609 Walnut St.
I met up with a friend for lunch recently at Trattoria Roma, a nice little Italian place across the street from the Aronoff Center. The restaurant is dimly lit and looks bigger than it is, thanks to a strategically placed wall of mirrors on one side of the full-service bar. Although I've never visited during dinner hours I imagine that it can get very busy, considering its prime location. Lunch is served from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays and dinner runs from 5-9 p.m. M-Th and until 11 p.m. on Fri and Sat, although times may vary based on Aronoff show times. Best to call ahead.
The restaurant wasn't very busy on the day we visited, yet we felt we were being rushed to make our menu choices. Our server didn't have a very good grasp of English and couldn't tell me if the soup of the day was vegetarian or meat-based, and didn't understand what I was asking when I wanted to know if the tomato sauce was vegetarian. The menu doesn't specify vegetarian items, so I cast my fate to the wind and hoped for the best.
As with most Italian cuisine restaurants, there are several items on the menu that are vegetarian when prepared with marinara sauce: calzones, pizzas and two pasta dishes - tortellini alla panna (tortellini in cream sauce with artichoke hearts and peas), and penne with broccoli and sundried tomatoes. Luckily the tomato sauce at Trattoria Roma is a vegetarian-friendly marinara. I figured it would be, but not knowing for sure and not having a server who could tell me was exasperating. It would be nice if the restaurant noted vegetarian items on the menu, or at the very least listed the marinara sauce as vegetarian.
The pasta dishes come with a side of soup or salad, and since I was unable to suss out the ingredients in the soup, I opted for the safety of greens. We were served a basket of warm rolls when our salads arrived, but the accompanying butter pats were nearly frozen and had to be warmed up considerably before they were useful. My penne was cooked correctly - I would expect no less from an Italian restaurant - but the sauce was watery and didn't have much flavor to it. I would have expected some garlic, or some basil and oregano at the very least. Instead the dish relied on commercial parmesan to carry it.
I think the problem with this restaurant is that there is no "wow factor" on the menu - at least as far as vegetarian items are concerned. There are plenty of standard dishes, but nothing exciting and certainly nothing that I can't do a better job of creating at home. I want to like Trattoria Roma, but after this visit the jury is still out.