We asked fans to share their memories of dining at the former Roma Cafe when it was considered Portland’s best special occasion and most romantic restaurant. Here’s what they told us:

“IT WAS THE RESTAURANT (where) I had my first “grown up girl” dinner with my dad, a tradition we maintained for years.”

– Linda Reich, Brownfield

“BACK IN THE SEVENTIES, the Roma was a very exciting and trendy place to have a late dinner. It was not unusual for a party with reservations to have to wait a few hours at the bar before they could be seated. I remember the food as excellent and the atmosphere as Old World congenial. My favorite dish was the veal piccata, but I also adored their antipasto. It was the first bar that I had a Campari and soda, and the soda actually was served in the old-fashioned spritzer bottles. This kind of simple elegance cannot be re-created today as all the food places I have visited in Portland do not replicate that ‘timeless’ feeling that I experienced at the Roma.”

– Suzan Labrie, Manchester, New Hampshire

“THAT’S WHERE MY DATES would take me to dinner to impress me.”


– Lindy Rouse, Tampa, Florida

“IT WAS THE GO-TO restaurant for a before-prom meal for Westbrook High School.”

– Sue Parmenter, Westbrook

Roma Cafe general manager Guy Streitburger, owner Michael Fraser and chef Anders Tallberg in one of the dining rooms of the recently reopened Portland restaurant on Aug. 24.

“OUR FAMILY RESERVED the private dining room on the second floor to celebrate my grandmother’s 85th birthday. We loved the Roma – still remember the garlic toast and dishes of olives and celery!”

– Betsy Ross, South Portland

“MY MEMORY OF THE ROMA is going there for dinner with my mother on my 30th birthday in December 1992. We spent the day together shopping, then dinner. She bought me a Larry Levine winter dress coat that day. I wore it to dinner thinking I was the cat’s meow. My mom passed away in 1998. I still have the coat and still wear it. It is timeless … wish she was, too. I remember we sat upstairs in a small room. Food was delicious and service impeccable. I will never forget that night.”


– Margaret Carignan, Portland

“FORTY-PLUS YEARS AGO, I met my husband at the Bramhall pub, which was downstairs from the Roma and owned by the same family. Had a wedding shower at the Roma, and when we could afford it we’d splurge on an evening of great dining without children at the Roma. I loved the Old World charm and really dressing up to go out for the evening. We spent many holidays, family celebrations and anniversaries there in our early years of marriage. The food was always perfect, and the staff was very low-key. They allowed the patrons to quietly enjoy the surroundings and their fellow companions for the evening. I’m not sure we have a comparable restaurant dining experience like it in the Portland area now.”

– Jane Sullivan, Windham

“IT WAS LIKE having a meal in someone’s house. The brick building was beautiful, and the decor was formal but comfortable at the same time. I usually had lasagna, and I have no negative memories. It was the best restaurant in Portland.

The Roma Cafe – past, idled and present, has occupied the former Rines mansion since 1936.

“I worked at Carr Brothers (Produce Company) during the summers from 1960 to 1968 so I got to see restaurant kitchens during deliveries. The Roma was spotless. The owner/chef of the Roma was a wonderful character. On mornings when he came to Carr Brothers, he would shout greetings to all, dash through, select what he wanted, which I placed on a pushcart, and without haggling or hassle head off to his next supplier.”

– Michael J. Carr, Somerset, New Jersey


“MY HUSBAND ASKED ME on Valentine’s Day 1986 to marry him over a Pac-Man table downstairs (in the Bramhall Pub), followed by a special meal upstairs afterward. We also took my daughter there to celebrate her “becoming a woman”– we all dressed up for the elegant evening. Loved the Roma!”

– Elizabeth Andrews, Brunswick

“THE ROMA CATERED my wedding, and we had a free anniversary dinner as part of the deal! So we went, and my husband convinced me to have a baby. And a year after that, we somehow dragged our newborn there for dinner one last time. The Roma has a special place in my family’s heart.”

– Becky Hunt, Portland

Gathered and compiled by Meredith Goad

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