Deroma Italian Restaurant in Huber Heights
By Paula Johnson
Photo: Spaghetti Bolognese and garlic knot rolls at Deroma Italian Restaurant in Huber Heights; photos: Paula Johnson
Jurgen Durstler, a person who possesses a name that is in no way Italian but within whom lays the soul of Tom Colicchio, was my dining companion when I ventured to Huber Heights to try some Italian food at Deroma Italian Restaurant. Durstler’s got mad culinary chops and a lot of dining experience under his belt, so I looked forward to his take on this casual neighborhood strip mall dining establishment.
“Hearty, down to earth, and no frills” are some of the descriptors that come up when you google Deroma, and I would largely agree. There aren’t any cozy red-and-white checked tablecloth covered booths or Mateus Rosé bottles dripping with candle wax. The interior here is brightly lit with large fluorescent overhead lights and features plain uncovered tables and booths. There is a small bar area featuring wine and beer, of which we availed ourselves. (I’m certain not ordering a bottle of Chianti in an Italian restaurant must be considered a crime somewhere.) Deroma’s had quite a decent bottle of Chianti Classico for an affordable $22. We sipped and considered our options, electing to go with the scattershot approach of ordering everything, thus enabling us to try a comprehensive representation of all the menu standards offered.
To that end, here is what we sampled:
Pasta Fagioli ($3.99)
Linguini with White Clam Sauce ($16.99)
Ten-inch Pizza topped with mushrooms, green pepper, onions, and tomato ($9.99)
Fettuccini Alfredo ($13.99)
Spaghetti Bolognese ($14.99)
Spinach Roll ($7.99)
The Holy Trinity
For my money, a worthy red sauce Italian-American restaurant has to offer the holy trinity: sauce, salad, and bread. If they do these three things well, most all other sins can be overlooked. At the very least, there’s the category of “you had one job”—that being sauce. Applying these standards made for an uneven outcome at Deroma. In general, neither Durstler nor I gave our highest marks for the red sauce, finding it sweet, bland, and fairly institutional. The notable exception came in the form of the Spaghetti Bolognese. We tasted garlic, nutmeg, and some depth and flavor in this meaty sauce, making this one of the best things we sampled. As for part two of the trinity, salad, we were disappointed. Deroma’s “Caesar” was anything but, with iceberg lettuce and dressing out of a jar. The bread? Everything was served with soft garlic knot rolls, not the crusty Italian bread I hoped for. Durstler’s one-word summation: flavorless.
Thus far, Deroma wasn’t passing my test with flying colors.
We termed most of what we ate “average” and “acceptable.” However, they dipped below that standard with the Calamari appetizer. As Durstler posited, $9.99 is a bit much for calamari clearly out of a box fresh off the Sysco truck. We didn’t get much enjoyment from the clam sauce or fettuccini, both suffering from mounds of mushy pasta. The Pasta Fagioli was sampled and quickly passed over for something else.
Roll With It
But all was not lost. We found the pizza to be good, as well as the Spinach Roll, pleasantly crusty and garlicky with sauce to dip, if desired. The Lasagna was hearty enough as well, and the Bolognese worth mentioning again in the plus column. Also in the plus column was our server, who tried hard to make our experience a positive one.
Are Batali and Bastianich crying over their Chianti? Maybe, maybe not. On balance, I’d say the execution of the cuisine and the overall experience was fair. I could eat at Deroma again with some judicious ordering. You will still think your nonna makes better sauce, but you could say to yourself, hey, it’s a restaurant, and for a restaurant it ain’t all bad. Durstler’s takeaway from our dining expedition? “If you’re in Huber Heights and you need an Italian fix, Deroma is a reasonable place to stop.” And I second his summation. We experienced good service, an inexpensive bottle of wine, and a few good dishes. There might not be enough happening here to summon you from other locales, but when in Rome…
Deroma Italian Restaurant is located at 6254 Chambersburg Rd. in Huber Heights. For more information, please call 937.233.3602.