & vinegar for the anti and they brought a small can of oil and a bottle of vinegar and about 15 minutes later they had to take the vinegar back for another table...we laughed and joked that they borrowed it from the kitchen..who knows, maybe they did.
Our waitress was a little rough and we nick named the bus boy "The Situation" . He just did not fit in the place LOL! The Situation also gave our garlic bread to the wrong table so they had to make us another order.
So overall - food was fabulous, service was mediocre and the place was filthy.
Will I go back...probably
Roseland can be really expensive, but when I go there with my husband we get the arugula salad with mushrooms and roasted peppers which comes with bread and then we order their fresh garlic pizza with cheese. It is so outstanding that you don't need any extra toppings. Just savor the garlicky flavor and the great sauce. It is plenty filling and you don't have to refinance your house.
This is one of those classic Chowhound posts. Somebody goes to a good restaurant, orders the most expensive thing available (lobster, shrimp, etc.) rails about the expense, and it lives on forever. I am a big fan of Roseland. I would put it one short notch below the New Haven legends, but with much less hassle. It is not particularly expensive, nor is it cheap. They prepare an excellent pizza, unlike the slop doled out by 95% of pizzerias. If you don't "get" the difference in quality, don't go there. The line will be a little shorter.
shouldn;t you actually try a place before trashing it, the quality of its food, or assessing the worthiness of the cost?
I went this weekend for my once-a-year treat of the shrimp oreganatto pizza.
As noted, it is "Market Price" which on this day was $43. Like I said, once a year.
But for me, it is worth every penny.
Ordering tip - the shrimp oreganatto comes with fresh tomato. I omit it, because I find the tomato adds additional moisture to the pie and tends to make it soggier.
Ordering tip #2 - add bacon. It puts what is a great pie absolutely over the top - the best pizza I've ever had. And it's gooood bacon, not fatty and well cooked and plentiful.
Add the "small" antipasto which is enough to feed four, and if you want to guarantee leftovers, another small pie of your choosing, and it's heaven in my book.
Here's a picture...btw, the picture does not do the amount of shrimp or their size justice.