My friend Kelli has long told me about the wonders of Alfredo's of Rome, which claims to be the birthplace, in 1914, of Fettucine Alfredo. True or not, they make a mean dish of Alfredo, and we finally made plans to share a meal there one night.
I think Kelli was even more excited to have me try Alfredo's signature drink: the spiced apple martini. I have to admit, I was picturing sicky sweet, unnaturally 'green' drinks in my mind, but Kelli told me this was something different--Alfredo's takes Red Delicious apples and soaks them in their vodka for 3 days. A sprinkle of fresh cinnamon on top and voila--it's like liquid apple pie, but without a lot of the sweetness. Refreshing!
We ordered the prix fixe dinner, which came with 3 courses. I started with, of course, the Alfredo pasta. If you order this as a main dish, they prepare it tableside, but not for the appetizer portion, alas. Still, this was fresh, light, not at all thick and heavy like you might expect. It had gooey cheesiness but didn't sink like a stone in my belly--beautifully balanced.
Kelli ordered the Caprese salad, another classic. Red & yellow tomatoes, surprisingly delicious for mid-December, topped with fresh mozzarella and basil. This was very, very good. Honestly, if we'd stopped here, with the martinis, pasta and Caprese, I would have been happy.
Main courses were still to come, though. I ordered the broiled halibut, which had a lovely, crunchy crust, and came with mashed potatoes and a white wine/lemon/caper sauce. It had a few green beans which were just ok (these are NOT my favorite veggie).
Kelli ordered the Lasagna, and my word was that delicious. It was a sort of deconstructed, loosely configured lasagna with a killer meat sauce. I may have snagged not one, but two bites. I wish I'd had room for more.
What really stole the show, however, was Kelli's favorite dish there: the green beans! I don't like green beans, but I LOOOOOVED THESE. Sautéed in just the right amount of garlic, barely cooked so they were still crunchy. Oh man..I could have made a meal just out of these. Amazing.
Kelli opted for the simple, vanilla gelato. What a WINNER. This had such a rich vanilla flavor, I would guess Madagascar vanilla. I had 2 bites of this, and preferred it by leaps and bounds to my pick.
The food was fresh and surprisingly delicious. While there were some tourists (listen, it's in Rockefeller Center, and the Christmas tree is a huge draw this time of year), I was surprised and impressed that there were so many actual Italians there (speaking Italian and everything!) There are several branches of Alfredo's, including one in Rome, so if actual Italians from Italy make a point to visit this place while in NYC, I think that says a lot.
My only complaint would be with the service. We specifically made reservations ahead of time for a seat near the window (for better people watching), but those tables were all filled when we arrived. Rather than wait for our window seat, we went to the back room. No one welcomed us, greeted us, etc. Odd. Our server was a tightly-wound woman whose attention seemed elsewhere that night. I must give a shout out to the male server who, although he didn't take our orders, was quite attentive and followed up when Kelli's green beans were MIA. It was a Thursday night and while they were busy, it cleared out quickly after we arrived, so I'm not quite sure why we were so 'neglected,' but we made the most of it.
Despite the so-so service, I would go back. I'd get an apple martini, share an Alfredo app, and maybe split an entrée with someone. Hmm...who would be up for that? Someone whose initials are ABF???
Alfredo of Rome
4 West 49th Street
New York, NY 10020