LaRosa’s: Italian at Home

Spread the word—there’s a secret passageway to Italy, and it’s just a ten-minute walk downtown. LaRosa’s is a newly opened family restaurant that offers signature sandwiches, salads, prepared foods and desserts, all for student-friendly prices. Co-owned by Jamie and Mike Cammarata and Paul LaRosa, the restaurant features delectable menu options that are always homemade and never fried to preserve the authenticity of the flavor. According to chef LaRosa, signature sandwiches are the best options, because they are pre-crafted and an easy order for any customer on the run or who simply cannot make decisions from the loaded menu. LaRosa’s is particularly known for its oven-toasted chicken parmigiano sandwich complete with LaRosa’s own tomato sauce, provolone, mozzarella and parmesan. The restaurant has sold over one thousand chicken parmigiano sandwiches since its opening in the late fall. For vegetarians, the portobello sandwich is particularly satisfying with its roasted mushrooms and eggplant, red peppers, arugula and goat cheese. For meat-lovers, the Italiano is stuffed with salami, capicolla, mortadella and provolone with a complement of fresh tomatoes, lettuce and hot peppers. For students hungry in the evenings after Paresky Commons closes, LaRosa’s offers a convenient solution. Students can purchase any of their prepared Italian dishes to store in dorm refrigerators for busy nights. Available in ½ pints, pints and quarts, LaRosa’s prepared foods include stuffed rigatoni with walnut pesto, prosciutto and mozzarella stuffed peppers and “LaRosa’s Famous Loaded Lasagna.” All of their specialty dishes are prepared fresh daily and can be stored for days, heated and turned into a gourmet feast in the dorm. Jamie Cammarata said, “We know that the kitchen [at Phillips Academy] closes…at 7 p.m., so it’s really hard for you guys to get food…We’re hoping that we can work closely with Phillips so that the students can get home-cooked meals.” Looking for something lighter? LaRosa’s offers a wealth of house salads, the most popular of which is the grilled chicken and gorgonzola salad with walnuts, figs, apple and smoked bacon on mixed greens drizzled with vinaigrette. Another enticing salad is the healthy caprese, with freshly sliced tomatoes, mozzarella and basil for a refreshing Italian taste. LaRosa’s also offers one-of-a-kind specials, including two different pizzas, two calzones and a minimum of two soups daily. They are now experimenting with daily sandwich specials, such as a generously-sized panko-breaded haddock sandwich with tartar sauce. A hidden patio behind LaRosa’s has recently opened for outdoor seating. Paul LaRosa said, “In Italy, space is a commodity…[Sitting on the patio is] like being in Europe, almost.” Strings of colored lights hang overhead, creating a romantic, fantastical atmosphere. Jamie, Mike and Paul go to all lengths to meet their customers’ wishes. Jamie said, “We want people to just be happy with their choice and if their not, we’ll get them whatever they want. I mean, we do special orders for people, we do special sandwiches, we just try to accommodate any person with allergies…However we can make somebody happy, that’s what we’d do, because that’s what we’d want done to us…” LaRosa’s also strives to create a comfortable, familiar atmosphere for its customers. Jamie said, “The three other people that work with the owners have become family, and then your customers become family because of that family environment…[and]home-cooked meal…It’s just a comfortable environment.” Part of creating a familiar environment is establishing steady relationships with customers. “We have customers that come five days a week…and they like to see the same people, the owners working it, the same staff working it, and you just build this relationship with all these people. And they actually come for you as well, besides the food, you know,” said Jamie. Paul LaRosa said, “So you know, we could have easily opened up a ‘Joe’s Sandwich Shop’ down the street—that’s something completely different. But I think what we bring to the table…are the quality and the people that work here.” “There’s a big passion that goes into everything, from [making] the sandwich to the salad, to the cupcakes…You can tell that someone actually cares about it, and my customers tell me all the time, ‘I can tell that you love what you’re doing.’ And sure, I had an office job before, and I hated it,” LaRosa added. Visit LaRosa’s on 7 Barnard Street in Andover, MA for a reasonably-priced and authentic Italian meal under $10.