There has been some restaurant revisiting of late and that usually happens when either there is some big news or I just feel so strongly about the place that more Lick the Plate love is in order.
In this case, it’s a combination of the two. The husband and wife team of Rosanna Martin and Jean-Luis Martin retired a while back and their daughter Sara has taken over as owner-operator of Rosanna’s Pasta Shop in Encinitas. That and I’ve met several people in the area lately whom I consider in the know of area restaurants who had not heard of Rosanna’s, and I literally gasped in disbelief.
I had the chance to interview Sara Martin for my radio show, “Lick the Plate,” on 101.5 KGB and while we were discussing her life as told through food and music memories, I thought this would be a great time to update Coast News readers on the status of Rosanna’s.
I am happy to report back that all is well and that Sara has kept things pretty much the way they were before, which is great news for all of us regulars.
Before I get into her story, I’d like to briefly touch on that of her Italian mom and French dad, who met in England. Jean-Luis was there to finish his apprenticeship to become a culinary chef, and Rosanna was there for art and business school. They came to the United States to work primarily because of the great opportunities in the early 1980s here for French chefs.
Jean-Luis took a job at the La Costa Resort & Spa to open the Champagne Room. Fast forward to them opening The Italian Market 1987 on Coast Highway 101 in Encinitas. That is where I became familiar with Rosanna’s, and I followed them over to their current location on El Camino Real.
Sara grew up in the restaurant and while she did take some time to explore the world for a few years, it was in her blood, and she returned sensing that at some point her parents were going to retire. The menu has stayed pretty much the same, though Sara will add more seasonal limited items and specials.
Now for those of you who do not know Rosanna’s, here is a brief explanation of why you need to put it on your list of regular stops immediately. As I said several years ago, Rosanna’s reminds me of a joint one would find in an urban neighborhood, not a strip mall on El Camino Real in Encinitas.
It’s a narrow storefront with a nice selection of wine and other Italian products up front, followed by coolers filled with fresh pasta, olives, cheese, dishes to go, and Italian meats.
One thing I always notice when I go in to pick up an order is the faces of the customers. There is a look of anticipation, excitement and happiness as they wait for their food. The folks getting it to go tend to bolt to their cars, counting the minutes until they are home and can dig into that Italian goodness. There have been several occasions where my food has not made the trip home — I pulled over on a side street and ate it all in the car.
I’ve always been somewhat of a creature of habit when it comes to Rosanna’s, though I have been spreading my wings of late. My go-to is the meatball sandwich (which is more of a sub or hoagie than a traditional sandwich) with extra provolone cheese — though that’s just a personal preference.
The soft roll with the crunchy edges, house-made meatballs and sauce with cheese is on my mind on a regular basis. They also offer a hot sausage with peppers and eggplant Parmesan in this category as well.
The lasagna is as good as I’ve had anywhere, period. It’s just so perfect. I prefer to order it hot to go and by the time I get it home, it’s still warm, but the cheese has solidified to the point where it’s easier to cut slices while holding it’s shape. I’m not sure if this is a serving for two or not but it’s very difficult to resist eating the whole thing.
If I do exercise some self-control, it’s equally good cold as breakfast the next morning. In fact, cold lasagna from Rosanna’s is a go-to fixer the day after a big night out. It’s kind of in the same category as cold pizza but much more satisfying. Trust me on this one; it’s all that and then some.
There are 11 varieties of homemade pasta available with as many selections of sauces and toppings. I did venture into panini-land recently and kept it simple with the ham and provolone cheese, but I counted 11 different types of panini and every one looked like it was worth trying.
Of the seven salads, I’ve only had the Caprese California with sliced tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella, avocado, and hearts of palm, with an olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette. It’s their take on the traditional caprese and it’s darn good.
In addition to fabulous deserts and wine to go, don’t forget to shop for pantry staples in their small market. Get to Rosanna’s, you will not regret it.
Rosanna’s is located at 270 N. El Camino Real, Suite I. For more information, call (760) 753-6867 or visit online at rosannaspastashop.com.