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Thursday, Sep 20, 2018
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Dining review: Tasty pizza and much more at Roman Forum

An Italian restaurant that offers a bit of everything — pizza, a sports bar and higher end entrees — has opened in Carrollwood.

The Roman Forum is in the same shopping center that is anchored on the other end by Burger Monger. The Roman Forum bills itself as a “food court,” “sports bar,” “pizza rustica” and “ristorante.”

That’s a lot to offer, but the Roman Forum has the space for it.

On all of our trips we found food to enjoy and a courteous, helpful wait staff that was prompt and ready to answer any questions. It offers those who want something other than chain food a chance to sample yet another in a growing list of good restaurants in the Carrollwood area.

Once inside, the space is enormous. The main dining area is spread across the front of the space, with most of the tables to the right as you enter. Behind this is an attractive bar with large screen televisions. The room is as cheery as it is large, with yellow and red colors scattered throughout.

The Roman Forum is still a work in progress. They expect to put in a driveway window soon. They also are closed on Sundays.

As ambitious as the space is, the menu matches it. The Roman Forum offers finger foods, small plates, sliders, salads and soups, sandwiches, chicken, fish and seafood dishes and an extensive pasta and pizza menu.

We started with the eggplant balls off the appetizer menu. They featured roasted pieces of eggplant mixed with Romano cheese, breadcrumbs and herbs and then battered and fried. It came with a spicy tomato sauce. It was among our favorites and is definitely recommended.

Less successful but still tasty were the deviled seafood cakes. They did not contain chunks of crab, but instead were a well-blended mix of crab meat, shrimp and mozzarella cheese, served with a spicy dipping sauce.

From the pizza menu, we tried one of the Roman Forum’s specialty pizzas, the Gardenia. It had a lot going on — zucchini, squash and eggplant, as well as tomato and mozzarella cheese. It was a bit much, but the blend of the vegetables and a tasty red sauce made this a pizza worth the effort of dealing with so many ingredients.

Other specialties include the Bocca Rossa — which features sausage and roasted tomato — and the Romanella, a mixture of zucchini, bacon, roasted onion and feta cheese.

We also tried a plain cheese pizza — the true test for a pizzeria. The dough was crisp and tasty, the cheese browned perfectly. We recommend starting there for any pizza lovers who visit Roman Forum.

We also tried the Ybor sandwich — a good version of a Cuban sandwich that came loaded with ham, salami and shredded pork. Our only complaint was that there was a bit of a heavy hand with the mayonnaise.

The Parmesan Crusted Steak Sandwich came with a spicy guacamole sauce on the bread as well as sautéed onions. The combination of the onions and steak was very good, as was the melted mozzarella cheese.

On the higher end, the Roman Forum offers grilled salmon, as well as a number of chicken dishes. Those include a Rustic Chicken dish that features roasted chicken and a variety of vegetables and a Chicken Francese.

As if the range of dishes for adults weren’t enough, there is also an extensive kids’ menu that includes pizza, macaroni and cheese, quesadilla, hot dogs and chicken fingers.

In all, the Roman Forum is still a work in progress. But it’s worth an evening for those in North Tampa looking for their Italian dishes served a bit differently.

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