All three colors of the Italian flag are prominent features of the décor at Rollati Ristorante. Depending on the light, a dark teal or forest green tile swims across the bar’s backsplash in multiple directions. Flecks of green show up inside terrazzo tabletops and on strategically chosen sections of the dining room walls. The main bar wall itself is a muted red, closer in hue to a thin slice of parma ham than a bubbling marinara sauce. Corresponding white ceilings and walls provide a sense of visual cohesion to the space as a whole. This approach to the interior design is a less obvious callback to Il Tricolore.
Like the restaurants at nearby Eataly Silicon Valley, Rollati is resetting the concept of contemporary Italian dining. The quaint, homely interiors of an Olive Garden are banished. Gone, too, are outdated visual references such as sponged Tuscan yellow walls or red and white-checked tablecloths. The influence of a refined mid-century modern consciousness subtly asserts itself in the furniture, architectural details, and chandeliers. The only throughline, from the past to the present, is a cuisine that always qualifies as comfort food.
Rollati differs from Eataly, in part, simply because of its location. Directly across the street from City Hall, it’s not as busy as the comings and goings that take place at the Westfield Valley Fair mall. On the day of my visit, Rollati easily accommodated a business party of twelve, families of four, and at least two amorous couples. None of the diners appeared to be in a hurry. The waitstaff instinctively understood that everyone had shown up to linger over large plates of well-sauced carbohydrates.
For antipasti, we tried the eggplant rollatini ($16) and the arancini ($14). Made with roasted garlic ricotta and spinach, the rollatini are coiled into rounds. A thick outer layer of breading coated pliant folds of baked eggplant. The marinara looked like it was a shade lighter than a similar sauce moated around the arancini. But there wasn’t any noticeable difference in taste between them. In the arancini centers, there was a morsel of a short rib ragu that didn’t add a significant amount of flavor or texture. But the dish must have been conceived as an alternative to the fried mozzarella ($10).
A salad with a creamy Calabrian chili dressing and finely diced breadcrumbs ($16) satisfied my endless and ongoing craving for little gem lettuce leaves. The spicy dressing was a pleasing, if potent, alternative to the piquant bite of mustard and anchovies in a caesar salad dressing.
Of the four lunchtime pasta options to choose from, we opted for the spaghetti alla limon ($24, +$14 to add Dungeness crab, +$48 to add a lobster tail). Similar to an alfredo in both texture and color, the addition of lemon invigorated the sauce. The thick strands of homemade spaghetti were cooked about thirty seconds past al dente, with a nice chewiness still intact.
The dessert menu is a greatest hits list of Italian dolce. Cannoli made with pistachios and an amarena cherry ($10), panna cotta with a fig compote ($12), and a soft serve and espresso affogato ($8). But the epitome of overindulgence is a slice of tiramisu ($13). Layers of sweet mascarpone cream flow over the banks of stacked ladyfingers. Cut into squares that rival the height of bricks, it’s a dessert that’s meant to be shared.
181 East Santa Clara St., San Jose
Open Mon-Thurs 11:30am–2pm & 5pm–9pm
Fri 11:30am–2pm & 5pm–10pm