After Hours: Serving up a taste of Italy right outside Camp Foster
Stars and Stripes August 24, 2006
KITANAKAGUSUKU, Okinawa — Mama Mia! Not far from the gates of Camp Foster is a quaint little restaurant with a big Italian taste that would be right at home in northern Italy.
I started with lunch, an Italian classic of meatballs and spaghetti, and wound up returning for dinner and breakfast. All three were perfecto.
This is not the place to go if you are looking for a quick meal. Owner Ray Payne may not be Italian, but he and the staff of the Rose Garden have created a truly authentic dining experience that should be savored.
The sights, aromas and flavors of the Mediterranean permeate a dining area that seats about 63. Meals here are served at tables clustered in little groups that foster intimate conversation.
The vineyard motif, complete with wine racks, creates a warm setting that was apparent from the moment we walked in the door to be greeted by a waitress ready to seat us.
Even during lunch, there were so many things to choose on the menu that my companion and I took at least 15 minutes to decide. Fettuccine Alfredo, Maria’s meatball spaghetti, cacciatore chicken, eggplant parmesan Milanese, just reviewing the menu is making me hungry again.
And until 5 p.m., the menu includes breakfast — and boy, can they do it right. The French toast was unbelievable. It was made with bread baked at the restaurant that day, liberally sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon and served on a warm plate with sugar cane syrup made here on Okinawa.
My lunch companion and I agreed that the coffee alone makes this a place worth visiting. The Rose Garden serves a freshly ground 100 percent Arabica-Colombian blend that is nothing short of perfect.
Fresh seems to be the byword here. Payne said they use only fresh ingredients, including herbs they grow themselves. They make their own Italian sausage, bake most of their own breads and make their own deserts.
My only problems with dining at the Rose Garden are too much food and not enough space in my stomach.
As always, if you drink, do so responsibly. Don’t drink and drive.
Prices: Breakfast ranges from about 600 yen to the steak, eggs, toast and pan-fried potatoes breakfast for 1,365 yen. Lunch averages about 900 to 1,000 yen, and dinner ranges from about 1,300 yen to 2,200 yen. The most costly meal is the steak and lobster special, a several-course meal that includes escargot, soup, salad, main dish, coffee and desert for about 4,100 yen.
Hours: 8 a.m. to midnight, last order taken at 11 p.m.
Drinks: Japanese beers starting at 600 yen. The Italian wine list includes Leonardo and Romeo & Juliet, which is available by the glass or carafe. Cocktails average about 600 yen.
Food: Traditional breakfasts, Italian cuisine.
Clientele: A mix of Okinawans and Americans, mostly adults of all ages.
Location: From the Camp Foster American Legion gate, take a left onto Highway 330. The restaurant is on the right side of the road.