SPRINGFIELD – The dining room seats almost four hundred people. The pizzas, pastas, and parms are big enough to feed a family, and the prices are so low you’ll feel like you’re stealing. There just aren’t many places around anymore like the Red Rose. While the streets of downtown Springfield, Massachusetts have seen plenty of changes over the years, Red Rose has remained an institution.

“It’s a family restaurant. We do pizzas. We do real traditional Italian food,” said co-owner Tony Caputo. “It’s a loud and bright place and you can come with lots of people. Like having your Sunday dinner not at home anymore, but having it at Red Rose. It’s that kind of place.”

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It’s been that kind of place for more than 50 years, thanks to the hard work and dedication of Tony’s family.

“My parents came from Italy in the early 1960s. My dad was in charge of the pizzas, my mom was in charge of everything else,” he said.

“They didn’t really know what they were going get into, and then one day they just said, ‘You know what? Let’s open up a pizzeria and let’s see what happens’,” explained Tony’s sister Rita, who runs the place alongside her brother.

“And the business started growing that way,” Tony added. “It got a little bit bigger, a little bit bigger, and they’re the American success story.”

In fact, Nicola and Edda Caputo were so successful, they built one of New England’s busiest and more enduring restaurants, which is run today by their kids. And when you eat with Tony and Rita, you eat well.

“When you walk in here, you feel like you’re walking into our house. And my dad used to always say, make the people feel like they’re actually coming to eat at your house. And when you’re serving them at the table, like they’re eating at your table at home. And that’s exactly the feeling that people get when they come in here,” Rita said.

The menu at Red Rose is like a hall of fame of Italian comfort food, but the place was built on pizza, and that remains true today.

“Pizza was our specialty from the beginning so many years ago, and then we just started expanding and growing and expanding the menu,” explained Rita, “but everybody knows Red Rose for their pizza. It’s our signature.”

“All the dough is made daily. Everything is made fresh. We hand stretch, which you don’t see that too often anymore,” Tony said. “We make our own sauce. We shred our own cheese, all our own toppings, and we bake it right on the hearth. It’s a pretty hearty style pizza. It’s a real value.”

In fact, these pizzas might be the best meal deal in Massachusetts.

“Our small is like most restaurants’ medium. Our medium is like most restaurants’ large. Our large pizza is what most people might say is a party sized pizza,” Rita said. “And then they see our party sized pizza and they’re like, ‘Oh my god what is that?'”

Party sized pizza at Red Rose (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Party sized pizza at Red Rose (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

When you order one of those big boys, it really is a party.

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“Thirty inch oval, like a giant football,” described Tony. “The outside has all crust, if you want a middle piece with no crust, you get the middle, but people love our pizza around here.”

A meal at Red Rose might just be the reason the word Mangia was invented. Appetizers include Fried Calamari, Shrimp in a vodka cream sauce, and classically delicious Eggplant Rollatini.

“Oh my god, it’s gonna be like a symphony in your mouth,” Rita laughed. “It’s delicate, it’s soft, it’s buttery. Then you’ve got the cheeses, the mozzarella, the ricotta, the parmesan. Our marinara sauce, the flavors just all come together.”

The most popular appetizer has to be the homemade Meatballs, and Rita will put hers up against anyone.

Meatballs at Red Rose (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Meatballs at Red Rose (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“Everyone says they have the best meatballs. Of course I think I we have the best meatballs. They are homemade. We’ve been making them the same way for 52 years. They are a combination of beef and pork, baked in the oven and then they’re topped with our marinara sauce. We sell a ton of them.”

As for entrees, there’s Veal Picatta, Chicken Marsala, and Shrimp Scampi. But if Tony’s sitting down for a meal, he’s ordering the Zuppa Di Clams with plenty of fresh baked bread.

“I’ll get the Zuppa Di Clams and I’ll just get a basket of bread, dip it in the juice, and that’s a meal.”

Zuppa di Clams at Red Rose (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Zuppa di Clams at Red Rose (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

For a full on feast, there’s Chicken Parm smothered with sauce and cheese, and a Baked Lasagna so big you’ll eat it for a week.

“The lasagna’s homemade every day. We actually use our meatballs and crush them up. We have ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, your spices, comes out in a nice casserole,” Rita described. “It’s piled really high. It’s a big piece of lasagna.”

Lasagna at Red Rose (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Lasagna at Red Rose (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Since Red Rose serves so many red sauce classics, the marinara has to be perfect, and under Rita’s watchful eye, it always is.

“Being in this business for so many years, I can just look at the sauce and tell you if there’s something missing from it. I can even tell just by the smell to make sure that it’s not over peppered or not too much salt. But when I stir it I look for the garlic and I look for the basil. There’s got to be plenty of garlic and plenty of basil in there.”

Whether they’re back in the kitchen, out in the dining room, or doing whatever else needs to be done,
Tony and Rita are proud to carry on a family tradition.

“I’m so proud to say we’re part of Red Rose. My mom and dad started it, we’re gonna carry it on,” Tony said. “My children, my sister’s children are in here. There’s a sense of pride that you can’t buy, you can’t create. It has to be in you, and we have a sense of pride that just goes a long way.”

You can find Red Rose at 1060 Main Street in Springfield, and online at redrosepizzeria.com.

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