Alfredo Italian BYO, Berwyn

January 2nd, 2011


When longtime Berwyn mainstay Trattoria San Nicola closed abruptly last April due to a supposed “expired lease”, some eyebrows were raised, especially when the space was quickly snapped up by Alfred and Barbara Giannaccari of Newtown Square Alfredo’s fame. Though it is perhaps unfair to the Giannaccaris to immediately compare the two restaurants, it is only natural to do so when they are so similar in concept. Luckily for both Alfredo’s owners and their patrons, however, the new team brings a freshness and creativity to the Southern Italian concept that – though there is nothing wrong with what places like San Nicola are doing – is a nice breath of fresh air into the local Italian scene.

The dining area’s setup is quite similar to it’s predecessor, with two small dining rooms separated by a grand passageway, both with large windows overlooking the street. The decor has been spruced up a bit with warm, orange and brown tones. The atmosphere is bustling, and while owner Barbara informs us that they’ve recently taken some measures to curtail noise, we saw no problems with the atmosphere or service.

As mentioned, the menu is Southern Italian – lots of pasta, seafood and meats like veal and chicken – and though it can be difficult to bring a great deal of creativity to these dishes while maintaining authenticity, it is nice to see Alfredo bringing some new ideas to the table. For example, we started with the arancini, a Sicilian risotto fritter that we’ve been been making in my family for generations, but that has only recently begun to appear on US menus with any regularity. They certainly weren’t as good as my mother’s, but they were true to the old world style, and worth a try if you haven’t had the pleasure. Our only complaint was that the marinara they came with was cold — an unnecessary error that dampened our enjoyment of the dish.

The selection of pasta entrees is short but enticing, and several called to us on this first visit. Rigatoni Amitriciana, the classic Roman staple of tomato, pecorino and pancetta (why is it so hard to find guanciale around here?) was wonderful, as the rich flavor of the bacon mixed ever so well with the pungent cheese and tangy tomatoes. I’d prefer to see this with the traditional long-cut bucatini, or even just spaghetti, but that’s certainly a nit. Elsewhere, I was worried that the Agnolotti Alfredo – half-moon shaped pasta filled with ricotta cheese with cream sauce & spinach – would be too heavy, but in fact it was just the opposite. The pillowy pasta melted in the mouth, and the ingredients for the sauce were used delicately to create a succulent, must-try dish. Lastly, spaghetti and meatballs was simple but delicious, however the meatballs were rare in the middle, a relatively minor but elementary kitchen error that, along with the cold sauce on the rice balls, left us perplexed, especially considering the excellent highs we saw from the same kitchen.

Aside from these few execution snafus, Alfredo provides the quintessential neighborhood experience – casual, simple fare in an upbeat, casual environment. The menu is not huge (unlike some other local Italian joints), but it offers a nice variety and some dishes that are new to the local circuit. Prices are extremely reasonable, and the BYO factor certainly adds even more value. Here’s to hoping this new Berwyn Italian mainstay lasts as least as long at the last one!

NOTE: On January 12, 2011, Alfredo will be hosting a benefit for “Coats for a Cause”, accepting monetary donations and used coats. More info on Facebook.

Alfredo Italian BYO
668 East Lancaster Avenue
Berwyn, PA 19312
(610) 640-2962

10 Responses to “Alfredo Italian BYO, Berwyn”

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  1. Lifer says:

    Tried Alfredo’s last night for the first time, and it was good food, though not great. First, no garlic bread? Seriously? What’s better for mopping up sauces in an Italian dish than a good chunk of garlic-y bread!? Oh well, the bread on the table was good, but nothing to write home about…and certainly had no garlic. The appetizers may be good, but we skipped them and the salad because, frankly, the menu didn’t make any stand out. I want to see something unique and flavorful, but they all seemed pretty basic. We ordered the veal parm, which was great – big thumbs up on that one. Also ordered the Vodka penne dish. Nothing at all to boast about. Allegedly has prosciutto in it somewhere, but we could barely find it, let alone taste it. The sauce was goo, but needed to be more bold. Frankly, this dish was a waste of money. The oreo cheesecake was nice. The dessert menu needs a big hunk of chocolate cake on it. Anyway, the meal was good, but we’re not clamoring to run back out to the restaurant again soon. We’ll give it a while and try again to see if anything changes. Oh and the parking? I had called and was told there’s a private lot “around back” with it’s own back entrance to the restaurant. Seriously? No signs at all…not for the parking lot or the restaurant in the back. Since the back looks nothing like the front, you’d never know you’re in the right place. And good luck getting out once you’re in – we took our luck parking in another lot.

    • devon says:

      I think is funny every one is a “top chef” food critic these days. I don’t usually comment on these types of things, but this guy struke a nerve in me, he is actually trying to set his own menu. More disturbing is in Italy, you’d never find garlic bread on a menu EVER it’s actually an american creation. Good bread doesn’t need to be doused with a lot of butter or garlic. My family is from Abruzzi and I’ve traveled the entire country, never see garlic bread anywhere. I’ve been to every Italian restaurant on the main line. I enjoyed alfredo’s, alba, Teresas. Maybe this guy need Olive Garden.

      • Berwyn says:

        I completely agree “devon.” My family still lives Italy and I travel there every year. I don’t think they even know what garlic bread is! Actually, if this place DOESN’T serve garlic bread then maybe it is somewhat authentic and deserves a try.

  2. John W says:

    We were there on January 14th and are returning tonight. Simple message sent by that statement! But what we liked, now keep in mind we got there at about 6 PM, is the chef was willing to make us fried calamari instead of grilled. I also wanted an entree portion of one of the appetizers. No problem. I enjoy some flexibility. Many years ago a very nice BYOB in Downingtown would not put a sauce on the side instead of on top of the entree. Never been back and the place is now closed.

    Jophn W.

  3. Kvander says:

    Hit Alfredo for the first time last night.
    Here are my thoughts:
    It’s a nice little BYO. Nice subtle decor. Nothing crazy. Simple….in a good way. I really like the wine glasses. I know…sounds trivial, but I hate going to a BYO with a nice bottle of wine and have to drink it out of a jelly jar.
    Food: Very good meal. We started with a Charred Calamari Appetizer. Very good. I went with the Rigatoni Amatriciana. Excellent. Ate the whole thing (probably not a good idea during a holiday weekend….but it was really good.) Wife went with one of the several chicken dishes. It was awesome. I might go with that the next time.
    Drawback: The only issue we had was the speed of the service. Yes…..I know that sounds weird, but it was too fast. Honestly, if we did not slow them down we could have been out of there start to finish in about the same time as a visit to the Paoli Diner. For some, that is a real plus. But, we were looking to get away from the family rush and have some some nice one on one time. We truly could have been in and out in less than an hour. Almost not worth the babysitter.
    Other than that, it was a very nice expierience. Would we return? ….most certainly.

    • James says:

      Keep in mind servers are not paid a extremely high hourly rate the way servers make money is by turning tables over so just like it doesn’t pay for you to have a babysitter to just be in and out of dinner it doesn’t pay the server to have anyone sit at a table for hours on end unless your going to compensate in your gratuity for taking all that time there are much better places then restaurants for personal time perhaps make dinner the beginning of your date instead of the end and you may find happier results in more ways then one

  4. Stephanie says:

    We decided to try Alfredo this Friday with a group of friends. Overall the service was great, very friendly and helpful with suggestions, the ambiance was perfect and the meal was good authentic Italian. We are excited to have a BYOB in the neighborhood!! Excellent experience and we will be back soon!

  5. Barbara says:

    We wanted to let you know we now opening at alfredo byo restaurant in Berwyn (former San Nicola)we did a soft opening last night and had a really warm welcoming from the walk-ins in the neighborhood. Best Regards, alfredo

  6. thedogatemyhomework says:

    No way would San Nicola have left Berwyn if business had been booming. They obviously couldn’t run two restaurants at the same time. Otherwise, wouldn’t they have signed a new lease with the building owner when the old agreement expired or found a new location on that end of the Main Line? This new business, Alfredo, doesn’t seem to have a problem signing a lease and starting up business at the same location!

  7. MLB says:

    Scratch the “supposedly due.” It was an expired lease, pure and simple. And, just for the record, San Nicola’s Paoli location is doing just fine.

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