Sometimes you find delicious foods in the oddest of places. For example, I never would have expected to find such excellent, home-made cupcakes in an Italian sandwich shop.
When I conducted my Saké tasting at the Wine Connextion, the event was catered by LaRosa's, a relatively new restaurant in Andover. I was impressed with their food, especially the spicy Arancini. Larosa's took over the spot where Mawby's used to be, and I knew that I would have to check it out.
I did make a recent visit there, and chatted with part-owner Mike Cammarata and part-owner/Chef Paul LaRosa. They told me more about their restaurant, as well as some of their future intentions. The restaurant is very much a friendly, neighborhood restaurant. At lunch, nearly everyone that stopped by seemed to know the owners. Both Mike and Paul seemed very sincere to me, desirous of creating a great little place. Rather than accepting what they have, they still are working on ways to improve the restaurant.
This casual restaurant opened in October 2009 and you can see the main counter pictured above. They primarily serve sandwiches, salads and soups, either to eat there or take-out. You will also find daily specials that may include pizza and calzones. Sandwiches average $6.95-$7.95, soups are $2.95/cup & $4.95/bowl, and salads average $7.95. Most everything is made fresh on the premises.
There are over twenty sandwiches, ranging from tuna salad to Portobello, from eggplant parmigiano to buffalo chicken. They are generally served on braided rolls, though you can have a whole wheat wrap instead. The chicken parmigiana was very good, with plenty of chicken and a tasty red sauce. The special chicken and broccoli pizza was also quite delicious, with very large pieces of chicken and a nice, thicker crust.
Above, you can see some of the salads and similar dishes that you can order. Everything looks quite fresh and tasty. LaRosa's also sells prepared meals that you can take home and heat up. It makes it easy to stop by after work and pick up a prepared dinner. You can get items like chicken marsala, baked ziti, meatballs or chicken piccata. Meals generally cost $9.99-$10.99, and should easy feed at least two people. I bought the meatballs and they were quite good, with plenty of ground beef and seasoned well.
Chef LaRosa seems very capable of much more culinary diversity, and that can be experienced through his catering services. Their catering menu includes many more items than are available at the restaurant, and he can also make many items that are not on the catering menu. His catering service is thus very flexible and Chef LaRosa will work with you to develop almost any type of menu you desire. Listening to Chef LaRosa speak, his passion was evident and he was very excited discussing all of the different types of cuisines he enjoys cooking. As the restaurant matures, I suspect the menu may increase, allowing Chef LaRosa to showcase more of his skills.
Chef LaRosa makes most of his own pastries, some of which are pictured above, including a variety of different flavored cupcakes. The jumbo cupcakes ($4 each) are made fresh each day, and look quite enticing. They look as good as any found in the specialty cupcake shops. But what about their taste? Can such a sandwich shop really make good cupcakes?
I had some initial doubts, thinking that they might be too dry. Even many specialty cupcake shops seem to make too dry of a product. I can be a harsh critic concerning cucpakes. But instead, the LaRosa cupcakes were fantastic, moist and flavorful. The chocolate cupcake, topped with a white chocolate frosting, thoroughly impressed me. It was one of the best cupcakes I have tasted in some time. I bought some to take home and some of my family were similarly impressed. Though they cost $4, their large size and high quality warrants the price. I believe the rest of their pastries are probably equally as good.
Overall, the restaurant offers very good food at very reasonable prices. Chef LaRosa is very talented, and his culinary passion is reflected in his food. Grab a sandwich for lunch or a prepared meal to take home for dinner. Or partake of their catering services and see even more of Chef LaRosa's culinary skills. Plus, the cupcakes are highly recommended! I'll be back for sure and may report here again of what I taste.
7 Barnard Street
Andover, MA 01810
Phone: (978) 475-1777