Dozens, if not hundreds, of times have I walked by this family-run Italian restaurant without ever realizing it's a restaurant. From the outside, it looks like a small cellar café, and the words ”Kafejnica Roma” on the sign doesn't really suggest otherwise. But once I popped my head in and realized the mistake I'd made. Not only is it a proper restaurant, if you venture inside you'll find that it's much bigger than you'd expect.
”A ROMAN GLADIATOR THAT GREETS YOU”
The owner claims that Antica Roma is the oldest Italian restaurant in Riga, and in this dog-eat-dog city, where many restaurants barely open before they close, that's gotta count for something. Whereas, say, Portofino is the kind of Italian where you would take your date for some fancy dining, dressed to impress, Antica Roma is the place where you would take him/her after you've sealed the deal and you can relax a little bit. It offers a much more homely experience without compromising the quality of its cooking. Homely, that is, except for the statue of a Roman gladiator that greets you when you come in, or the other tacky paraphernalia from the Roman times of old.
”IN A DIVISION OF ITS OWN”
Focus, instead, on the menu. Here they have all the pasta, soups, pizza and meat dishes you would want at a very affordable price. And it’s tasty, too. The frutti di mare pasta is in a division of its own, but none of the other dishes I’ve tried (pizza, pasta, tortellini, starters) have let me down. While service is rather fast, you’ll have to prepare to wait a bit for your food. This, however, tells me that they probably make the food from scratch which warrants good quality.
Antica Roma might not be the fanciest Italian in town, but it is well worth a visit if you’re looking for genuine Italian food without breaking your piggy bank. Some added value comes in the shape of a small shop section where you can buy imported Italian goods such as pasta, wine, olive oil etc. If you want to delve really deep into Italian cuisine, you can even take a cooking course of 10 sessions, which I'm actually quite curious about. Maybe we'll be class mates?