Roma 3: Authentic Italian cuisine says ‘Bonjourno’ to Morristown
Once off the vine and in the hands of a skilled chef, the average tomato is elevated to culinary heights, as demonstrated by Morristown’s new Italian restaurant, Roma 3, located in Sherwood Commons on East Morris Boulevard.
“We start with the tomato,” co-owner and operator Moustafa Elkammash said. “We make everything from scratch.”
The recipes for the red, pink and white sauces were developed over time, and the kitchen does not stock any pre-blended ingredients in cans or other containers, as some restaurants do to save costs.
“I buy the whole, fresh tomato,” Elkammash said. “I blend everything in. It’s hard work, but you have to work to get the right taste. If you get the right taste, people are going to come again to try it. If you don’t get it right, they’ll try somewhere else. If you come here, you are going to get our seasonings, our taste.”
Elkammash is joined by co-owners Hamada Essayed and Moh Elkalifa; all three of them worked in Alessandria, Italy before relocating to the United States. The group currently operates Roma 1 in Rogersville and Roma 2 in Church Hill.
Elkammash’s four years of culinary school training, beginning at age 19, provides the basis for the made-to-order dishes at Roma 3. He is the main cook at the location, with his partners putting in hours as well, to get things going. General manager is George Smith.
The restaurant is open 12 hours per day, seven days a week, beginning at 10:30 a.m. The weekend closing times can stretch beyond 11 p.m., depending on customer demand.
Roma 3 opened in late 2013, without a lot of fanfare. The long hours of operation and word of mouth are the best way to build a loyal following, according to Elkammash. With patience and consistent work in the kitchen, the customer base will build itself, he said. The fresh ingredients and perfected recipes don’t hurt either.
“I don’t do a big grand opening,” he said. “I want to make it an established business. I work to provide good food and good business, and I don’t lose a customer that way.”
The entrees at Roma 3 include New York Style Pizza, both Neapolitan (round and thin crust) and Sicilian (square and thick crust). Prices range from $5.99 for a small cheese pizza to $10 for a large; toppings are priced from $1 to $1.99, depending on the pizza size.
There are 14 specialty pizzas offered, including the popular White Pizza that features the restaurant’s white sauce, mozzarella, parmesan and ricotta cheese and a choice of any one topping for $14.99 (large Neapolitan).
Roma 3 offers 26 pasta plates that include Seafood Vista ($11.99), featuring the Roma spicy vista sauce, and Fettuccini Alfredo, cooked with the Roma cream sauce, Gareta cheese, broccoli and a choice of grilled chicken or shrimp ($10.99). A number of dishes are priced under $10.
The restaurant offers hot or cold 9-inch sandwiches for $5.99, including the popular Pizza Burger, featuring a half-pound patty, mozzarella cheese, pizza sauce and grilled onions on a bun and the Gyros that include chicken or lamb, onions, tomatoes and cucumber sauce in pita bread. Calzones and Stromboli, priced from $6.99 to $14.99, round out the entrees.
Everything, literally, is made from scratch at Roma 3, including the bread dough. That might explain why one of the restaurant’s side orders, or appetizers, is proving to be a big draw from the growing Morristown customer base.
For $6.99, one can order a platter of Garlic Knots, a grouping of fresh, and oh-so-soft, portions of baked-on-site bread that have been baptized with garlic and butter (it’s best to refrain from checking a calorie counter on your smart phone and bring a friend).
“Two customers this week came in just because they heard about them,” Elkammash said.
The draw to locate in Morristown was its variety of businesses, according to Elkammesh, who looked at potential locations in Kingsport and Johnson City, as well.
“There are areas in Morristown that are unique.” He referred to the South Cumberland area, where a mix of cultures is evident. “I look at it in a good way — the barbeque on the street; they have music playing outside. It looks interesting and different from other towns. It has everything I need.
Elkammash lives in Rogersville with his wife Rania and their two daughters, Mariam and Nada, but is considering an eventual move to Morristown.
The people here are friendly and nice,” he said.
Roma 3 is located at 247 E Morris Blvd. The restaurant’s phone number is 423-254-1974.
-By Glenna Howington, Tribune Staff Writer