Forget Rosso Italia's difficult-to-find location inside the Wyndham Garden Hotel. Forget that the field of Italian restaurants in Boca Raton is mighty crowded. Because behind the doors of Rosso is a sleek, stylish restaurant with the kind of simple but solid food — and upstanding service — that should make this a favorite neighborhood spot.
After nine months, maybe it already is. You can come here for a well-priced glass of wine or interesting beer and eat antipasti — including just-baked garlic bread ($5.50), roasted shrimp ($14), stuffed clams ($9.50) and meatballs ($8.50). We shared a generous portion of those meatballs, which are served with a dollop of bright tomato sauce and pieces of focaccia. There's even a salumi and cheese section, which includes sopressata and speck, pecorino and Grana Padano ($5 each or three selections for $13).
But dinner started with complimentary bread and hummus and fried chickpeas, which is almost as good as the Parmesan, chili pepper and olive oil that's served next door at Red, the Steakhouse.
Rosso Italia is owned by Ohio-based Red Restaurant Group, which also owns Red in Boca and Miami Beach as well as several restaurants in Ohio. Its owners wanted to bring the same attention to detail that they do so well at their steakhouses.
We shared a chopped Italian iceberg salad ($9) of tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, peppers, celery and croutons and antipasti Romaine ($10.50) — olives, tomatoes, salami, roasted peppers and chickpeas. Both were fresh and light.
While the restaurant offers a children's menu, the little guy at our table ordered pizza from the regular menu. Salsiccia ($13.50) combines tomato, mozzarella, fennel sausage and garlic on a thin crust. There was plenty for him to take home for another meal.
From the pasta section of the menu, Rosso's Bolognese with pappardelle and house-made ricotta ($17.50) had a nice, creamy quality. Clam linguine with a garlic Pinot Grigio sauce ($22) was delicious, but there was a little too much sauce for even this generous pasta serving. Sometimes, less is more.
I ordered tuna Catalana ($28), rare slices of sushi-grade fish with tomato, peppers and a very light Pinot Grigio sauce. It's a great menu item for anyone watching their caloric intake. Veal chop Milanese ($32) was tender and perfectly medium-rare, served with charred tomato and creme fraiche ($32). And seemingly from out of nowhere, a very good burger appears on the menu. The Moxie Burger ($14.75), named for the Moxie restaurant in Ohio where it originated, is served on a challah bun and topped with greens, aioli, grilled onion, tomato and white cheddar.
If you're in the mood for dessert, share the trio ($9.50), samples of three of the best sweets on the list. There's flourless, bittersweet chocolate cake with fresh whipped cream; house-made cannoli with Nutella and mascarpone; and, my favorite, Italian doughnuts known as zeppole dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with lemon curd.
Rosso's white furniture, white-washed floors and big, bright, open kitchen may not make for the most-intimate spot, but Boca already has plenty of those dark and heavy Old World eateries.
In fact, Rosso may be the antidote to that kind of Italian restaurant. And that's why Rosso is perfect for anyone whose New Year's resolutions are still intact.
Rosso Italia —1901 North Military Road, Boca Raton, 561-353-9819. Sleek and stylish with simple but solid Italian fare including pizza, pasta and great antipasti. Moderate-expensive. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Reviewed 1-13-13.
Wyndham Garden Hotel, 1901 N. Military Road, Boca Raton
Hours: Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Conversational
Outside smoking: Yes
For kids: Highchairs, menu
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Free lot or valet