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Roslindale's Sophia's Grotto

Local restaurant offers a taste of the Mediterranean.

You could stand on a corner and look around until a restaurant sign draws you in. But we've got a better idea. West Roxbury Patch picks a great restaurant either in West Roxbury or nearby that is worth checking out. Here is our latest choice:

Sophia's Grotto

Overview: Nestled into a Birch Street nook in Roslindale Village, Sophia’s Grotto has offered cozy indoor and al fresco dining since March 2005. Named after Roman actress and icon Sophia Loren, the restaurant offers traditional Italian fare, as well as an eclectic mix of Mediterranean dishes, wines and music.

Decor: With high ceilings, brick walls, terra cotta canopies and warm lighting, the interior emulates a traditional Tuscan trattoria. Italian and Spanish LP covers adorn the colorful unisex restroom walls. Weather permitting, the outdoor terrace, which seats 60, offers an off-street European-style dining experience.

Drinks: An array of red, white, rosé and sparkling European wines are offered by the glass, half carafe, full carafe or bottle. The four beer options on draft are more regional, with Gritty’s Blackfly Stout and Victory Pilsner topping the list ($4.50/glass). The bar offers its own specialty cocktails and martinis, including the Pomegranate Royal, made of prosecco and PAMA, a sweet pomegranate liqueur ($7.95). Soft drinks and espresso are available for teetotalers.

Small Plates: Portion sizes are substantial and the small plate options can be ordered as appetizers for the famished, or like tapas, meant to be shared. A few small plates could be a meal. They include standard Italian dishes like caprese ($9.95) and deep-fried calimari, served with citrus aioli ($9.95). Assorted bruschetta, with goat cheese or mozzarella ($7.95) makes the list, as do Sophia’s meatballs, made with pork, beef and veal ($7.95).

Entrées:  The pressed sandwiches and brick oven pizzas are large enough to share, but tasty enough to keep for yourself. There is no shortage of pasta options, like Farfalle al Pesto ($13.95) and Ziti Bascaiola, served with sautéed mushrooms, prosciutto and asparagus tips ($14.95). Pumpkin and sage ravioli ($16.95), open face ravioli ($17.95) and gnocchi ($16.95) lengthen the entrée list. For carnivores, there is a generously portioned, garlicky Mediterranean chicken option ($15.95), Veal Medallions ($19.95), and NY Sirloin ($23.95). If you prefer rice to pasta, paella ($19.95) is also available. The kids’ menu includes two ziti options or grilled cheese (all $4.95).

Desserts: One batch of homemade tiramisu is made per week and does not always last the entire seven days. The only dessert item not made in house is the New York style cheesecake (all desserts $6.95). The other sweet options come in liquid form: Italian digestifs like Limoncello and Frangelico, an array of port wines, as well as Nutty Irishman and other creamy coffee beverages, either with or without alcohol.

Service: The staff are friendly, low-key and competent, although somewhat laissez-faire, allowing diners ample time and privacy. Although not incredibly proactive, when requested, they dutifully respond.

Ambience: The table seating and warm lighting lends itself to both romantic dining and social outings in which casual and formal attire are equally acceptable. The iPod play list includes The Gypsy Kings in a volume loud enough for a lively gathering and soft enough for an enjoyably intimate dinner. Tradition meets modernity as a large portrait of Sophia Loren hangs adjacent to the flat screen television, which is usually airing a sporting event.

Sophia’s Grotto's web site 
22R Birch Street, Roslindale 

617-323-4595 
Owners: John, Joe and Sonia Garufi 

Chef: Alfredo Maravi
Open Mon-Thu, 5-9:30 p.m.; Fri, 5-10:30; Sat 1-10:30, Sun 1-9:30
Cost: $$

Astrid Lium November 04, 2011 at 11:20 AM
I was notified by an astute reader that, although she was born in Rome, Sophia Loren actually grew up around Naples. I appreciate the fact checking and I encourage all readers to comment or email me regarding such concerns. -Astrid

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