Friday, April 13, 2012


98-31 Metropolitan Avenue
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 268-7860

If you read this blog then you know that I have, with good reason, a pretty low opinion of red sauce Italian restaurants. But you know something? Alberto, the restaurant on Metropolitan, was pretty good if I do say so myself... and I do. Forest Hills has its share of crap Italian, but it's nice to see that there are options available should you want to escape their foul, rank mediocrity. It's too bad that many of the better restaurants in the area are on Metropolitan. There's no be subway access, and parking is often difficult.

The interior of Alberto is large and high ceilinged, with dark, exposed woods, exposed brick, and stained glass. Like a cross between a converted church and a repurposed beer hall. The bar in the front room is large and wood and was probably carved in 1890 out of a single thousand year-old tree. Alberto is every part the classic restaurant. But it doesn't fall into the kitchy trap of Italian restaurants typical of the area. No plastic flowers, no doilies, no happy little figurines in chef's hats holding pizzas over their heads, no red checker tablecloths. There's also Frank Sinatra playing garishly from the sound system, but they did cheapify the atmosphere with Olive Garden style foil-wrapped butter, one of the greatest of my pet peeves.

The average age trends older, but there's a good mix overall, from my early 30s demographic to couples in their 70s. I was surprised at how lively, if not outright loud, the restaurant was. It made me feel less self conscious taking flash photos.

Our waiter arrived and, after he took our order of a couple of glasses of wine, proceeded to rattle off a seemingly endless array of specials. I lost track, stopped listening after he passed the two dozen mark, and we ended up ordering off the standard menu anyway.

Pike's appetizer was the Scampi Alberto, shrimp in a garlic and olive oil red sauce. When it arrived Pike looked at me. His eyes said "you can't have any of this."

Remember last week, when news broke that the General Services Administration had held a huge weekend bash in Vegas where they bought, among other things, a meal that included shrimp at $4 a pop? People made a huge deal out of the $4 shrimp. Bill O'Reilly nearly had a heart attack for Chrissake. Look at the photo below. As it turns out, the Scampi Alberto costs EXACTLY $4 per shrimp. $4.50 once you factor in tax and tip. The lesson here is threefold. First, calm down and don't shit yourself when you watch the news. Second, don't order the shrimp appetizer if you're hungry. Third, Alberto needs to work on presentation. At least make it look like $12 worth. Pike said that the shrimp was good.

I ordered the Carpaccio Originale, beef carpaccio with cracked pepper, Parmesan cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil. This appetizer was great and it even made me feel like I got my money's worth. I would certainly order it again.

For an entree I chose the Gnocchi. I love gnocchi and Alberto's little potato dumplings in a meat sauce were quite pleasant. It didn't break any boundaries of what gnocchi is. It was comfort food, plain and simple, and again, Alberto isn't going to win any awards for originality or presentation (actually, now that Forest Hills is on the Michelin map, it might actually lose them), but you certainly won't be disappointed with this dish. And the meat sauce was perfect. It was slightly sweet, wasn't swamped in meat, nor was it meat sauce in name only, and the chef didn't drown the dumplings in it. There was enough to enhance rather than mask any flavors. Pike ordered the Risotto with Seafood, risotto with clams, calamari, mussels and shrimp, which he liked, but which I didn't really think much of. This is mostly because mixed seafood dishes tend to turn me off (paella being the only exception I can think of), not necessarily because Alberto did anything wrong.

Dessert-wise, Alberto was hit-or-miss. We ordered two cakes. The Napoleon was fantastic. Light, creamy, a flaky crust, enhanced with just the right amount of raspberry drizzle on the plate. But the Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse (we think it was called this. The server had an accent you'd need an axe to cut through) was at best weak. Dense and bitter and while it looked fine on the plate, had about as much flavor as a styrofoam cusion.

Two appetizers, three drinks, a soda, two entrees, two desserts, two coffees, tax and tip totaled $139. Alberto is pricey, for sure, but better than expected and entirely pleasant. While it will probably never become a destination spot the way Astoria's Trattoria L'incontro has, I'd certainly return.


Anonymous said...

Next time order the following items:

1. Stuffed Artichoke
2. Chicken Alberto
3. Strawberries with the cognac sauce for dessert

I've been going there for years and for all special occasions.