Alfredo Italian BYO, Berwyn, PA – A Review

by artfuldiner on September 23, 2015

in Artful Diner Review, Pennsylvania, Review, Wining and Dining

Alfredo Italian BYO

668 Lancaster Avenue

Berwyn, Pennsylvania

(610) 640-2962

 When longtime Berwyn mainstay Trattoria San Nicola abruptly closed its original location, the space was quickly snatched up by restaurateurs Alfredo and Barbara Giannaccari. The restaurant was subsequently sold to Steven Kincade, who has been the proprietor/general manager since September 2013.

Alfredo Berwyn - InteriorAlfredo Italian BYO is an eatery not unlike its predecessor, majoring in Southern Italian cuisine with assorted updated regional touches. And the décor, despite a bit of subtle sprucing up, has changed very little… There are two small dining rooms boasting unadorned closely spaced tables, exposed brick walls, and polished hardwood floors. Which means, of course, that with nothing to mitigate all those hard surfaces (like draperies or tablecloths, for instance), the noise level can be formidable.

And the Berwyn parking situation remains the same – it is, to put the matter as euphemistically as possible, just plain “hell.” There is a miniscule parking area behind the restaurant that is also shared by several other businesses; so you may or may not be fortunate enough to snare a spot if you dine late for lunch or early for dinner. Just be advised… extricating your vehicle from the ill-designed lot will undoubtedly be a damn sight more difficult that finding a parking spot in the first place. If you’re unlucky, however, street parking is your only other option. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

But my beef with Alfredo is neither the parking nor the ambiance… and you might as well throw in the service as well; with the exception of the owner (who left us waiting to be seated for a full 10 minutes while he jabbered away on his cell phone), it has always been both enthusiastic and professional. No, the problem, unfortunately, is the food. And if you happen to stop by for just one dinner, you might easily be fooled, which is why professional restaurant critics always make more than one visit before penning a review. Three has been the rule of thumb for the New York Times since the 1960s. Two dinners and a lunch (providing the restaurant serves lunch) seem like the perfect combo to this writer.

Alfredo Berwyn - BreadAnd speaking of dinner… it begins promisingly enough with a miniature loaf of fresh-from-the-oven baked bread accompanied by either herb-infused olive oil or marinara sprinkled with parmesan cheese.

A good start. Appetizers, however, are very much a mixed bag. My Caesar salad, for example, was generic at best and simply couldn’t hold a candle to the stellar representative I’ve sampled on several occasions at Creed’s Seafood and Steak (a non-Italian restaurant, by the way) in King of Prussia, PA. In addition, Alfredo’s house-made dressing was slightly off tasting; which I really didn’t think too much about until my less than edifying jolt of peristaltic indisposition about 2:00 a.m. the following morning.

Alfredo Berwayn - BruschettaOther starters included bland-leading-the-bland traditional bruschetta (pictured) and a side of escarole and beans ordered as an appetizer during a second dinner sojourn. This latter prelude was comprised of overly chewy greenery and beans so devoid of flavor they could have been extricated from a can minutes before.

Alfredo Berwyn - Crispy ArtichokeAll is not lost, however, as the “crispy artichoke” is clearly star of the antipasti show. Here you have two picture-perfect cornmeal-dusted artichoke hearts in the shape of mini lamb chops reclining in a sumptuous pool of lemon zucchini purée. This is a dish that is as photogenic as it is delicious… But how a kitchen that is capable of this type of preparatory and presentational subtlety on the one hand, can also turn out items that are very nearly beneath contempt on the other, remains one of those totally inexplicable culinary conundrums.

Alfredo Berwyn - Rigatoni AmatricianaAnd as you move on to the entrées, the mystery seems to deepen even more… But first let’s talk about the pastas. In my opinion, they are… well, yes… “good.” Not outstanding, but solid, reliable choices. The gnocchi Sorrentina (Sorrento style), for instance – hand-rolled, house-made gnocchi baked with fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce – was slightly on the mushy side, but still quite enjoyable… ditto the chewy al dente rigatoni Amatriciana (pictured), an amalgam of pancetta, sausage, cherry tomatoes, and mushrooms all buttressed by a zippy pomodoro sauce.

Alfredo Berwyn - Salmon AgrodolceThe entrées proper, as noted above, are more problematic. Beginning on a positive note, the salmon prepared with a sweet mustard agrodolcé was quite excellent. In Italian cuisine, agrodolcé is a traditional sweet and sour sauce that is made by reducing sweet and sour elements, traditionally sugar and vinegar. Occasionally, other flavors are added – in this case, sweet mustard – which proved an energizing complement to the perfectly grilled salmon filet lightly dusted with pistachio. An excellent presentation.

Alfredo Berwyn - Veal SaltimboccaBut then… one goes from the sublime to the ridiculous with the mere drop of a fork. If there is an acid test for Italian restaurants, it is, in my opinion, veal. And Alfredo’s kitchen failed with flying colors. The veal saltimbocca, a staple of Italian cookery, was – and there is no other word for it – a horror. It was simply terrible. It was, without doubt, the worst, positively the worst, veal saltimbocca it has ever been my displeasure to ingest.

The sauce had an odd, off-putting flavor and consistency… but it was the texture and taste (or lack thereof) of the veal that really set my stomach on edge. I cannot say of a certainty if the offending medallion was faux or real veal; I only know that its constitution was a strange combination of Styrofoam and wet cardboard that literally disintegrated in the mouth without even a modicum of mastication.

Alfredo Berwyn - Chicken PaniniAnd speaking of strange textures… During a recent luncheon visit, the chicken on both my wife’s Mediterranean salad and my panini suffered from the very same maladies: they were overcooked, inordinately chewy, and virtually tasteless. Once again, one must question, not only preparatory practices, but quality issues as well. In addition, like the aforementioned Caesar, the Mediterranean salad was nothing to write home about; and the panini, as you may observe from the photo, was improperly grilled or toasted. These dishes are relatively no-brainers; there is simply no good reason why they should be sent forth so ineptly prepared.

Alfredo Berwyn - Lemon Mascarpone CakeIf Alfredo’s has a saving grace, it is most assuredly their house-made desserts. These range from Italian doughnuts with chocolate & salted caramel sauces to toffee torte to raspberry cheesecake. My nod, however, goes to the decadently delicious Reese’s peanut butter cheesecake and the rich & creamy lemon mascarpone cake (pictured). Hats off to the pastry chef.

Alfredo’s kitchen is obviously capable of turning out perfectly acceptable cuisine. Consistency, however, appears to be its Achilles’ heel… So the question arises: Is this restaurant worth a visit…? To paraphrase one of my favorite movie quotes: “It’s your stomach, Cochise.”

Bon Appétit!


{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: