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Our History

The Rosa—the oldest running restaurant in Portsmouth

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 Portsmouth 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 the cooking traditions and the emphasis on a family-style atmosphere that his friend, Ralph, began.


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. Beside the additions of fresh, homemade pasta, and house wine on tap, the menu—which still includes Grammy Freda’s famous salad dressing—remains pleasantly familiar. We hope you enjoy your dining experience at The Rosa as we continue to honor the history and traditions of the past, while moving gracefully toward the future.

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