The best new restaurants in Mansfield might actually be in south Arlington.
The South Cooper Street corridor, long known for Istanbul Grill, has blossomed with more dining options, good enough to make us all learn how to find Sublett Road.
Roma Trattoria and Ranch Hand Steakhouse both present new, locally owned full-service restaurants with clever ideas.
Roma Trattoria is a refreshing change from the ubiquitous pizza-and-pasta restaurants.
Entrees include veal piccata, a peppercorn-cream steak or chicken in a Gorgonzola cream sauce, or six other chicken dishes.
The pasta lineup has some distinctive choices: spinach-parmesan ravioli, lobster-shrimp ravioli, spinach cannelloni along with the more traditional lasagna or fettuccine Bolognese.
On a recent visit, the fresh bread-and-olive-oil was a cut above the usual garlic knots. A penne pasta dish was large enough for two
The mixed appetizer of fried calamari, shrimp, zucchini and carrots has been a popular choice, but try the mussels or the prosciutto-cantaloupe salad.
If you split a dinner, you’ll have room for dessert.
Roma Trattoria’s house-made version of tiramisu is one of the best, but do not overlook the creme caramel. There’s also a chocolate cake.
The prices and quality are similar to Arlington-area favorites such as Piccolo Mondo, La Gondola or nearby Fontana.
(Check about bringing wine before you go. When I went, Roma was still BYOB with a liquor license on the way. That means it’s even more of a bargain.)
Roma Trattoria is open for lunch and dinner daily, closing for a couple of hours in midafternoon.
Ranch Hand: cowboy cooking by an Italian chef
Ranch Hand Steakhouse is trying to be an upscale steak restaurant in a downscale suburban neighborhood.
A $30-plus steak is pushing it, but that’s a tomahawk rib-eye. At least the steaks come with two sides, so the cost is closer to The Keg or Mac’s than to a prime steakhouse.
A quick stop for a Sunday lunch turned into a complete surprise.
First of all, ignore the setting. Ranch Hand is in one of the ugliest of south Arlington’s incredibly ugly strip shopping centers.
You’ll know you’re close when you see the giant red letters on a neighboring restaurant screaming: DAIQUIRIS.
Ranch Hand is next door to Rio Mambo. The door opens off the patio.
The restaurant is decorated like a country barn, but the menu definitely is not backwoods.
Grilled chicken “under a brick” with mushrooms and a cabernet demi-glace excelled for $14.
There’s also a Duroc pork chop with a choice of a dry rub and bourbon-apple chutney, or in a honey-barbecue marinade ($17).
The fish dishes include shrimp and grits or salmon, and the appetizers include lobster mac-and-cheese, chili or a “corral” sampler with apple-Gouda sausage, smoked sausage, bourbon-honey pork belly and sirloin with chimichurri.
The steak menu tops out with that tomahawk rib-eye, but a smaller New York strip, filet or rib-eye is $22-$25 including a salad and side.
The Ranch Hand’s Facebook page talks up chef Carmine Bianco’s tiramisu, but an apple tart with a super-premium vanilla ice cream seemed more fit for a ranch hand.