NOTE: Robin’s Italian Cafe is now closed. Sad to see this one go.
I think we stumbled upon Robin’s Italian Cafe by accident a few years ago. It was right after Robin had taken over Butch’s, a restaurant she had worked at since she was a teenager. We were enchanted immediately. You won’t find ground-breaking cuisine at Robin’s – this is more a type of place you go when you’re looking for Italian comfort food – the kind that’s filling and messy and not much to look at, but warms your belly like no other. Not to say that Robin’s is pedestrian or bad in any way, it’s just very unassuming Italian chow, just like the owner herself.
We had a meetup there a few months ago, and they went out of their way to accommodate our group of over 20 people, most of whom wanted separate checks. They handled that and the needs of our group with surprising ease and friendliness. But then again, I’ve never had anything less than a friendly experience here.
Our waitress on this day was especially friendly and engaging. Upon greeting us, she brought us a basket of basic supermarket Italian bread and a margarine-based garlic spread, but hinted to us that we might prefer to use their house vinaigrette as a dipping sauce in lieu of the margarine – oh my, she was right. It took something that wasn’t impressive and made it a bread basket worth digging into repeatedly. So keep that suggestion in mind if you decide to go.
All dinners come with the bread, your choice of soup (wedding or minestrone), their house salad, and your entree. Very, very filling and very inexpensive comparatively.
For our soup, we both went with the wedding soup. It’s a bit different than most wedding soups in that it doesn’t have any meatballs, but it has great flavor nonetheless, with shredded chicken, and large chunks of carrots and celery along with the obligatory acini pasta in a tasty chicken broth. The soup came out piping hot, but unfortunately the pasta was overcooked just a touch.
The salad at Robin’s is where it’s at – love, love, love the fact that it has pasta in it interspersed with fresh, crisp veggies. I love it with French dressing, while my husband prefers Italian. Still, it’s one of the few salads of which I will eat every last bite.
But the true gem at Robin’s? The Create Your Own Pasta entree, where for a base price $9.95, you get your choice of pasta and sauce (extra toppings are at additional cost, which are pretty reasonable). My pasta of choice is their homemade linguine with butter and cream sauce, to which I added a meatball, sausage, spinach and tomatoes. We like to “pink it up” a bit to make it a tomato cream sauce by getting a side of marinara. Yes, they have a tomato cream sauce but it’s more tomato than cream, so we’ve found this is the best way to get the results we’re looking for. In any case, the possible combinations that one can come up with are numerous, with only your imagination as the limit. Even if what you’re looking for isn’t listed on the menu, if it’s possible for them to do it, they will. Robin’s is accommodating that way, even to our strange requests.
No room for appetizers or dessert, as the entree with soup, salad and bread resulted in our taking home half of our pasta because were too full to finish. So, in closing, what can you expect at Robin’s? Straightforward homey Italian food, friendly service, huge portions, at a great price.
If you’d like to go: Robin’s Italian Cafe, 4720 E. Main Street, Whitehall. 614.864.7300.