Walking into Alessio Ristorante & Bar is like walking into a parallel universe in the restaurant world. So many contradictions blend together – old world meets new world. Jeans and suits. Jazz and Italian.
Located in a strip mall, Alessio offers a rustic Italian villa vibe mixed with a few contemporary elements. It looks like a beer and pizza joint from the outside, but inside is a different story.
During lunch there is a $12 minimum per person, which is not hard to meet since most of the items on the menu are in the $15 and up price range.
Settling down in our seats, our waiter brought us fresh rolls and olive oil. The lunch was off to a good start. The bread was soft and warm. The olive oil was swimming with minced garlic, rosemary, basil and seasoning. As hard as it was, I didn’t dare fill up on bread knowing I had to meet my $12 quota. Besides, I wanted to order something more substantial and everything on the menu looked delicious.
Browsing through the menu, I noticed that nearly every entrée was accompanied by a vegetarian version. There are even the strange, yet I-bet-it’s-good entrees, like the pumpkin ravioli.
We decided to start with the Antipasto al Italiano. We ordered the meat version, but the vegetarian version is served warm, with artichoke hearts, roasted peppers and eggplant.
The meat version of the antipasto is served chilled. Cold cuts of salami and Italian ham lined the bottom of the plate. A bed of crispy mixed baby greens and artichoke hearts crowned the center, topped with olives, onions and roasted red and yellow peppers. Sliced steak tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and a drizzle of olive oil pesto sauce dotted the outside of the three-layer appetizer.
The antipasto was very light and refreshing. With so many flavors on one plate, no one flavor stood out – everything complimented one another.
Following the appetizer was the spicy shrimp sandwich I ordered, and the daily special, the Cajun shrimp pasta. I was impressed that such a fancy establishment would know how to make a good sandwich. This sandwich is not the type you would eat with kid gloves. In fact, you might need to tuck your napkin in your shirt to be able to lift this thing to your mouth.
The sandwich was bursting at the seams with shrimp, roasted peppers, onions and avocado. The sauce was a tangy garlic-marinara mixture that was spread on the bread. I initially decided to conquer this sandwich by ignoring the bread, but thought better of it. Even better than the filling itself was the bread. The spread had seeped in the crevices of the bread, making it an unexpected discovery. It was like garlic bread kicked up several notches with spices, herbs and a little cheese.
The sandwich was served with an ample side salad topped with cucumbers, tomatoes and onions. The dressing was a light vinaigrette and it was just enough. No need to ask for an extra side.
The Cajun shrimp pasta was a little disappointing. I was expecting Cajun blackened grilled shrimp, but instead it was served with plain boiled shrimp. The sauce was average, a little on the sweet side. It was not at all spicy like the menu had promised.
I did like that the sauce was creamy and not runny like some pasta sauces tend to be. The pasta was served with mushrooms and red onions, with the red onions providing most of the flavor to the dish. Overall, the dish did not live up to its exciting name.
My friends and I decided to skip dessert, but there is a display case with an array of pastries when you enter the restaurant. We were satisfied and had to request to-go boxes for the food we couldn’t finish.
Alessio Ristorante & Bar is a perfect date restaurant, as long as you bring breath mints. It’s also the place to take the family for a nice dinner. Reservations are recommended for dinner.
Alessio Ristorante & Bar is open for lunch Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner is served from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It’s open Sundays from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Located at 9725 Reseda Blvd. Northridge, CA 91324
For reservations call (818) 709-8393.