WHO’S IN CHARGE The secret to Winthrop mainstay Cafe Rossetti’s may be the warm atmosphere created by a staff that welcomes you like family — plus generously sized, comforting dishes. Indeed, the Rossetti brothers, Steve and Robert (“Bob”), have the restaurant business in their blood. Most recently, they’re known for an upscale restaurant venture, Rossetti’s, in Lynn, but their loyal followers remember the deli they once owned and operated for 35 years on Park Avenue in Revere. When big supermarkets moved into the area, they couldn’t compete on price, Steve said, “so we sold that place 17 years ago and moved here to Winthrop.” The self-billed “cozy BYOB spot near the shore” draws steady crowds “from Haverhill to Waltham to Russia!” With close proximity to Logan Airport, the cafe is a logical landing spot for hungry travelers.
THE LOCALE Driving down Winthrop Shore Drive, with the smell of salty air and a view of the Atlantic Ocean with miles of sand, we followed beach-themed avenues named Mermaid, Trident, Seafoam, and Wave. We stopped upon spotting an American flag whipping outside the small, one-story corner restaurant, then searched for street parking spots.
ON THE MENU Where to start? For a 34-seat restaurant, the menu has a long list of classic, homemade Italian entrees featuring chicken, pork, steak, seafood, and of course, pasta. The cost of entrees ($20 to $35) includes a side salad and pasta. The restaurant is BYOB (bring your own bottle), wine and beer only, and there is no corking fee.
So, start with a reservation. Seriously. We went thinking it was a weeknight and the restaurant has been around so long, there wouldn’t be a crowd, right?
Wrong. But Donna, our waitress, squeezed us in. “I’ve been here since the beginning,” she said. Later, Steve told me all his staff has been with him for 15 to 17 years. “We only lost one waitress after a year or two because she went to nursing school.”
Be forewarned: You may sit elbow-to-elbow with your fellow diners. When the couple sitting next to us overheard us debating dishes, they interrupted and offered us their recommendations. “We’ve been coming here since it opened,” they declared.
“Try the shrimp margarita ($27). You won’t find shrimp any bigger than these,” the husband said. He was right. Five extra-large shrimp lightly battered in flour and egg, then pan-fried with white wine, capers, and a lemon butter sauce, dominated a plate filled with pasta, in this case, homemade pasta (for an extra $3). His wife’s recommendation, Chicken Rossetti ($21), was another good choice, a moist, pan-fried chicken breast with fresh mushrooms, wine, and seasoning. We also chose the pork chop vinegar pepper and potato dish ($25). Would it be too vinegary? It wasn’t. Two medium-sized, bone-in pork chops were grilled then sautéed with slices of red and green peppers and chunks of roasted potato in a vinegary red sauce.
Before our entrees, we ordered a special appetizer ($14), a colorful, salty-sweet, creamy dish alternating prosciutto-wrapped dates and slices of fresh strawberries circling a tossed-up pile of goat cheese, blueberries, mandarin orange slices, and basil, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. The ocean drive put us in the mood for seafood, so we tried the calamari salad ($14), a mound of soft pieces of lightly marinated calamari atop field greens, white beans, and Kalamata olives, an entree-alternative itself. After a sweet finish of two small homemade cannoli ($4.50), we planned our next visit to try the steak dishes ($35), which Steve said he’ll “put up against any steak house in Boston!”
Cafe Rossetti’s, 115 Winthrop Shore Drive, Winthrop; 617-539-9990; www.caferossettis.com.