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Romanello's Roseland

490 Rhode Island St.
3 pennies

"The gang's all here"

The fact that a Buffalo mob boss was gunned down on the way to his birthday celebration here in the mid-1970s has to say something good about the food. Crime syndicate members don't eat Italian at just any restaurant, right?

With walls painted forest green and a shade that a flashy paint chip would probably identify as "opera house red," the ambience tends toward the dark and swanky here. Were it not for the raucous, decidedly feminine laughter bubbling from a back room when we walked in, our imaginations would have been free to roam toward images of "Godfather"-esque dealings going on back there.

The right side of the menu is filled with scrumptious Italian delights, but you've got to ignore those to do your cheap eating.

The price of restaurant's famed Dinner for Two has gone up a bit in recent years, but for $30.95 (or $28.95 before 6 p.m.), you still get a glass of house wine, soup or salad, a full-size entree and a dessert or after-dinner drink -- times two, of course. There's also a list of nightly specials for about $9 that come with soup or salad (but no glass of wine or after-dinner cordial).

It's pretty high-class eating, in fancy, white tablecloth surroundings -- a deal of a meal.

For the soup course, they brought out diminutive cups filled with the rich and tasty "minestrone ala Romanello," plus a ceramic tureen filled with extra. The soup could have been hotter, but that didn't stop one of us from stealing slurps directly out of the tureen.

Main courses from the Dinner for Two menu range from Veal Cacciatore to Meat-stuffed Tortellini. Our Chicken Piccata came out perfectly tender, sopping with lemony-buttery goodness and dotted with capers. A decent helping of colorfully flecked rice pilaf came alongside.

The "Fish of the Day" special (ordered from the $9 menu) was a pretty stellar rendition of trout almondine, with an extra-generous sprinkling of nuts over the top of a butter-soaked fish. It's clear that the fish specials here transcend the usual bland, broiled scrod -- our waiter mentioned that the previous night's fish had been mahi-mahi.

The Eggplant Parmesan got low marks, however. Where we come from, the dish is a layered, goopy wonderment of fried eggplant discs, savory sauce and full-fat cheeses. Here we got a plate of ziti covered with some chewy eggplant slices doused with a spoonful of sauce and a couple slices of melted mozzarella.

After dinner, our waiter was happy to indulge our cheap-eating instincts by offering to split the glass of anisette -- you pick among anisette, creme de menthe, amaretto or peach schnapps -- between one of us diners-for-two and the table companion who ordered from the $9 menu.

Half arrived in a highball for the rocks drinker and half in a tiny snifter for our straight-up gal.

Roseland is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 4 to 11 p.m. Friday, from 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday, and from 3 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Wheelchair access: A few front steps, but inside is OK.

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