It was cold and it was Monday—a tragic pairing in my opinion. I’d worked my first day after a long, luxurious winter break, and we’d languished in rush hour traffic on busy Route 3. By the time we got to Romeo & Juliet, I was counting on a delicious dinner to thaw my icy spirits.

Walking into the Italian restaurant, which opened last summer in the Village Square shopping center next to Spotsylvania Towne Centre, we passed a fire hydrant and two bulky cement-seated tables. Needless to say, it wasn’t love at first sight. All that changed when we pushed through the glass doors and felt the warmth—from the welcome heat of the room and from the pleasant personality of the woman who greeted us.

She led the way to a large back-corner table, dressed with pine-colored cloth napkins and a slick marinara-proof cover. Chandeliers with red, white and green lights, and paintings of iconic images—the Mona Lisa, the Colosseum, the Mediterranean coast—prepared us for a taste of Italy. This chilly evening, we had the place to ourselves, so we took our time perusing a menu packed with pizza and pasta, salads and sauces, then chose a trio of appetizers.

A friendly family feud over pronunciation (is the “c” silent or hard?) inspired us to try the Bruschetta ($4.95). Thick slices of bread topped with tomatoes, basil and Parmesan came to our table crunchy and warm. Dusted with flour and flash-fried, the shrimp and calamari on the Vita Felice Sampler ($9.95) wore a coating as light and airy as a late-spring sweater. The Antipastto Misto platter ($5.95) included medium-sized medallions of tomato and mozzarella, thinly sliced Italian meat and a mound of less-than-lustrous vegetables—lettuce, onion, celery and mushroom—in a sea of balsamic vinaigrette. I found the liquid pleasantly dunk-worthy, thanks to the basket of scrumptious bread our server delivered, but the zesty taste was too pungent for some.

My two teenage boys went for their typical fare, a pizza (large, $12) with bacon, black olives and pepperoni ($2 per topping). They said the thin-crusted pie, made with homemade dough, was “to die for.” Specialty pizzas ($9.95 to $13.95) are available with toppings like steak and cheese, and shrimp and mussels. My brother ordered Vitello Marsala ($18.95), delicate veal and silky slices of mushroom smothered in a sauce that showcased the savory flavor of marsala wine. My sister-in-law chose Eggplant Parmigiana ($11.95), with an ample amount of the fleshy fruit and flat ribbons of pasta that held tight to a robust marinara, but she found the dish a tad too salty.

Mom tried the Capellini di Adrianna ($13.95), with tender broccoli and chicken tucked into enough angel hair pasta to last her for days and topped with an ultra-thin cream sauce. My pasta dish, Tortellini Alla Panna ($10.95), rivaled hers, with supple circles of pasta stuffed with melt-in-your-mouth veal and wrapped in a creamy alfredo—delizioso.

Very small side salads came with most of our meals. Romeo and Juliet also offers weekday lunch specials ($7.95) and a dinner-for-two deal ($50).

Our server reeled off a list of desserts, including a tempting sauvignon chocolate cake, but it was a work night, and we all needed to get home. We pulled on our hats, gloves and scarves, and headed back out into the frigid air. On a full, happy stomach, a cold weather–Monday night combo isn’t nearly as tragic.

Lisa Chinn works in PR at the University of Mary Washington. Her favorite food group is all of them.

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