Robiolina fine dining an unexpected treat in North Stafford

It’s not quite what you expect.

Looking at it from the parking lot, Robiolina is nestled inside a strip shopping center on the side of Garrisonville Road. In a space once occupied by a Mexican restaurant and next to a video game store, you don’t necessarily think fine dining when you look at the place.

When you walk in, however, those assumptions change.

You’re greeted by a manager in a full suit, and wait staff all wearing neckties. Those who were already inside had obviously been here before and had gotten the memo: t-shirts and jeans aren’t the norms here.

But it was no matter. The manager and his wait staff took appeared to take the same care of us as they did every other guest that Friday night.

It was our first time at the restaurant, we were excited to sample the menu. We ordered the grilled portobello mushrooms from the appetizer menu served on a bed of mixed greens with goat cheese.

It was for the table, and I was expecting individual mushrooms on a plate. This looked like and ate like a salad.

Side salads aren’t offered, so we ordered large versions of what sounded like delicious green fare. It was the first time I had ever eaten a grilled Caesar salad, with its half a romaine lettuce head warmed over a grill, complimented with avocado on toast. It was a different but welcomed taste

The tri-color salad, complete with thinly sliced almonds and sun-dried tomatoes was also a surprising treat.

For our entrees, my wife ordered the salmon, served with mixed vegetables and mashed potatoes. The grill marks on this fish were picture perfect.

My dish — the rigatoni with meatballs — was a savory comfort dish. The basil taste is overwhelming at first bite but never gets old.

For dessert, we split the ricotta cheesecake topped with mint. With a grainy texture, it’s not New York-style cheesecake, but it pairs nicely with coffee.

Speaking of pairing, the manager told us the restaurant does weekly wine-pairing dinners on Wednesdays.

The restaurant is pricier than others in Stafford County. Without drinks and tip, dinner for two cost about $65.

Riobiolina has opened for business late last fall. It’s located at 356 Garrisonville Road in North Stafford and is open daily 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Tri-color salad
Ricotta cheesecake
Grilled Ceasar salad

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