A bright-green neon sign centered in the huge front windows identifies Pizza de Roma, a tiny trattoria that occupies ground floor space in Tarzana Town Plaza. The area was probably designed as a storefront, but the restaurant overcomes this obstacle with its crisp, clean look and feeling of casual comfort.
The simple decor is predominantly white and black. The same green as is in the sign is used here and there for accent. Tiny white lights frame the big windows and photos of Roman landmarks dot the walls, as does an arrangement of copper pans and molds.
Since cooking can't actually be observed, the kitchen wouldn't be described as "open" but rather as one that overflows into a corner of the restaurant. Behind the serving counter hang garlands of garlic and dried chiles.
In case you haven't guessed, owners Rita and Carlo De Dionisio are native Romans. At the urging of friends who have delighted in the De Dionisios' cooking since they came to Los Angeles 15 years ago, the couple opened this dozen-table restaurant about four months ago. They serve the same style food they did in their home and use all natural ingredients.
The dinner menu features her specialty, pasta, and his, pizza. In addition, there are five or six nightly specials. Try the penne with vodka if it's available. The creamy sauce is sparked with chiles, giving it an appealing flavor and hue. The house specialty, fettuccine al limone (cream, cheese and lemon), is another winner.
Pizzas come in three sizes--9-, 12- and 15-inch--and 10 varieties. Recommended is the 4 Stagioni (four season) with mozzarella, tomato, zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms and prosciutto. The Roman-style pizza con patate (mozzarella, sliced potatoes and rosemary) and their specialty, pizza con gamberi e salmone (mozzarella, tomato, shrimp, salmon and garlic), contrast with the simpler basil, mushroom or pepperoni choices. All have moderately thin, crispy crusts. A calzone with mozzarella, ham, tomato, basil and egg is also offered.
Piatti Freddi is the only appetizer on the menu. This assortment of cold pasta salads, eggplant, parmigiana and caprese was a nice starter, but I think breaded, fried zucchini is best served hot, rather than cold.
A choice of soup or salad comes with the nightly specials. It is the same mixed green salad offered a la carte on the menu, a generous portion of greens and sprinkling of cheese; the house creamy Italian dressing is quite good. A spinach salad is also available a la carte.
At lunch an abbreviated menu features pizza by the slice, as well as mini pizza (7-inch, any type) and calzone. Soup, omelets, eggplant parmigiana, Italian and tuna sandwiches, mozzarella marinara and caprese round out the choices. Prices are a moderate $1.25 to $3.95. Takeout and delivery are available.
Pedroncelli white and red table wines are the house wines; they also are the only wines available. Other beverages include domestic and imported beers (including Italian Messina), soft drinks, iced tea, mineral water, coffee, espresso and cappuccino.
One dessert is offered each day. The homemade tira mi su cake looked great, but unfortunately they served the last two pieces just before we ordered. We'll have it next time . . . because the home-style cooking, friendly service and moderate prices will bring us back.
Pizza de Roma, 18607 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana; (818) 343-6942. Open Tuesday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m. Closed Monday. American Express, Visa and MasterCard accepted. Lot parking behind Tarzana Town Plaza. Entrees from $4.50 to $12.50.