Among the new wave of food vendors in Liberty Public Market is Roma Express, which launches today with Italian sodas, cannoli and savory fried risotto balls called arancini. The cannoli and arancini are two best-selling products at Roma Market, an Italian specialty store that has deep roots in Pasadena and another location in Escondido which is currently under renovation. Another grocery and eatery, called Roma Urban Market, has been a long-awaited project in Little Italy; it’s projected to finally open next month.
Roma Express is the creation of Alfredo Dinunzio, Jr. and his wife Maren, who met when their fathers partnered to expand the original Pasadena market. Using longtime family recipes, the couple created a quick-service menu that features six varieties of arancini filled with everything from meaty bolognese sauce to chicken and pesto, spinach and mushroom, and smoked salmon and cream cheese. As for its popular cannoli, the couple is offering several spinoffs of the classic ricotta filling that include pistachio, lemon, Fruity Pebbles and a s’mores version with marshmallows on top. There’s even a frozen cannoli on a stick, dipped in chocolate and rolled in toppings. To drink, Roma Express is serving retro Original New York Seltzer and Italian sodas in flavors ranging from strawberry to pineapple and amaretto that can be made into old school cream sodas with the addition of whipped cream.
They will also be offering catering, bringing arancini, cannoli and Italian soda bars to events and parties along with their signature costumed character, Carlo the Cannoli. If this location is successful, Dinunzio, Jr. says he hopes to bring Roma Express outposts into other local venues including Petco Park and the Sports Arena.
Roma Express joins the recently-opened Saganaki from the owners of Mezé Greek Fusion restaurant in the Gaslamp, which is serving sweet and savory versions of fried and flambéed cheese, plus Mediterranean-style wraps and Greek yogurt bowls, and Smoothie Rider, the first brick-and-mortar from a local food truck that uses produce from Southern Californian farms to create organic smoothies, bowls and parfaits. Still to come at Liberty Public Market is food stall-version of RakiRaki Ramen and a causal sit-down eating space that combines Doughballs, a fast-casual pizzeria, with an all-day breakfast concept called Crackheads that will serve breakfast sandwiches and feature a DIY cereal bar.