Saturday, March 23, 2013

Aldo of Italy

When I was a teenager, I spent a few summers working at my dad's shop. Once every week or so, he would take me out to lunch at the Expresso Restaurant in the Naugatuck Valley Mall. This was a big treat for me, eating out at an Italian restaurant. I usually ordered a ginger ale, and either a lasagna, baked ziti, or ravioli, with a house salad and bread to start.

Both the mall and the restaurant are long gone, but tucked away behind where the mall used to be is Aldo of Italy, which has some strong similarities to Expresso. Aldo is one of those solid, traditional, Waterbury Italian restaurants that I've been eating at for decades. The menu includes all the staple dishes you would expect from an Italian restaurant, served up in large, delicious portions.

I had been planning to go there for my birthday dinner -- dinner at Aldo's, followed by a movie at Creative Cinemas next door -- but the blizzard squashed that plan. Last night I decided it was time to get that birthday dinner. The cinema is closed, but Aldo's is still there. Someone else also decided it was a good place for a birthday dinner. There was a group of about 30 people enjoying a birthday celebration while we were there, making for a festive atmosphere.

The front area of Aldo is their pizza shop. Thin crust, brick oven pizzas, available by the slice at the counter, or you can call in an order for take out. There is a wide variety of toppings available, and about eighteen different gourmet combinations to choose from.

The interior decorations are all inspired by the Italian countryside. Tromp l'oeil murals on the long wall mimic the illusion of viewing mountains and lakes through stone arches. Framed photos of famous Italian-American actors line the walls.

First up at our table was a basket of warm bread. I ordered a glass of sangria from the specials menu--very fresh and light. The house salad was the classic Italian restaurant salad, with tomato quarters, slices of cucumbers, carrot shavings and fresh lettuce. The Italian dressing was perfect for sopping up with the warm bread. The pasta fazool soup was good too.

I didn't get good photos of everything. In fact, I completely forgot that I want to blog about Waterbury's restaurants until I started the main course. When I took the photo of my dinner, a conversation started up between our table and the birthday party group. Younger women declared that they always photograph their food, older men declared that they would never do such a thing. I suppose I fall somewhere in the middle. Normally, I don't photograph food, but I'm doing it now for this blog.

Whenever I eat out, I try to order something I can't make at home. At an Italian restaurant, that really limits the options. Last night, I ordered the Zupa di Pesci Alla Aldo. Technically, this is something I could make at home, but the amount of work required to include so many different types of seafood is more than I want to get involved with: mussels, clams, shrimp, half a lobster tail, calamari, and scallops, in a sauce of garlic, butter, white wine, and parsley. A classic favorite, and so much more tasty when someone else makes it.

I ate so much dinner, there was no room left for dessert!