Tradition can be a tricky thing.
Slavishly honoring the past can leave you in a rut, but ignoring it altogether - especially in the dining trade - can leave a business rootless and devoid of the kind of core values that define long-term success.
Rosie's Italian Grille on McCord Road in Springfield Township balances tradition with evolution perfectly, providing a dining experience that combines the affordable comfort of a long-time Toledo institution with modern sophistication and class.
Operated by the Barone family - who owned a deli-type restaurant on Sylvania Avenue for years - Rosie's Family Restaurant on McCord morphed about five years ago into what is now Rosie's Italian Grille owned by Phil Barone.
The menu became more upscale, but there was still a home for stromboli, pizza, and other mainstream Italian fare. Designed with rich furnishings, dark lighting, and a warm feel, Rosie's is an ideal place for a night out, a casual dinner with friends, or a business lunch. It also offers a wine list and a full bar.
Be prepared for hearty portions. Among the appetizers, the bruschetta ($7) is a meal in its own right. Fresh bread topped with pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, bacon, fresh basil, and blended cheese, it's a warm way to start a meal.
We also tried the smoked fish dip ($9), which kicked off a working lunch in exceptional fashion. Served on a bed of lettuce, the mix of smoked mahi-mahi, blue marlin, and amberjack comes with crackers and cocktail sauce.
For dinner, we dug into a Rosie's classic, the lasagna ($12). The portion was huge, piping hot, and filled with fat sausages, cheese, and a delicious sauce.
We also had the gourmet mushroom pasta with grilled chicken ($16), which featured chicken in a thick, sweet sauce surrounded by the earthy taste of mushrooms. If you're not a mushroom lover, steer away from this dish toward the chicken carbonara ($16) or Sicilian herb chicken ($13).
Rosie's also has a full selection of steaks, veal, seafood, and pasta dishes, as well as a number of excellent salads.
For lunch we tried the spinach salad ($7), which featured pears, glazed walnuts, gorgonzola, and a mandarin sesame dressing. The glazed walnuts were awfully sweet, but the flavors were complementary.
The chicken marsala ($9) featured a wine sauce and fresh mushrooms, and we also ordered a prosciutto panini ($6.50), the traditional hot Italian sandwich that included basil and seasoned olive oil.
The only quibble with Rosie's is that it may be a bit too popular, and we've heard complaints of long waits for a table. We were there on a busy Tuesday night and were seated in the patio, which was heated with various electric and propane devices. Our table was next to two of them, and by the time dinner was over we felt like we might spontaneously combust it was so hot.
That said, the service on both of our visits was exceptional with waiters who were unobtrusive and helpful. It also should be noted that you can order carry-out meals - Rosie's pizza is now at the top of our list - that are prepared quickly and are easy to pick up.
Contact Bill of Fare at firstname.lastname@example.org