DINING REVIEW:

There’s a new kid in town named Roman — Roman’s Gourmet Express, that is.

Open just four weeks, this convenient spot for breakfast and lunch is already doing a bang-up business. That’s because it offers the right formula to the local population of businesspeople — crowd-pleasing food, a large, cheery space, fair prices and quick, professional service.

Roman’s Gourmet Express is on the street level of the large office building at the corner of Brand Boulevard and Milford Street, just a couple of blocks from the Glendale (134) Freeway. You’ll know it by the outdoor dining area out front, demarcated by bright red flowers and spiky succulents. Sunlight pours into the interior through floor-to-ceiling windows onto the sparkling clean tile floors and shiny resin tables.

It might feel a bit industrial, but the upbeat music and smiling faces that greet you at the counter create an ambience of happy efficiency. The huge menu on the wall is easy to read (anyone over 40 knows what I’m talking about!) and full of healthy choices.

After ordering, you’re given a number to place on your table where you can pop open your laptop like so many other patrons. No laptop? Sit upstairs, along the window, or outside. It’s fun for people-watching. This is an easy place to dine alone or with friends. It appears a large majority of patrons call in their orders and take their stuff to go.

So what are the food choices at Roman’s Gourmet Express? There are sandwiches, salads, soups, pastas, omelets and wraps. I would say the strongest items on the menu lie in the areas of salads, pressed wraps and soups. I’m a salad fiend. My family will tell you I can’t go a day without a salad. So I’m always looking for places that offer new veggie combinations.

Roman’s offers eight salads ($6.49 to $7.49), most with names you’d recognize like BBQ Chopped Salad, Chinese Chicken, or Roman’s House Salad. But many of them feature some sort of twist. For instance, Roman’s Salad has greens, cucumbers, red peppers and — cranberries with a Caesar dressing.

The Chinese Chicken Salad has oranges and cashews. The BBQ Salad does not get its name because it’s doused in barbecue sauce. Rather, the chicken is barbecued, as in grilled over a fire. And it has cowboy pinto beans, salsa and crispy fried onions.

But my favorite choice is the Health Nut Salad. The grilled chicken is mixed with apple, red cabbage, carrots and roasted peanuts. And it has a dressing I’ve never seen before — a sienna-colored peanut dressing with pretty flecks of cilantro.

The Press Wraps ($7.49) are the kind of thing I could crave regularly but my waistband wouldn’t allow it. They have that wonderful smell of “fresh-baked flat bread meets panini press” and are filled with a variety of creative ingredients.

For instance, there’s the Jambalaya with grilled shrimp and chicken, cheese, veggies, chilies and a creamy Cajun sauce. And the California is also wonderful with its chicken, two cheeses, salsa, guacamole and tangy lime-cilantro sauce.

At breakfast time, from 7 to 10:30 a.m., they have a few other wraps available in various combinations of eggs, breakfast meats, hash browns, veggies and cheese. This baby is bigger than my outstretched hand, and a bargain at $4.50. It’s warm and delicious with a tomato-y sauce on the side that is somewhere between marinara and salsa.

I honestly had to eat half for breakfast and half for lunch. The coffee at Roman’s, however, could use a make-over. The cup I had was rather bitter.

Finally, the item that made me want to review this place is their soup. The Minestrone is great (cup, $2.99; bowl, $3.99). It has a light, flavorful broth with pasta, beans and vegetables. You’ll have to call to make sure it’s the soup of the day though. I imagine their daily Vegetable Soup (49 cents less) is just as good. My only issue here is that the soup comes in a Styrofoam bowl, even when eating in.

The desserts, such as tiramisu and fruit tarts, look pretty awesome. They are baked and brought in every day from their other restaurant in Sherman Oaks. From the looks of it. the Glendale location will also be a success. Their hearty breakfasts and healthy lunch fare keep hard-working folks happy.


LISA DUPUY is a self-proclaimed foodie living in La Crescenta.

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