Upon arriving at Alfredo Restaurant — The Original of Rome, diners are left no choice but to relinquish all their preconceived notions of what an Italian restaurant should look like. Gone is the darkened, candlelit room, the Old World atmosphere, the red and white checkered tablecloths, the dusty paintings and the wandering violin plucking minstrels. Instead, they encounter an interior that reflects modern Italian trends in uncomplicated design. The mirrored ceilings at Alfredo’s create an interplay of lights which scintillate all around the room. The soft-hued furniture of white oak lends a relaxed aura to the place, while contrasting with Alfredo’s chrome-plated, streamlined decor.
Under the veneer of this contemporary setting lies the core of Alfredo’s, namely its menu. Of course, the star of this menu is the Maestosissime Fettuccine All’Alfredo, prepared here exactly as it is in Rome, under the direction of Mr. Alfred DiLelio, whose father invented the original recipe for this world-famous dish.
Like all great classics, the real Fettuccine All’Alfredo is the essence of simplicity: freshly made fettuccine, a blend of the right kind of flour, fresh eggs and water, expertly tossed with a specially prepared butter and choice Reggio Emilia Brand Parmesan cheese. Although the exact quantities of butter and cheese remain a family secret, the DiLelio recipe has never used cream or egg yolk to sauce this fettuccine specialty. The time, effort and expense lavished upon this classical creation have not gone to waste, for the dish supremely gratifies the palate. A well-known travel writer is said to have described the Original Alfredo’s Fettuccine as “only flour, eggs and water — even as the world is only land, sunlight and sea.”
Time has not altered the truth of this observation.
This standard of excellence is reflected in most of the items on the menu. Alfredo’s main dishes are divided into three categories: pastas enlivened by a variety of delicious sauces, appetizing Italian-style salads and tasty veal, chicken and turkey entrees.
Curiously absent from the bill of fare are many of the old standards of American-Italian restaurants, such as lasagna, eggplant, manicotti, ravioli and seafood main courses. The offerings at Alfredo more closely resemble those served in Italy. Rigatoni Alla Zozzona, large size macaroni with a rich, creamy Italian sausage sauce, is a popular dish from the old section of Rome. However, the sauce is so tangy that it might be a bit too pungent for most American palates. In contrast, the Rigatoni All’Alfredo Re provides a well-balanced blend of Italian tomatoes, Chablis and prosciutto ham and cheese. The combination of fresh whole clams, chopped parsley and garlic — all lightly sautéed in butter — lends a surprising twist to an old dish, Linguine Alle Vongole [linguine with clam sauce].
Alfredo’s forte seems to be in pastas rather than in veal. While the Cotoletta Di Vitello Alla Parmigiana melted in the mouth, the Scaloppine Alla Cacciatora and the Saltimbocca Alla Romana were both a bit chewy.
The colorful, plentiful salads, featuring three kinds of lettuce and slices of mozzarella cheese, were a refreshing change from the run-of-the-mill salads normally doled out these days. Providing a perfect complement to the meal is the extensive wine list, composed exclusively of imported Italian vintages.
Patrons will find the atmosphere at Alfredo convivial and noisy but alive. Waiters bustle briskly about amidst animatedly conversing diners. Alfredo’s beautifully designed bar is a natural meeting place for those seeking to unwind after a hard day’s work. The restaurant, which seats 160, is open seven days a week from 11:00 am to 11:30 pm. Lunches average about $7, while dinners usually run to approximately $14 [without wine]. Reservations are recommended for dinner (call 212 371-3367). Alfredo Restaurant, the highlight of the Citicorp Center’s Market, is located at 153 East 53rd Street.