IN THE KITCHEN
Marlon Vila and his brother Klaudio bought the Alba Deli in Quincy Center in 2011 and turned it into a full-scale, sit-down restaurant, the Rozafa Mediterranean Bistro, in the summer of 2014. Klaudio has moved on to architecture school, but it's still a family affair.
Marlon runs the place and cooks dinners, while also finishing a course in classic French cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu in Cambridge. Their mother, Antonjeta, a longtime chef who last worked at Mike's Pastry in Boston's North End, is in charge of breakfast and lunch and supplies the recipe for the Bolognese sauce featured on several dishes. Her husband, Bert, a retired electrician, helps out with nonculinary tasks.
The family is originally from Shkodra, Albania, where the Rozafa castle loomed over the city, supplying the restaurant's name. They immigrated to Italy in 1979 when Marlon was a teen; his first restaurant job was as a busboy at a trattoria beside the Piazza Navona in Rome. After high school, he and his family moved to the United States, and eventually all became US citizens.
Vila said his goal is to make Rozafa Mediterranean Bistro all that the name implies: a casual, comfortable place "where you can get a good meal, a good glass of wine or beer" with food that reflects all the cuisines of the Mediterranean.
"We are Albanian nationals, so we kept a little of the Albanian background, like the stuffed peppers and the eggplant," he said. "But then there's some Italian, some Greek, some French. I like to play with things, mix things up."
The bistro is just outside Quincy Center on Hancock Street, in a tidy red-brick building across from the Woodward School with plenty of parking nearby. The space inside is cozy, all dark wood and light-painted walls, and divided lengthwise by a half-wall into a dining area and bar. The floor is tiled and the ceiling high.
There's seating for 49 at wooden tables inside, and space for another 25 outside on a seasonal patio, which is ringed by pots of basil and is surprisingly quiet considering the close proximity of the busy street.
There's a steady stream of diners on a weekday at lunchtime. Vila said he has "quite a few regulars: guys who work in the area and come in for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and regulars who come in the same day of the week, every week."
ON THE MENU
The bistro serves breakfast and lunch daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and dinner Tuesday through Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m.
The breakfast menu is loaded with an array of omelet and other egg choices. Vila said the most popular is the Tuscan breakfast ($10): three eggs any style with crispy pancetta, gorgonzola cheese, spinach, grilled tomatoes, toast, and home fries or hash brown potatoes.
We struggled to choose from the lunch menu, resisting a long list of sandwiches — including several that promised home-roasted turkey, pastrami, and corned beef — and an equally enticing selection of salads and appetizers, thin-crust pizzas, and calzones. Vegetarians are happy campers here, with a wide variety of options including the vegetariano ($8) — a combination of grilled eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, roasted peppers, caramelized onions, and Swiss cheese served on toasted foccacia bread.
We finally chose the eggplant tart ($7) — a tall stack of crispy eggplant slices, topped with a tomato sauce and dollops of fresh mozzarella cheese and accented with a drizzling of balsamic glaze. Our other choice, The al fredo pasta ($14), featured big chunks of tender chicken, broccoli, and perfectly cooked ziti in a mild creamy sauce.
Both dishes arrived piping hot, served by a friendly but unobtrusive waitress.
We will be back, and can't wait to see the new fall menu that Vila is preparing.
Rozafa Mediterranean Bistro, 1089 Hancock St., Quincy; 617-657-5111; www.rozafabistro.
Johanna Seltz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.