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Photo by Cheryl Pearson Vegetable lasagne is one of the specialty pasta dishes served at Rosso's Trattoria in Grants Pass.

Classic Italian at Rosso’s Trattoria in Grants Pass

Rosso’s Trattoria is located in a building constructed in 1900 in the historic district of Grants Pass.

Its dining booths, made of dark wood, and exposed brick walls give the restaurant an Old World feel. One could almost imagine Don Corleone stopping in for lunch.

The restaurant fits the description of a “trattoria,” a small Italian-style eating establishment where service is casual, prices are low and the emphasis is on a steady clientele rather than haute cuisine.

When we arrived, our waitress seated us right away and answered questions about various menu items. Daily specials and prices were listed on a chalk board on the wall.

In the summer months, small tables are available outside in front of the restaurant, which allows for serious people-watching.

Appetizers include an artichoke and spinach dip ($8), antipasto platter ($10) and tomato and Gorgonzola bruschetta ($8).

For starters, I ordered the spinach and Gorgonzola salad ($8), a tossed mix of fresh spinach, slices of Granny Smith apples, dried cranberries and walnuts with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing. This salad can be made into a main course with additional portions of chicken, bacon, shrimp, turkey, ham or vegetables, for an extra charge.

There is a choice of nine salad dressings at Rosso’s: creamy Gorgonzola, pesto or raspberry vinaigrette, honey mustard, maple-ginger-cilantro vinaigrette, Italia feta vinaigrette, Caesar, ranch and Thousand Island.

The raspberry vinaigrette paired deliciously with the Gorgonzola and spinach salad.

As a main course, I chose one of the restaurant’s specialty pasta dishes. Chicken Basilica ($14) features creamy basil pesto sauce with chicken, walnuts and basil tossed with penne. The flavor was excellent, with all of the individual ingredients married together for a strong, combined flavor.

My friend ordered the Vegetable Lasagna ($12), which presented seasonal vegetables — zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant and red peppers — with house-made marinara, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses.

My friend liked the flavor, but described it as strong. Another in our party ordered the meatballs and marinara sauce with penne ($13).

Rosso’s meatballs are made with GMO-free organic pork sausage and ground beef and can be ordered with a choice of pastas.

The restaurant’s specialty pastas offer 16 types of noodles served with soup or salad and fresh bread. There are three types of chicken pasta: the Basilica, the Gorgonzola with green beans and cashews, and Marsala, with pan-fried chicken, mushrooms and a creamy sauce over fettuccine. The Skillet combines Italian sausage, onion and bell pepper in a spicy-as-you-want it marinara sauce over penne. Other notable pastas include beef stroganoff, strips of roast beef and mushrooms tossed with penne; carbonara — bacon, peas and Parmesan tossed in a garlic cream sauce with linguine; Greek — spinach, Kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, fresh tomatoes and penne tossed in a feta cream sauce; and several seafood pastas that include shrimp, scallops or clams cooked with white wine and butter and served over linguine.

The menu also includes a diverse selection of sandwiches and panini served on focaccia bread. Standouts are the tacchino made with turkey, bacon, Swiss, grilled onions and olive tapenade; the Arrosti Bestia with roast beef, Swiss, grilled onions and horseradish sauce; Italian tuna with artichoke hearts, capers, tomato, mozzarella and lettuce with basil pesto aioli; Rosso’s BLT — bacon, sun-dried tomatoes, aioli, smoked Gouda, grilled onions and spinach; and the Rubini, made with pastrami, Swiss, sauerkraut, stone-ground mustard and Thousand Island served on rye.

The dessert menu can vary daily. Our choices were three-berry bread pudding or chocolate mousse.

I opted for the mousse and was not disappointed. Whipped to a light frothy perfection, it was served with a dollop of whipped cream.

Rosso’s Trattoria was an enjoyable dining experience. The food was tasty and well prepared. The extensive menu allows each diner to customize meals to individual tastes.

Located at 225 S.E. Sixth St., in Grants Pass, Rosso’s is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Call 541-476-8708.

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