Roia is more than just the restaurant-and-café combo that it claims to be — it’s a culinary metaphor. The name itself pays tribute to the Roia River, a waterway parting France and Italy, and an apt parallel to the restaurant’s fusion of French and Italian cuisine.

And you don’t have to wait for the food to arrive to be overwhelmed by elegance. The same graceful merge of cultures is drawn into the architectural atmosphere of the eatery. The restaurant joins a high-ceilinged, mezzanine-adorned, mahogany-tabled former hotel lobby with the casual flair of a youthful urban café. A partitioned bar offers a respite from the formalities of the poised dining experience, but the two harmonize quite beautifully in a single spacious room.

The menu is simplistic, but everything listed is high quality and embellished with delicate spices. The portion sizes are moderate, small enough that a few rounds of service is recommended but large enough that dish-sharing is an option. As for the dishes themselves — Head Chef Avi Szapiro’s artful deliberacy shines through in every one of his culinary creations. Here are some of the arrangements we sampled:

Roia

photo by Anna Heckler

Kale salad with Sieved Egg

This mountain of greens was served in thin strips with airy crumbles of egg shavings, tossed with pickled red onions and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and lemon vinaigrette. Locally grown (as were the seasonal winter vegetables in our side-dish), this kale salad proves that health can be something artistic and even tasty. Whether you opt for the kale out of guilt or curiosity, you won’t be disappointed.

Roia

photo by Anna Heckler

Fettuccini with Brussel Sprouts

The egg yolk ribbon pasta was so homemade that we could practically taste the TLC. The parmagiano sauce drizzled on by Chef Szapiro was tempered nicely by the roasted Brussels spouts throughout – the perfect balance of pasta and herbal vegetable flourish. The second our waitress laid this dish down on the hardwood table, we knew we had found our centerpiece.

Roia

photo by Anna Heckler

Moules Frites

Fresh-from-the-sea steamed mussels, bathed in white wine and drizzled with homemade aioli (a sauce made of garlic, lemon juice and olive oil). Our fancy radar almost overloaded when our server dished out a side platter of lightly greased sweet-potato fries and called them “pomme frittes.” You know you’ve walked into a real French restaurant when they don’t even use the term “french fries.”

Roia

photo by Anna Heckler

Grapefruit Gelato

Because who goes to an Italian (or an Italian-fusion) restaurant without ordering dessert? This teaspoon-sized portion of sweetened ice practically captured the essence of the fruit. The dish was a little bitter (we have to admit, we tried adding on our own accent of Sugar-in-the-Raw, to no avail). Regardless, this Gelato is the perfectly light way to cap off a satisfying lunchtime meal.

average
Expensive

Location: 261 College Street, New Haven, CT 06510
Hours of Operation: 11:30am-2pm lunch and 5pm-9pm Tuesday to Saturday; 10:30am-2:30pm brunch and 4:30pm-7:30pm supper Sunday

Craving more? Check out these New Haven eats:

Rubamba

Katalina’s Bakery

Tarry Lodge