Photo by Andrew Miller for The Times
Chef at Rosa's Restaurant in Hamilton, prepares salad for a catering event.
"For Rosa Spera-Gilmore, there was only one choice for her life’s occupation. She was 10 when her family moved to Lawrenceville from Sicily, Italy, and her father, Giuseppe Spera, learned the pizza business at Sam’s Pizza Palace in Wildwood.
Her father opened Pizza Star in Princeton, and Rosa began working in the family business as soon as she was old enough. Pizza Star is still owned and operated by her brother, Nino Spera.
Fifteen years ago Giuseppe opened a second restaurant, owned by Rosa. Since then Rosa’s Restaurant has been a local family favorite for pizza, pasta, Italian specialties and catering.
“I love it here,” Spera-Gilmore says of Hamilton. “I have very good customers. It’s a family place; I know most of my customers by name.”
That’s easy to believe. Warm and welcoming, Spera-Gilmore has been at the helm for many of her customers’ weddings, parties and other milestone events.
Also known for her charitable works, she believes in giving back to the community.
“I like to give, I like to help people. I have been blessed,” she says, and believes in helping others. Right now she is organizing a New Year’s Eve gala at the Nottingham Ballroom to benefit Helping Hand, a nonprofit organization that aids cancer patients.
At Rosa’s she has a varied menu filled with familiar Italian specialties, and a specials menu that changes frequently. “I don’t want my customers to get tired of my menu,” she says, and recently added paninis to the lineup.
Of course we had to try the pizza, and started our meal by sharing a Margarita, $16.50 for medium, which had a thin crust, tomato sauce, slices of fresh mozzarella and fresh basil leaves. This is a very good pizza, but better still is the Brooklyn pie, $18, which we had the chance to sample later.
Fans of the popular thin-crust Trenton-style pie found at other local pizzerias will especially appreciate the Brooklyn pie, which has similarities, but stands on its own.
Shaped in a square that fills out the pizza box, the crust is almost cracker-thin, but still folds easily with a thin topping of cheese and herb-flavored crushed tomatoes.
Spera-Gilmore says the pie is a favorite among her customers, and that after all these years in the business she still loves it.
“I still eat a slice every day,” she says.
Soup or salad is included with all entrees and we sampled the soups of the day, $4.95 when sold a la carte. They were ample servings and we liked them all, but the creamy but light potato and the warm, savory carrot soups were our favorites. Also good were the pasta fagioli, thick with beans and pasta, and the chicken noodle.
Among the entrees, flounder Francaise, $17.95, was nicely done with a fresh filet covered in a light egg batter and finished with a fragrant white wine and lemon sauce.
Pasta with clam sauce, $12.50, was a heaping bowl of spaghetti topped with the rich, red house sauce mixed with plenty of bites of clam.
From the specials menu we sampled the Bolognese papardelle, $12.95, with a rich, meaty sauce clinging to the wide noodles, and the scallop and shrimp scampi, $17.95, featuring a half-dozen shrimp and five scallops served in a bright, lemony sauce over pasta.
Ice cream lovers have much to choose from at Rosa’s, where dessert is an important part of the menu. We tried dishes of the housemade ice cream, $3, enjoying both a creamsicle-type blend of orange sherbet and vanilla ice cream, and a dish of butter pecan. Chocolate chips studded a cannoli, $3, made in-house with a creamy, not-too-sweet filling.
Rosa’s Restaurant is a warm, friendly, casual place with good service and a large selection of dishes to choose from. If you are fortunate enough to live nearby, it’s the kind of restaurant you are happy to have in your hometown, especially if you like thin-crust pizza." - Official review from The Times.
3442 S. Broad St., Hamilton