Seemingly out of nowhere, rising along West Baseline Street and beckoning visitors with its flashing neon red signs is Alfredo’s—which is right there with the old-fashioned Italian joints in downtown Vegas, if you ask me. These signs are (seemingly) letting the familiar throngs who frequent Alfredo’s in on the fact that they have reached Nirvana. It’s a Nirvana based upon copious amounts of cheese and pasta . . . but still.
Alfredo’s reminds me of the Italian joints I’d go with my parents in the ’70s—all that’s missing is the ubiquitous cigarette smoke. It’s the crowd milling about that does it. While you’ll likely never wait more than 10 or 15 minutes for a table, Alfredo’s hums right along with activity, even when it’s dumping rain, like it was on the recent night I visited. Maybe it’s the relaxed and cheery ambience or the super chill service staff, but everything is real genuine, no forced politeness. The decorations help as well. Giant pasta plates loom on the walls, hinting at the carb overload to come and, trust me when I say it’s coming. Meanwhile the rest of the décor is mostly the aforementioned neon, checkerboard of both green and crimson hues, and those insanely annoying white banners so popular with cornball Inland Empire newspapers that proclaim that Alfredo’s has been voted best Italian by the voters of the San Bernardino Sun.
Now, it’s a good rule of thumb to take anything in the Sun with a shard of skepticism. I get what the Sun’s voters are suggesting though, since Alfredo’s hearkens back to a time when families could go out for dinner for a fairly reasonable price and get decent Italian food in a comfortable setting. Let’s face it; Alfredo’s is not a complicated place, nor is it sublime or fancy. Think tomato sauce and gobs of cheese, with nary a mention of squab, Roquefort, or artisan vinegar. Think dogs playing poker, not Degas.
Which isn’t necessarily an ominous event. Tasty is tasty, and Alfredo’s delivers on this score. Appetizers are mostly deep-fried—French fries, fried zucchini, fried artichoke hearts, greasy fried goodness that’s a testament to its old-school charm. Nevertheless, taking this as a challenge and trying to bypass the deep fryer, we ordered the sautéed mushrooms. These are not the mushrooms you might order at La Terza in LA. No, these are butter-bombed garlic monsters soaked in a gravy-ish pond of co-mingling juices—a juice that tastes vaguely Chinese. It’s an odd taste that somehow works.
Many of the dishes at Alfredo’s center on an overload of otherwise measured ingredients—more sauce, more cheese, and (way) more garlic. Thus the baked ziti here is baked to excess and crispy, piled upon and nearly overwhelmed by tasty mozzarella and ricotta cheeses. Baked ziti as an homage to the kind of Mac & Cheese you commonly see at family reunions, which is to say nothing is mysterious or even terribly noteworthy, just yummy. The same goes for the Cannelloni we ordered—all ricotta and aged Romano cheeses in more or less the peppery and zingy tomato sauce found in the rest of the dishes. And yet, it’s the spinach and spiced beef that take the dish to a new level, and it’s no wonder it’s a local favorite. Alfredo’s knows perfectly well what its identity is—good affordable grub served generously and with a smile, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Alfredo’s Pizza & Pasta, 251 W Base Line St San Bernardino, (909) 885-0218; www.alfredospizzaandpasta.com; AE, MC, V