An affordable neighborhood red-sauce joint? That's amore. Look to Alphonse Italian Market and Osteria, which quietly opened 10 days ago on U Street, for coffee and sandwiches during the day, and hearty pastas and pizza at night. The restaurant, at 1212 U Street, is the newest venture from the owners of Dupont's Russia House.
Alphonse, with its trendy name, is the kind of place where you can expect to hear Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin over the speakers, and the cooks cursing in Italian from the kitchen. In the market portion of the space, you'll find canned and dry goods, like imported olive oil and tiramisu-ready ladyfinger cookies on the shelves to the right, while the house-made pastas, desserts and antipasti are at the counter to your left. In the mornings, you can grab an espresso and a sausage, egg and cheese sandwich on foccaccia on your way to the Metro. For lunch, grab a $10 sandwich, like a fried eggplant or classic chicken parm to go.
Tall booths and a bar in the back will accommodate groups who want to grab a glass of wine or a bowl of fresh pasta. Alphonse's menu includes excellent artichoke-anchovy and caprese salads, among other starters, to be followed by bison pappardelle, vegetarian lasagna and mussel, clam and prawn bucatini. The pizza menu offers pies topped with anchovies and capers, pancetta and egg, and spicy pepperoni and meatballs. (Obligatory "That's a spicy meatball!" reference here).
Once a plate of spaghetti makes its way to your red-checkered-cloth-covered table, you'll think of this great moment in cinematic history:
After the generous portions of pasta, we weren't inclined to order dessert. But our server made us an offer we couldn't refuse: "Would you like any of our desserts boxed to take home?" she asked. Cannoli to go. It's $4. Do it. And watch this space: A more upscale restaurant, Nona's Kitchen, will open on the restaurant's second floor in one week.
Alphonse Italian Market and Osteria, 1212 U St. NW (Metro: U Street).