Ada’s Kitchen

At Rockland’s new Italian restaurant, twirling is for spaghetti and for dancing.

By Joe Ricchio
Photographed by Douglas Merriam

After dark, Ada’s Kitchen glows. Color-changing orbs dangle above the dining room, a row of Edison bulbs shines on the bar, and string lights line the windows overlooking Main Street. A mirror ball glints in the lounge area, and ambient tunes soften the din of conversation and the clatter of pizza trays and pasta bowls. The place gets busy as soon as the after-work crowd shows up for happy hour and bustles deep into the evening, when staff from other local restaurants finish their shifts and drop by the bar, with its on-tap prosecco, Campari spritzes and negronis, and lineup of Maine craft beers. For the late-night crowd, Ada’s hosts frequent live music and monthly dance parties deejayed by the chef himself, Siddharta Rumma.

Rumma grew up in Rome — the Italian city, not the eponymous Maine town — where he deejayed, started a couple of indie record labels, and blogged about food before trying his hand in the kitchens of friends’ restaurants in his late 30s. He and his wife, Chiara, an American, moved to Maine in 2014. He got a line gig at the Corner Room, an Italian restaurant in Portland, then moved to Boston to manage the pasta-making operation at Eataly, Mario Batali’s Italian-food emporium. After a stint at Portland’s short-lived Trattoria Fanny, he started at Ada’s, opened late last year by owner Jenn Rockwell, who also runs Main Street Markets, the grocery/lunch counter/caterer a few storefronts away.

The Ada’s menu is all about homey classics. Sardines on toast, fresh mozzarella, marinated olives, and fonduta are all excellent starter options, as is the caponata, a piquant Sicilian-style stew of eggplant, tomato, pine nuts, and raisins, the perfect spread for chewy house-made focaccia. The balance of bitterness and sweetness in a salad of radicchio, shaved asparagus, whipped ricotta, and honey makes for a pleasant mid-meal refresher.

For pizzas, Rumma favors a thin-crust, Roman-style approach. There’s a tomatoey, creamy Margherita and a spicy diavola, as well as original creations, like one topped with three cheeses — mozzarella, provolone, and stracchino — as well as broccoli rabe, spicy sausage, and a drizzle of sweet vincotto.

449 Main St., Rockland. 207-593-7735.

Price Range
Appetizers $3–$12, entrées $14­­–$26.

Disco Dining
Chef Siddharta Rumma, aka DJ Sid, runs both the kitchen and late-night dance parties.

Oodles of Noodles
Rumma and his crew prepare fresh batches of handmade pasta daily.

The real star of the menu, though, is fresh pasta. The carbonara is a Roman staple, as is the cacio e pepe, a simple combination of grated pecorino cheese, cracked black pepper, and spaghetti that serves as a perfect showcase for the handmade noodles. The pappardelle al ragù sticks to the Bolognese tradition of thin ropes of pasta laced with slowly simmered meat sauce, but Rumma adds two cured meats, mortadella and guanciale, to the mix of ground beef and pork for extra earthiness. The bucatini with lemon, butter, chives, cured duck yolk, and an optional caviar garnish is an invention of Rumma’s that’s simultaneously bright and rich. In keeping with the restaurant’s convivial ethos, several pastas can be ordered family style for the table.

The dessert menu mostly comprises Italian mainstays like tiramisu and gelato, but the Belgian-style waffle is a delicious cultural mash-up. The recipe uses Swedish pearl sugar to impart a caramelized crunch to the waffle, which gets topped with whipped lemon mascarpone and blueberry sauce. It’s decadent, but linger long enough after you’ve finished and you might find yourself dancing off the calories at one of DJ Sid’s late-night bashes.