Dinner At Sophia's Grotto, Roslindale, Mass.

I have another neighborhood restaurant to share with you guys. I might even go so far as to call it my new favorite. Last week we went with a couple of friends to Sophia's Grotto in Roslindale. We walked down Birch Street looking for the restaurant, turned down a small alley, and found ourselves standing in a cute little brick courtyard tucked behind one of my other favorite spots, Boston Cheese Cellar. Outside were plenty of patio tables, but it started sprinkling just before we walked up so we chose to sit inside for this visit.

Inside, the restaurant resembles one you might find in Italy and even has painted walls and a little roof over the kitchen to make it look like a house from the Italian countryside. And it was hopping on a Wednesday night. Fortunately, we were able to get a table right away. After glancing at the menu, we knew it was going to be hard to make decisions. Everything sounded enticing, from prosciutto-wrapped artichoke hearts to a variety of pizzas to an array of pasta dishes.  We finally chose two small plates and a salad to share to get started.

Jeff is all about meatballs, so of course we had to get those. But I'm not complaining. The meatballs at Sophia's Grotto are made from a combination of pork, beef, and veal. They're served in a plum tomato sauce and topped with mushrooms and cheese. They were tender and flavorful. We even detected a slight smokiness, giving them some complexity. And the sauce was really good as well. 

Meatballs at Sophia's Grotto, Roslindale, Mass.

We also got arancini. These giant risotto balls were filled with mushrooms and mozzarella, fried, and served in a puddle of marinara. I'm not a big fan of risotto, so I prefer a drier arancini (I'm weird, I know), but those at our table who love risotto loved these, and I still really enjoyed them, especially the fried outside. I also appreciated that they were served with a different sauce than the one the meatballs were served in. It shows that some real thought and attention was given to each dish and a specific sauce was paired with each one.

Arancini at Sophia's Grotto, Roslindale, Mass.

Then we split the arugula salad. This comes with sliced onions, halved cherry tomatoes, grated Manchego, balsamic vinaigrette, and a piece of grilled prosciutto. It was a nice lighter offering to add to our more filling appetizer selections.

Arugula salad at Sophia's Grotto, Roslindale, Mass.

There are very few things I dislike when it comes to food, but scallops and risotto are two of those things, so there's no way I would ever order the dish my friend got: the scallops and risotto off the small plates menu. I did try a small bite though. The dish is very rich and creamy, so it's great that it comes as a small plate, which is filling enough for a meal. She really liked it and assures me the bowl was chock-full of scallops. Mixed into the risotto were also asparagus tips, mushrooms, and white truffle oil.

Scallops and risotto at Sophia's Grotto, Roslindale, Mass.

Her husband got the spicy mussels, and I definitely ate some of those. The mussels are served over polenta in a tomato fennel stew with spicy chorizo. I've had mussels with fennel, tomatoes, and chorizo before, but I don't recall ever having them with polenta and it was a great addition, making the dish hearty and filling.

Spicy mussels at Sophia's Grotto, Roslindale, Mass.

Jeff opted for a pizza. Sophia's Grotto has a half-dozen to choose from, with toppings from tomato and basil to mixed mushrooms and truffle oil to goat cheese and peppers. The Verona, which he got, is a pizza with mozzarella and asiago, Italian sausage, and prosciutto -- perfect for a meat lover.

Verona pizza at Sophia's Grotto, Roslindale, Mass.

I got the night's special: lobster ravioli. Even though I waffled over choices on the regular menu, I knew as soon as our waitress described the ravioli that I'd be getting it. My plate arrived with a generous amount of lobster-filled ravioli in a brandy cream sauce with cherry tomatoes, asparagus, and mushrooms, not to mention slivers of browned garlic. I liked my dish best out of everyone's.

Lobster ravioli at Sophia's Grotto, Roslindale, Mass.

We were way too full to order to dessert, but I took a quick glance at the menu, and I may need to try the tiramisu on my next visit. We also didn't indulge in any wine on this visit, but the wine list had a lot of reds that piqued my interest. There's an inexpensive Montepulciano with my name on it. Speaking of inexpensive, I thought the prices were really good in general. My lobster ravioli was only $19.95, the meatballs $7.95, and the mussels just $12.95. We're hoping to go back on a nicer evening so we can sit outside in the courtyard.

What's your favorite thing to order at an Italian restaurant? After all my Italy posts, you guys have probably figured out that I typically go for pasta.

Sophia's Grotto on Urbanspoon