A meal at Roseland starts innocuously with some very good, baked-here bread. From there, things get grand. Choose from a broad menu of hand-cut ravioli, lasagna, various parmigianas, spectacular hot and cold antipasti. Whatever else you eat, you must eat pizza, for this is one of the great pizzerias in Connecticut. The crust is what connoisseurs know as New Haven style: thin but not brittle, with enough brawn to support all but the weightiest combinations of ingredients and to allay the pizza-eater’s primal fears: slice collapse and topping slippage.
Some of the pizzas that come from these ovens are spectacularly lavish, such as shrimp casino topped with bacon, mozzarella, fresh garlic, and too many jumbo shrimp to count. Roseland also is a good place to sample the relatively uncomplicated Connecticut classic, white clam pizza. Recommended configuration on that one: no mozzarella, no tomato sauce, just a crowd of freshly-shucked Rhode Island clams strewn across a crust frosted with olive oil and scattered with bits of basil, parsley, and oregano, thin-sliced garlic, a twist of cracked black pepper, and a scattering of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. The nectar of the clams insinuates itself into the surface of the crust, giving every crunch exhilarating marine zest.
Roseland is known for huge portions. No one leaves without a tower of Styrofoam containers holding leftovers. Proprietor Gary Lucarelli once told us that he likes to see diners carry home his food. “They take it to their grandmother or aunt who can’t get out,” he beamed, thinking of all the nice old ladies who have the opportunity to enjoy a Roseland meal at home. “Being in the [Naugatuck] Valley, we get people with good appetites,” he explained. “They come in and knock off a ‘hot anti’ then have their sauteed escarole and a sausage pie or a plate of ravioli.” As he thought of these good neighbors enjoying their big meals, he raised a wine glass in a one-word toast to all of them: “‘Eat!’ I say.” He inhaled the bouquet of the wine (which he makes himself), took a sip, and repeated the toast that is his family’s way of life and the soul of Roseland: “Eat!”