The History of The Rosa Restaurant

Welcome to The Rosa—the oldest running restaurant in the Portsmouth community, and a place where the past blends effortlessly with the present. 

Set directly beside the picturesque Prescott Park and in front of the colonial atmosphere of Strawbery Banke, this family-style Italian restaurant, once owned by Ralph Rosa, opened its doors on December 22, 1927. Encouraged by his mother  Domenica—an Italian chef—and after having been laid off from the Portmsouth Naval Shipyard during a slack period in 1926, Ralph transformed his family home into The Rosa Restaurant.

With authentic Italian recipes, and with an uncompromising desire to treat customers like family, Ralph graciously served patrons of The Rosa for fifty-four years. During that half century, The Rosa weathered the Great Depression—only closing its doors for a two-month period—and has the distinction of having served the first glass of beer in Portsmouth, a twelve-ounce glass for ten cents, after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933.

In 1981, Joe Hunt purchased The Rosa and continued cooking traditions and the emphasis on a family-style atmosphere that his friend, Ralph, began. Now The Rosa is ready, once again, to welcome its guests. With a newly fashioned open-concept interior, this building—established in 1856—has been structurally remodeled from the inside out, while still maintaining the feel and ambiance of what began in 1927. Besides the use of fresh ingredients and house wine on tap, the menu—which still includes Grammy Freda's famous salad dressing—remains pleasantly familiar. 

We hope you enjoy you dining experience at The Rosa as we continue to honor the history and traditions of the past, while moving gracefully toward the future.

We've got the best water in town...

Our state-of-the-art water filtration system by Atlas Water uses reverse osmosis to give our water, flat or sparkling, the most refreshing taste around. Come in and try it out today!


Worried about your dietary restrictions?

We have proudly crafted a menu that allows anyone and everyone to enjoy a meal here at The Rosa. We offer gluten free items, and we can modify many of our dishes to your specific restrictions!