Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cafe Alfredo - Delicious Italian Fare in Naples


   There are a select few restaurants with delicious food and welcoming warmth where I am always happy to send or bring friends. These delights become their new “favorite spot”, and they in turn will bring their friends. Like a ripple upon a pond's suface, "the word" spreads. Such “finds” are consistently very good to excellent in food, service and ambiance. Café Alfredo has earned its place on my select list of “casual and delicious”restaurants. With its indoor-outdoor bar, great bartender, date night and family-friendly attractive setting and fresh, fresh food, it's a slam-dunk to recommend.
Dino Preparing and Serving Dover Sole
Cafe Alfredo, family owned and operated, is in the Pizzaiolis' former site at the Galleria Shoppes at Vanderbilt, 2359 Vanderbilt Beach Road, a few doors east of  failed Absinthe's white bones. It's named not for a sauce, but for  talented Chef Alfredo Bajraktarevic from Rome, Italy, who also started and still owns Panevino Ristorante by Pelican Bay, now 16 years old- that's staying power in Naples! The cuisine is authentic Northern Italian. Everything from pastas, wood-fired pizzas, to each sauce is made fresh from scratch. You may be personally greeted by Chef Alfredo, or his wife and co-owner, Tina as you enter.
I like to order a drink from the full bar and sit on the shaded patio in the evening in  comfy chairs with friends. This outdoor setting is perfect to come "as you are" casual.  When it gets warm out, you may want to enter the air conditioned dining room. Take in the copper clad tall wood-burning oven, the copper bar top, stone work and tall ceilings.
 Loaves of bread are baked as needed; little is made in advance. Inhaling the fresh baked aroma is exciting! Pick your linen-covered table then dip your fresh sliced bread into the complimentary dish of olive oil, refreshingly tangy with herbs and spices-its taste is a sign of more good things to follow.

  We enjoyed chatting with the lovely bartender before we went to our table, and tried several wines through the night. Start with a nice Chianti, Chianti Classico Riserva, Barolo, Zin, Merlot or Malbec-it's a good selection of wines. The pricing is very wallet friendly-there's delicious ones to be savored for under $30 as well as ones in the $70's.  I favor the $11 super Tuscan, and a $7.50 Chianti Ruffino (somehow I forgot the names!) We were happy with wine quality and the good sized pours for generally $7-10.
Cousins Gino and Alfredo al Fresco!
You're in the best of hands if Chef Alfredo's cousin Gino is your server. He introduced himself, asked what we liked, and then made suggestions that were spot on.

If you're in a light dining mood, choose from  cold or hot antipasti, a personal pizza, or a variety of homemade pastas. Entrees of chicken, veal, and seafood are generous. Most are priced under $17. This is wallet friendly for "date night" or families alike in the lovely setting.

We started with the freshly tossed thin crust, $12 Neapolitan pizza-add a variety of toppings at $1 each. We watched the ball of dough repeatedly tossed high again and again, transformed into a thin oven-ready disc.
 It  emerges hot and crisp from the wood burning oven with an alluring aroma. Plain, with pepperoni or with the works, this thin crusted pizza is the real thing!
The $9 crab cake is large and  tender with a crisp pan-seared crust. It holds court in a delicous roasted tomato sauce that's invigorated  with a sharp splash of balsamic vinegar.
 It is a meal for a light eater.

Salmon carpaccio ($10)  is a lovely presentation, topped with cilantro, capers and a deconstructed bruschetta of bold tomatoes, lemon juice and olive oil.
 We watched as the fresh cilantro was sliced, tomatoes diced, and the lemon carved. You just don't see that at other restaurants! The fresh cilantro and lemon juice add zip to each bite, complementing the high quality smoked salmon.

Pappardelle e fungi, or Porcini and Portobello mushrooms sauted in a rich brown sauce ($14), was my favorite of the evening, full of the mushrooms rich earthy flavor.
 The freshly made broad pasta is al dente, and the sauce heavenly. This is for mushroom lovers! Highly recommended.

Clams casino ($9) are elevated to a crisp savory ambrosia; a molluscan and porcine  surf and turf -Chef Alfredo style. Eight fresh meaty clams on the half shell are topped with crisp flavorful pancetta, herbs and panko, baked and served over a subtle white wine sauce. We went wild for these tender bite-sized treats! Highly recommended.

Some entrees can be ordered as half portions; perfect for trying a good variety of selections. We ordered and were and were very happy with the ravioli that way. Each pasta pillow is amply stuffed with a four cheese mixture, bathed in a light pink sauce then sprinkled with tender peas.
Osso buco "alla Romana"  ($25) is a large braised veal shank brimming with tender meat, cooked low and slow for hours with a simple tritato (diced carrots, celery and onion) medley,  a light  tomato and white wine sauce and a touch of sage (a hint of alla Romagnola). All is served atop spaghetti and graced with a scented rosemary sprig.
 I barely finished my large succulently tender portion, and that's even after sharing with a few other food lovers! Recommended.

Dover sole is rarely found under $35-40 these days, and the "alla Mugnaia" preparation ($33) is worth every penny.
Chef Matteo Hanaman classically pan sautes the whole fish with clarified butter (Meunière for the French) ,then he or Dino brings it tableside, deboning it and plating it for one or  two diners.
The fish is cooked perfectly, oh so moist and tender, with a delectable light brown crisp crust.  It gets better. Chef Matteo creatively plates it with two quite different sauces-a parsley, garlic-lemon sauce, and a sage, orange, champagne and balsamic vinegar reduction.
 With sides of potatoes and seasonal veggies, it's a good portion for one person, and a light portion for each person when split (above, a split for two diners- one person's share).  Highly recommended!

Dessert was a wonderful thick creamy orange panna cotta ($7), with a goodly sweet and slightly tart Florida citrusy nip, that's fine for two or three to share.
We relaxed and chatted with strangers, now our new friends, with whom we shared tastes of food  at a neighboring table. Delicous cappuccinos ($5) are brimming with bold fresh taste.
We noticed that as Chef Alfredo made the rounds of the tables, some happy diners invited him to have a seat or share a drink. We and guests at other tables agreed-it's a very good evening's value, and a great way to make new friends. We would return in a "Neapolitan heartbeat" to try other dishes at lunch, dinner, or just for drinks. Check it out!

at the Galleria Shoppes at Vanderbilt, 2359 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Suite 416, Naples,431-8605, www.CafeAlfredoNaples.com
Chef Alberto and Chef Matteo by the Brick Oven

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your review got me to go to the website and look at the menus -- Big mistake, Cafe Alfredo. No prices! Look, we all understand prices can change. According to the review, your prices are fair. Not listing prices on your website makes one think they are higher than they probably are.

charlesalvarez23 said...

Wow! your post was excellent and that Italian food looks so delightful. I love Italian food because it is not delicious, it is also healthy and creamy. Thanks for this.

Zummi | Real Estate Philippines

Ivan Seligman said...

Anonymous,

Good point on not having prices- makes one question prices and even if it's worth visiting. I do prefer restaurants to list prices. A simple .pdf that is used to print menus can be put online even easier.
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Zummi,

Thank you for your notes-CAfe Alfredo is well worth a visit if you're in town!

Ivan

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