Abbondanza Romanza!

When it comes to great local food, there are few restaurants that can match up to the Italian dishes served at Romanza. From the outside and even seated, Romanza doesn’t immediate evoke the feeling of fine dining, but once the meal comes it quickly wins you over.

Owner and chef Fernando Cortez confided in me, “We have a relentless focus on our food. Despite quickly rising costs, we refuse to compromise or cut corners. You get the same quality and portion size we’ve always served. We’d love to update the décor more, but we’d rather deliver great food at value prices.”

Fair enough. Since August 2009, Fernando Cortez and his wife Anna Maria have built a fan base of foodies and families. “We have a very loyal crowd and we cater to their every need. If they want something off-menu all they have to do is ask. We’ll make it.” Besides Fernando and Anna Maria, their kids help at the restaurant. “We chose this location because we live nearby and the kids didn’t want us to move anywhere else.” You’ll see Debbie, Maximilian and sometimes Claudia right alongside the rest of the dedicated staff.

Many of the loyal staff has been with Cortez through several restaurant locations. “Rafael Rosario is my long-time co-chef. He cooks amazing food.” Romanza runs lean for serving so many great meals. There are a total of two cooks, two dishwashers, two waiters and two busboys. “Wherever we are light or need help, my wife jumps in,” Fernando appreciatively says.

If you think the Romanza name is familiar, you are correct. Cortez had two prior iterations of his restaurant in Pinecrest and before that in Aventura. In both cases, he sold and began his restaurant entrepreneurship over again. “I like to take unsuccessful restaurant locations and turn them around.”

Cortez has restaurant success in his blood. “I was born in Bolivia and came to the USA via New Jersey in 1973. Within two months of arriving, I started working at an Italian restaurant in Clifton, NJ. The owner took me under his wing and I credit him with teaching me how to cook Italian.”

In 1990, Cortez and a close friend Giuseppe Zuozo opened the highly successful Anacapri restaurant in Pinecrest. “We were very close friends and still talk today, but in 1997 it was best for me to leave and take my next career steps.”

Romanza was Cortez’s next step and current love. Little has changed on the menu in years because “it just works.” Everyone in the family, including kids, will definitely find something to love. Cortez says that 75% of what’s on their menu sells regularly, with chicken and eggplant dishes being fan favorites. Besides the specials, no entree exceeds $20.

Romanza, attached to the Quality Inn at 14501 S. Dixie Hwy., is closed Mondays. They serve dinner Tuesday through Sunday starting at 5 p.m. They also host special and private events and can serve lunch on an as-needed basis. For their crowded Fridays and Saturdays, it is highly recommended to make reservations at 305-278-9027. Oh, and Anna Maria makes some pretty amazing desserts.