Downtown pizzeria cooks up some ‘old world’ Italian style

By Josette Keelor
Photos by Josh Triggs

WINCHESTER, Va. – Roma Old Town Wood-Fired Pizzeria is serving up a selection of old and new, and it’s a recipe that’s kept the Roma name going strong for 27 years.

The newest of three local Roma Italian restaurants, Roma Old Town opened at 21 and 23 N. Loudoun St. on April 1, 2014 and featured something the other locations didn’t have at the time: wood-fired pizza.

Firing the pizza dough produces a crispy crust and a slightly smoky taste, said 27-year-old Caleb Ritenour, managing member of the downtown restaurant.

The restaurant uses white oak farmed locally in Berryville, which works well for Roma’s product because it creates a high temperature conducive for firing the pizza.

Though the restaurant cautions customers that high temperatures can cause searing of the pizza crust, this possibility hasn’t seemed to have burned off too much of Roma’s business.

Mealtimes in Old Town usually find the restaurant hopping with good humor and smelling of fresh bread, cheese and Italian spices.

It all contributes to an “old world style” that Ritenour said dates back to pizza’s beginnings in Italy.

“[It’s] kind of going back to the roots of how pizza started,” he said.

In 1991, on his 21st birthday, Benjamin Ritenour purchased the first Roma location in Stephens City, eventually building it into Roma Casual Italian & Greek Dining.

It started as a simple pizzeria, his son, Caleb, said recently, but it grew to include what its website,, boasts as “the best of the Mediterranean.”

Roma Casual, at 120 Fairfax Pike, is a destination for Classic Italian and Greek cuisine, the site says.

“Customers often drive an hour or more to enjoy Roma’s hand-stretched brick-oven pizza, slow-cooked meats, rotisserie gyros, souvlaki, moussaka, avgolemeno, home-made tzaziki, sauces and dressings, and more, and more…”

It’s “an authentic atmosphere, at or below ‘chain restaurant’ prices.”

Years later, a second location opened at 2444 Valley Ave. in Winchester. Roma on the Go also now features brick oven pizza, classic pasta dishes and a variety of appetizers, but it specializes in subs and sandwiches for customers on the run. Patrons can enjoy a quick but satisfying dine-in meal at the eatery’s tables or take their food for the road.

The menu includes choices of soup, salad, brick oven pizza, calzones and stromboli, hoagies, subs, pitas and sides.

Roma on the Go, which opened about eight years ago, is also the only one of the three that offers delivery service, Caleb Ritenour said.

In downtown Winchester, Roma Old Town has also carved its own niche, striving to be a gathering place serving up generous portions and “unparalleled” selection from its taproom, according to its website,

“[Roma Old Town] embodies the same level of freshness, originality, and value you’ve come to expect from Roma Casual Italian and Greek… And sets it ablaze!” the site says.

The same Italian and Greek foods are available in Old Town, but Ritenour said pizza is the top draw.

Best sellers are the Old Town supreme – with tomato sauce, onions, peppers, mushrooms, sausage, pepperoni and mozzarella; the Trifecta – with brushed garlic, Italian tomatoes, sausage, pepperoni, soppressata, fresh mozzarella and basil; and the Parma, which Ritenour said is most popular in the summertime because of its brushed garlic, fresh mozzarella, arugula, prosciutto and parmesan cheese.
All three specialty pizzas are marked at $12 for a small 10-inch pie, or $18 for a 14-inch large. Other specialty pizzas range in price from $8 for a small to $19 for a large. A simple cheese pizza is $8 or $12, and a daily lunch special from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. offers a one-topping pie with your choice of a garden or Caesar salad for a total of $9.
Design-your-own pizzas are also available, and gluten-free crust is an additional $2.50.

All three Roma locations offer gluten-free pizza crust for those with wheat or gluten sensitivities and can accommodate food sensitivities in other ways too, such as grilling the chicken marsala instead of breading it, Ritenour said.

Like Roma Casual in Stephens City, Roma Old Town offers a full bar and two years ago added Alesatian Brewing Company upstairs.

Wednesdays are wine days at Roma’s, when all hand-selected wine by the bottle is half off, and Thursday is Pint Night, with $3 select pints from 3 to 9 p.m. During happy hour at Roma, all Alesatian draft beer, wine, sangria and handcrafted cocktails are $2 off.

Roma also offers sodas and fresh brewed iced tea, fresh squeezed lemonade, bottled water and locally roasted coffee from Lone Oak Coffee Company.

The taproom offers 320 Citra Wheat, Hop Sneeze IPA, and Loka Koko Stout, with plans for adding Alesatian Dry Irish Stout soon.

The upstairs menu includes Roma wood-fired pizza, salad and taproom appetizers.

Having the brewery “adds to that whole local feeling for us,” Ritenour said.

It’s also enabled Roma to be more of a presence downtown at events that allow for beer gardens, which often feature local craft beers. Such events help Roma and Alesatian interact more with the greater community, which in turn bolsters attention on Old Town Winchester.

Ritenour said improvements made to the Loudoun Street Mall in recent years have aided Roma in growing its brand in Old Town. As Old Town Winchester focused more attention on making its walking mall a destination for families and attracting businesses and tourists to the downtown area, it’s also helped existing businesses by bringing more people through their doors.

Events throughout the year include festivals and food-related events like the Chocolate Escape at Valentine’s Day, the St. Paddy’s Celtic Fest in March, and Oktoberfest in the fall.

“I think we’re being recognized for what Winchester has to offer,” Ritenour said of Old Town.

But all the competition among businesses doesn’t bother Ritenour, who said Roma has long stood out because of its brand of casual Italian and Greek dining and has flourished from word of mouth.

And anyway, having more restaurants downtown helps Old Town grow, which Ritenour said in turn helps the city keep attracting more residents, business owners, employees, and visitors to the area.

“I think the more options … it only helps everybody.”

Ritenour said there aren’t any immediate big plans for the future of Roma. The goal at the moment is to maintain its three successful restaurant locations and accompanying brewery and see where that leads the family.

“I’m prideful and proud of what my father started,” Ritenour said.

“Every day is something unexpected. That’s part of being a business owner,” he said. “Every day’s different, which makes it exciting.”

Roma Old Town is at 21 and 23 N. Loudoun St. on the walking mall. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday.

Taproom hours are 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, and noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

For more information, call 540-667-2743 or visit

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