Jules was excited when she arrived back at our Marina Park condo after a morning exercise walk through Little Italy. My wife had passed an Italian restaurant in Northern Little Italy that immediately shot to the top of her “list.”
She couldn’t recall the name, though. “It’s next to The Waterfront,” she said.
Oh. That place. I was skeptical. That’s where, years ago, you waited for a table at the former Bud’s Louisiana Food Shoppe. After Bud’s, the space filled with a procession of duds.
“Why would we walk all the way over there and not just eat at The Waterfront?” I asked.
If you see where this story is going, you know that the next thing we did was make plans to eat at RoVino Rotisserie + Wine.
Off to see RoVino
We set out on Friday after work. Because Jules and I plan to remain happily married, we first stopped in the iconic, historic, wonderfully dive-y Waterfront Bar & Grill for a round of drinks before going next door to sit down at RoVino.
Since we’d stopped next door first, I was at ease with the idea of spending extended time at a place on Kettner Boulevard between Grape and Hawthorn that was not The Waterfront (or Kettner Exchange). It was like easing a goldfish into a new environment by dipping it into the tank while leaving the fish in the pet store bag of water.
It turns out my apprehension was misplaced. The tiny, open-air RoVino, with tables inside and out, is charming. Andrea Bocelli was playing on the sound system when we sat down at a cozy, inside banquette two-top. A pair of local old-timers were laughing at a nearby table. When another elderly couple sat down next to us, they immediately wanted to know how Jules liked her special.
“Did it have gah-lic in it?” asked the woman, who said she was from England but spoke with a New England accent, akin to her Patriots-capped husband. “I don’t like gah-lic.” She repeated it for emphasis.
I asked her, with stranger kindness, if she was a vampire. She shook her head.
The RoVino menu
Jules did indeed like her non-garlic-y special of the day. It was goat cheese tortellini with a pesto cream sauce, and topped with fried artichoke hearts and fried leeks. And arugula (which Jules eats nearly every day, but I claim is a fancy, made-up word for lettuce that’s too earthy).
Since the full name of the restaurant is RoVino Rotisserie + Wine, I ordered the (free-range) pollo arrosto—a rotisserie half chicken dabbed with olive oil, herbs and garlic. Sorry, New England non-vampire lady. The chicken came with a hearty side of vegetables that included roasted potatoes, thick carrots and Brussels sprouts. I made it all disappear.
RoVino’s Italian-American menu is based on Sicilian and Northern Italy cuisine. Meats are hormone-free. Pastas and sauces are homemade daily. And the owners have some deep local cred. Tom Tarantino, Antonia Bruno and Vincenzo Bruno don’t just have family names that sound like primary benefactors of the Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church in Little Italy; they are.
RoVino is legit. And if you know where The Waterfront is, you’re halfway there.