Veal and Sausage Mafia from Rosalina's Kitchen on Hamilton Street in Worcester, MA

I’m not Italian. But, for all intensive purposes (e.g., having memorized Godfather, point with both my pinkie and index, my Sinatra playlist, etc.) I like to believe that I would have made a great Italian—despite not being the biggest fan of gravy. To be fair, I have a lot of family and friends that are considered old school in their Italian heritage and, even as a child, I had fallen in love with their traditions that combined “famiglia con il cibo.”

In a city like Worcester, Italian restaurants are not hard to find—you have the staples, contemporary interpretations, and even the avant-garde hybrids that combine various dining categories—but it wasn’t until my visit to Rosalina’s Kitchen on Hamilton Street in Worcester, that I found what authentic Italian meant.

To start, Rosalina’s Kitchen is not pretentious. The space is cozy, yet deceptively large. Diners sit in simple chairs at plain table clothed square tables surrounded by a decor that is anything but consistent—from drop ceiling tiles through its black and white basket-weave floor tiles. All of this is charming, welcoming, and a breath of fresh air to the Worcester dining scene. During our visit—on a Wednesday—Rosalina’s Kitchen was full of lively guests—some talking quietly to their dining companions while others were boisterously having conversations with the tables next to them. The atmosphere had an energy that combined the warmth of a Sunday dinner at home with an extended family with the nostalgic Italian smells wafting through the air from the kitchen.

The menu was creative but decidedly Italian—staying true to the genre without adding too much “creativity.” I will admit, upon looking at the meals I felt like a kid on a playground not knowing which ride to start with; I wanted to order everything. After long deliberation—strategically listening to what my dining companions were ordering on the off chance I could steal a bite from them—I decided on the Veal & Sausage Mafia: “a delightful combination of sautéed veal & sausage bites with mushrooms simmered in a roasted red pepper sauce.” It was immediately evident that this was home cooking by the hands of a chef who loves to cook. The pasta was cooked as expected and bathed with the perfect amount of sauce that carried the flavors of the roasted red peppers and texture of the mushrooms. While the round, thinly sliced sausage added a great flavor to the dish, the true star with the sautéed veal. The texture, the flavor, the portions came together masterfully to round off the entire dining experience.

Rosalina’s Kitchen has been open since 2011, but is quickly gaining popularity as a safe, clean, neighborhood restaurant. Its BYOB policy is very appealing too, as it helps to ensure that a group, large or small, is able to affordably imbibe in their drink of choice with their meals. With an inviting atmosphere and authentic meals (including their speciality: homemade raviolis) Rosalina’s Kitchen is focused on combining “famiglia con il cibo”—even for those of us who aren’t Italian.

Spavia Natick, MA