"This is the first restaurant we have had in Dumas. We like to go places where we can offer something different," said Chrissi Casanova, who along with her fiance, Nick Plava, opened Roma Restaurant at 410 S. Dumas Avenue in Dumas back in March. "So far, we have had good support. We are hoping to grow and keep that support."
Like its name implies, Roma Restaurant is an Italian restaurant, offering dishes like chicken piccata, chicken marsala, and a wide variety of pastas. Plava, the chef, is Albanian. When he arrived in the United States 17 years ago, he had no job and could not speak English. An Italian uncle, however, was in the restaurant business, and he gave Plava a chance to learn to cook Italian cuisine. Though Plava has never had formal culinary training, "that has never stopped him from having a successful business," said Casanova. For the next decade and a half, Plava had a succession of successful restaurants in Texas. In the process, he also learned to speak English.
"Nick is ambitious," said Casanova, who has been working in restaurants with Plava for four years; they met in Beeville, where Plava had a restaurant. "We had a restaurant in Tulia. A family member took it over. The business has always been a big family thing. We wanted to keep expanding. Nick came to Dumas and found the building. He liked it, so we got it. There was no Italian restaurant here, so we said, 'Why not?' "
While Plava does the cooking, Casanova handles the front. "To me, having a restaurant is probably one of the most rewarding jobs to have, because you come into contact with so many different people," she said.
"All of our food is fresh, and the sauces are made from scratch," Casanova continued. "Putting together the menu is about figuring out what is offered in Dumas and what can we put on our menu that will make us different." Chicken piccata is one of the restaurant's most popular dishes, though Casanova says she has a hard time explaining to people what capers are. Though Albanian food is "good and healthy," Casanova says her Albanian fiance never considered adding Albanian dishes to the menu. "There is not a market for it. Most people don't know where Albania is, or they have never heard of it. Everyone knows Italy."
For an Italian restaurant, serving wine is almost mandatory. Casanova says they are in the process of obtaining a liquor license. In the meantime, customers are invited to bring their own to enjoy with the food. "We have the glasses and the openers."
Roma Restaurant does catering, though Casanova says they are unable to deliver at this time. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm.
Despite Dumas Avenue construction issues, Casnova is optimistic about the restaurant's growth. "We are here, and we don't intend to go anywhere. We are very appreciative of our customers … if you have people enjoying your food, you know you have done something right."