With so many restaurants striving to be sleek and contemporary in their ambience and food, Alba’s Italian Restaurant stands out for its willingness to be quaint and kitschy. This family-owned establishment off Loop 820 in far northwest Fort Worth features plastic chandeliers, white Christmas lights strung over arches, and starchy white tablecloths spread over dark wood tables. The traditional Italian fare has the same defiantly un-flashy quality as the décor. But aeee — nobody goes to Alba’s for attitude. Instead, the salads, pastas, subs, hot rolls, and pizza selections offer a chance to kick back and indulge when you’re in the mood for a substantial, soulful meal.
The closest thing to a light entrée was probably the namesake salad: crisp pieces of iceberg and romaine lettuce mixed with a mess of sliced black olives, sweet-ish corn kernels, thick and tangy wedges of marinated artichoke hearts, and shredded white cheese. Many Italian restaurants treat salads as an afterthought, but this one was a decent if predictable affair. The dressing –– olive oil and lemon juice with a strong garlic aftertaste –– tied the whole thing together in modestly flavorful fashion and avoided the soggy, too-heavy experience that Thousand Island or Italian dressing would’ve made.
Listed on the menu under “hot rolls,” the large, pastry-like stromboli and calzone were marvelous. The half moon-shaped stromboli arrived steaming hot, the soft crust brushed with olive oil and dry parmesan. Inside was a mother lode of agreeably oily and thin pepperoni, thick and spicy Italian sausage slices, lean prosciutto, and a gooey layer of earthy mozzarella. The similarly shaped calzone was a meatless affair, with cooked, whole, dark green spinach leaves, soft and spiky-tasting feta, and mozzarella. The dipping sauce of syrupy, pulpy, sweet, and spicy marinara was good, but we ordered olive oil on the side instead. Flecked with black and red pepper bits, it was a simpler and better accompaniment to the pastries.
The pasta dishes also proved to be simple but superior. The penne rustica was a symphony of flavors and textures: pasta shells in the semi-sweet red marinara sauce that had been bolstered with larger tomato bits; long strips of chicken breast with a wonderful roasted flavor; and hearty slices of that zesty Italian sausage. The chicken with mushrooms entrée featured a mouthwatering alfredo sauce, heavy with cream, ladled over spaghetti, a lean cut of chicken breast, and tender marinated mushroom slices. The tortellini Michelangelo featured a traditional pale pink sauce –– a rich blend of alfredo and marinara –– mixed with fat, white, cheese-stuffed tortellini and more mushroom slices. All of the pasta dishes were served with small loaves of house-baked, golden-brown, olive oil-brushed bread that were hot and silky. The bread here is addictive, so pace yourself.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet: Alba’s Italian Restaurant doesn’t do healthy or innovative. But if you just want an old-fashioned, fresh, and affordable Italian food experience, they’ve got you covered.
Alba’s Italian Restaurant
4601 Boat Club Rd, FW. 817-238-6664. Sun-Thu 11am-10pm, 11am-11pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Alba’s Salad ………………… $7.50
Stromboli …………………….. $7.95
Calzone ………………………. $6.95
Tortellini Michelangelo …… $9.95
Penne rustica …………….. $10.95
Chicken w/mushrooms …. $7.95