WORCESTER – Many chefs are known to have a split personality. In the kitchen, they’re tough; out of the kitchen, they’re tender. At Rosalina’s Kitchen in Worcester, Chef-Owner Rose-Ellen Padavano shows both sides of her personality every evening. In the dining room, she’s Rose-Ellen, the gracious and welcoming host. But back in the kitchen, her alter-ego Rosalina comes out.
“Rosalina is crazy. The kitchen is a demanding place. So when I’m Rosalina, she’s high strung. It gets crazy. It gets hectic. It gets hot. It gets busy and dramatic. The bell’s ringing and people are order in and order out. Let’s go. Pick up your food, do this, do that. It’s wild.”
Fortunately most of the craziness at Rosalina’s is kept in the kitchen, so the customers in the BYOB dining room can just kick back, relax, and feast on big plates of Italian American eats.
“We roll out our own pasta. We hand fill our raviolis. We make our gravy from scratch every single day,” Rose-Ellen explained. “They always say, ‘your gravy is better than my Nonna’s gravy,’ or, ‘it’s the best gravy I’ve ever had.'”
That gravy is showcased on lots of dishes coming out of the kitchen, like the simply sensational Macaroni & Meatballs, served with two large, four ounce meatballs. Another simple dish that will have you singing are the hand-filled, jumbo ravioli, bursting with smooth, fluffy, creamy cheese.
“They’re huge pillows of love,” promised Rose-Ellen. “We make the dough by scratch. We hand fill them. We serve five huge raviolis on a plate. When you cut into that ravioli, it just oozes with whatever is filled inside. It’s amazing to see.”
There are plenty eye-popping appetizers too, like an enormous Antipasto, hand cut Calamari, and golden fried Mozzarella in a pool of marinara. Rosalina’s Kitchen excels at the classics, but the extensive menu is also filled with plenty of inventive options like their Ricotta Puffs, a recipe that actually came to Rose-Ellen in a dream.
“I don’t know why I was thinking about it when I was sleeping, but I did, and I woke right up and wrote it down and created it the next day. They are nice big balls of ricotta cheese and pepperoncini, and then we roll them into the egg mix and the panko and we fry them. And we serve them on a nice big golden piece of eggplant. Everybody says the first bite is like heaven.”
Another creation you’ll only find at Rosalina’s is the mountainous Four Parm Avalanche.
“If you can’t decide on what kind of Parm you want when you come to an Italian restaurant, we have it covered. We offer a Four Parm Avalanche,” Rose-Ellen explained. “It’s chicken, eggplant, meatball, and sausage, smothered with gravy, mozzarella cheese, and topped with bacon. When it comes to the table, it looks like an avalanche.”
Enjoying a meal at Rosalina’s Kitchen feels a lot like you’re just sitting down with family. Rose-Ellen has actually named many of the dishes on the menu after her own family. There are fried chicken cutlets and crispy bacon smothered in a maple cream sauce named after her son Sebastien; a massive bowl of Sicilian seafood stew named after her brother-in-law Bill; and a nutty, earthy, garlicky concoction known as Angela’s Sauté.
“Angela is my business partner, who is also owner here at Rosalina’s Kitchen, and she loves toasted pine nuts; she loves chicken; she loves spinach. So I said let me whip something up, see if you like it, and it’s been her go-to meal ever since. So I said, ‘we’re gonna named this Angela’s Sauté.’”
You don’t have to be family to have the kitchen cook your favorite recipe, because every Wednesday night, Rosalina’s offers a ‘Design-A-Dish’ menu that allows customers to get creative.
“The customer picks one or two proteins, four or five different vegetables. They pick their pasta, their sauce. They design these dishes that are just outrageous, but often times they love it,” Rose Ellen said. “I think they’d be embarrassed to say they didn’t like it, because they picked it.”
The truth is everybody who eats at Rosalina’s Kitchen leaves happy, but just finding the place can be a challenge. It’s tucked away among the triple-deckers on Grafton Hill, and the locals want it to remain Worcester’s little secret.
“A lot of people often say to us, ‘you know what, I found this little gem, and I don’t want to tell anybody, because I want to be able to get in. And I want to be able to eat here when I want to eat here, so I don’t want to tell my friends.'”
You can find Rosalina’s Kitchen at 83 Hamilton Street in Worcester, and online at rosalinaskitchen.com.
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