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Albero Cafe

23 Aug

The rise and fall of Bocconcini at Oliver and Central has paved the way for another Italian restaurant in its place. Albero Cafe recently opened in the vacant space to give Wichitans a new option for Italian food on the east side of town.

The interior and ambiance of Albero remains similar to Bocconcini. The open floor plan and large glass windows still make the restaurant louder than most. During peak hours it can be hard to carry on a conversation. There is a small patio, but it does not offer any reprieve from the noise as it sits ten feet from Central.


Italian Nachos: Epic Appetizer

Italian Nachos: Epic Appetizer

The menu at Albero has everything that you would expect from a typical Italian-American  joint  including salads, flatbreads, soups, paninis, and a number of classic pasta dishes. While they offer a variety of options, the menu is not as overwhelming as other Italian places in town.

We decided to start off with an appetizer order of the intriguing sounding Italian Nachos. They were billed as fried pita chips covered with lettuce, tomatoes, pepperoncini, and a parmesan cheese sauce. What came out was a bountiful heap of indulgence. The pita chips were very crispy and resembled fried wontons. The veggies were tossed with an Italian vinaigrette and the parmesan sauce was

Parpardelle Pasta with Delicious Veggies

Parpardelle Pasta with Delicious Veggies

wonderfully addictive. This blue collar dish was amazing, but left you with a somewhat guilty feeling for having feasted on such opulence. A word of caution: This is a good sized dish and would be perfect for a party of 4 because it left Steph and I fairly satiated even before our main courses arrived.

Despite the fullness from the nachos, I enjoyed my parpardelle pasta. The ample serving of wide noodles was tossed with just the right amount of good cream sauce. The dish also included tomatoes, portabellas, and delicious whole roasted

A Little Chicken Penne Action

A Little Chicken Penne Action

garlic cloves. Steph’s chicken penne pesto was just alright. While the pesto sauce tasted fresh, there could have been more added to the dish.

Albero Cafe fills a void in the eastside Italian scene and does a decent job at it. The food is a touch upscale, but the prices are reasonable. In my opinion everyone in town should try the Italian nachos just to experience a little bliss. And for you oenophiles they have nice selection of wines.


23 Sep

Previously published in the Wichita Eagle:

With the recent closure of two local Italian restaurants, Luca and Bocconcini, Wichitans are suddenly left with fewer choices when it comes to getting their pasta fix. One of the remaining options is Marchello’s, a family run operation on south Seneca. While it does not replace the upscale menus that both Luca and Bocconcini offered, it serves up some solid old school Italian American food.

The interior of Marchello’s has the feel of a homestyle Italian joint, except for the lack of red checkered tablecloths and straw covered candle holders. There is a decent amount of seating, but I imagine that on busy days it can get somewhat cramped.

Lasagna The Way It Should Be

Lasagna The Way It Should Be

As the theme to The Godfather played in the background, we poured over the expansive menu that covers just about any Italian food you could possibly think of including pastas, calzones, pizzas, paninis, and desserts. There are even a few fusion surprises like jambalaya and something called an Italian potato. While you would need an entire football team to do a proper review of all the offerings, we decided on this visit to stick with two different pasta dishes. I had heard good things about the meat lasagna so that was my choice, while my dining companion went with an order of the Lilly’s, one of their signature pasta dishes. Lunch time specials are offered that include a drink and one visit to the salad bar.

I started my meal off at the small salad bar and was able to construct a good salad using the above average lettuce and veggies that were offered. The lasagna came out looking like a perfect piece with its expertly melted cheese and minced parsley. Fortunately, it tasted every bit as good as it looked. The well-balanced tomato sauce tasted fresh and had plenty of ground beef and pork. I was pleased to taste fennel seed in the sauce, which I believe is one the keys to good lasagna. This lasagna is certainly some of the best you can find in Wichita. The Lilly’s featured chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and diced ham sitting on a bed of angel hair pasta. Pesto creme sauce and a layer of melted cheese capped off this indulgent dish. The pesto creme sauce with its velvety texture was the star of this meal. While we both felt there was an excessive amount of melted cheese, the Lilly’s was something we would surely order again.

The Decadent Lilly's

The Decadent Lilly’s

Although there were only two waitresses working the lunch crowd, our service was good. The prices were reasonable for the amount of food we received and Marchello’s is probably one of the few places in town where you can drink a Peroni for $3.75 a bottle.

Marchello's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Moe’s Sub Shop

11 Jun

Previously Published in the Wichita Eagle:

In this day and age it is increasingly difficult to find local submarine sandwich shops amidst the established national chains. Luckily for Wichitans, Moe’s Sub Shop offers a change of pace when one is in the mood for a classic Italian sub.

Located in a small strip mall on south Hydraulic, Moe’s has been slinging out subs to devoted regulars for years.  With only a few tables, what the interior of the restaurant lacks in size it makes up for in atmosphere. An old arcade game, yellowed pennants, and assorted memorabilia give Moe’s dining area unique character.

The Ultimate Moe

The Ultimate Moe

The menu consists of several basic sub sandwiches in three different sizes, plus salads and lasagna. There are customizable options for cheeses, veggies, and condiments on all subs, including the most polarizing of all:  Miracle Whip. This was our first experience at Moe’s so the friendly sandwich engineer directed us towards the Ultimate Moe, their most popular sandwich.  I got it loaded with all the veggies, American cheese, mayo, vinegar, oil, ham, salami, and pepperoni.  We also ordered a meatball sub and smoked turkey sub. The Ultimate Moe lived up to its billing. It was packed with plenty of veggies and meat, but the bread was what really made the difference. Moe’s prides themselves on their fresh baked bread and you could certainly taste the difference. The smoked turkey sub was fine, but you might as well just

The Classic Meatball

The Classic Meatball

order the Ultimate. The meatball sub was very basic, with just provolone and parmesan cheese, but that is all it needed. A quick zap microwave allowed the bread and marinara sauce to meld into an enjoyable sandwich.

Moe’s does not serve the fanciest sandwiches in town, but if you want to enjoy a no frills, old school sub sandwich this is your place.

Moe's Sub Shop on Urbanspoon

Ciao Italian Kitchen (Say Hello to More Italian Food)

23 Jan

Continuing with our exploration of new Italian places we finally tried out Ciao Italian Kitchen last week. Ciao is located on the north side of the swanky Waterfront development right off of Webb. The same location fostered restaurant failures such as Piztros and at least one other venture. The restaurant is conveniently located right next to the New Balance store in case you are looking for quality footwear after a satisfying Italian meal.

Ciao was doing a decent lunch crowd when we ventured in on a Sunday afternoon. The inside is spacious and open with large windows offering views of the lovely Waterfront property. In case you have some restless children with you, all the tables are covered with white paper with several crayons provided for cheap entertainment.

Once seated our friendly waitress rattled off some drink specials including an Italian Sangria. This sounded like an appropriate drink for a Sunday afternoon, so several of us in the group indulged in what was a rather refreshing beverage. The menu a Ciao was daunting to say the least. It included pizzas, calzones, salads, and innumerable pasta dishes.  While we poured over the menu, several small loaves of crusty bread were served with the obligatory olive oil for dipping. While waiting for the rest of our party to arrive we decided an order of toasted ravioli was needed as an appetizer. After a few minutes wait we were enjoying large raviolis that tasted as good as they looked.

The raviolis were popular and  proved an illusive subject to photo. Note the Sangria in the foreground

For our entrees I ordered the Pasta Puttanesca and Steph decided to try the Pasta Del Mare.  Both of us received generous portions of pasta. The Puttanesca was a bowl of spaghetti with a red sauce that was slightly spicy. There  were also slices of sausage, chicken, and a large meatball. I really enjoyed my dish. The spaghetti was not overcooked and had been properly mixed with the red sauce. My meatball was alright and the sausage had a good kick to it.

Pasta Puttanesca

Steph’s pasta dish was alfredo based with an abundance of seafood. I thought the alfredo sauce was a bit bland, but on the other hand it was a bit lighter than some alfredo sauces, so it worked with the lighter nature of the scallops, shrimp, and calamari bits. Steph would have liked larger scallops, as the “mini” ones were a bit tough and chewy. If you are squeamish about eating calamari tentacles you should probably avoid the Del Mare because it was full of chewy tentacle goodness. Everyone else in our party enjoyed their selections at Ciao.

Pasta Del Mare choc full o’ tentacles

Of the three new Italian restaurants we have tried Ciao is the most family friendly and best bang for your buck establishment. If you are looking for a good traditional Italian meal that will leave you satisfied this is your place. While the food is not as high end as Bocconcini or Luca  it sure beats Olive Garden, unless of course you really need never-ending salad and bread sticks laced with crack.


Ciao Italian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Bagatelle Bakery- Wichita KS

27 Oct

One of Wichita’s dining/food weaknesses is the local bakery scene. There are only a handful of places that offer fresh baked delights and one of those is Bagatelle. Located on Harry just east of Woodlawn, Bagatelle has been turning out breads and pastries for a number of years as well as serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

After just one visit to this bakery/restaurant I am ready give it the award for “Most Eclectic Menu in Wichita” or “Most Likely Restaurant to serve Mexican, Lebanese, and French foods on the same day”.  Those are two categories that must be added to the Reader’s Choice Awards next year. We apparently visited on Mexican day, because the special was enchiladas, which complemented the quiches, soups, hummus, and ham sandwiches rather nicely. A bit taken back by the presence of enchiladas at a bakery I fell back on my old trusty friend, the ham and cheese croissant. I also got a cup of black bean soup for my side. Steph decided to go simple as well and ordered a turkey croissant with a side of hummus. Making our way to the decent sized seating area, we found a basket full of pita chips and well as some tasty ciabatta bread that was being offered to all customers. It looked like if we had gotten there earlier, there would have been some cake for dessert on the freebie table.

We enjoyed our generous bowl of hummus and as well as the cup of black bean soup and some ciabatta bread while waiting for the sandwiches to come out. The sandwiches eventually came out served with a simple pickle. Both the turkey and the ham sandwich came out the same with ample amounts of meat, several slices of cheese, and served on what was a very good croissant. Some people might have been taken aback by the lack of other ingredients, but it just reminded me of the way they serve sandwiches in France. When you have quality ingredients you don’t need a bunch of sauce and vegetables to get in the way.  Now I’m not saying the croissants at Bagatelle are as good as in Paris, but they are some of the better ones I have had stateside. We left Bagatelle full and satisfied with our experience. Steph was so full from lunch she actually passed up on some of the wonderful looking pastries behind the counter.

As far as the bread and pastry products go at Bagatelle, they had croissants, ciabatta bread, baguettes, and a wide variety other assorted pastries. If their baked goods menu is anything like the lunch and dinner menu I can only assume that it is rather dynamic and changes day-to-day. Similar to N and J’s, Bagatelle also offers bags of pita chips, cheeses, and seasonings. To sum it all up, Bagatelle offers a random assortment of good food, breads, and pastries at reasonable prices and they can even make you a wedding cake.

Baugatelle’s Daily Specials

<a href="http://Bagatelle Bakery on Urbanspoon“>

Bella Vita- Wichita KS(The Trojan Horse of Fine Dining)

4 Sep

This weekend we decided to give Bella Vita a second chance visit. On our first attempt we drove all the way over to the west side only to find they had locked the doors 3o minutes before their supposed closing time. Well after a few months of trying to push that out of our minds we were up for round two.

Bella Vita is located in an inauspicious strip mall on West  St. just north of Douglas. You could call it the Trojan Horse of fine dining in Wichita. From the outside it looks like you might be walking into some retro supper club where the Saturday night special is meatloaf with brown gravy. Once you get inside though you start to get the vibe that there is something big going down. We showed up with no reservations on a Friday night(the staff told us this was a no no) and luckily were able to get a table after a short wait. Beware: They like to keep the small waiting area rather cold, so make a note to bring a snuggie to prevent frostbite while waiting. The dining room at Bella Vita is small with only about 12-15 tables set up in two rooms.  The decor of the restaurant, while nice, felt a bit dated. Fortunately the food made you forget all about your surroundings, well almost.

After being seated, our waiter rattled off the specials of the day. Although we were considering the calamari as an appetizer, the stuffed eggplant special won us over. It consisted of thinly sliced eggplant that had been stuffed with rice and peas and then fried. It was served with a delightful marinara sauce that complimented the fried eggplant nicely. Most menu items are A La Carte, so we both ordered side house salads before our entrees. The house salad comes with a lovely sweet balsamic dressing and is plated very nicely with strings of carrot and beet adorning the top. There were many tempting entrees, but in the end I decided to try the Osso Buco Veal special, while Steph went with the Cannelloni Crepes. My veal came served with a nice tomato based sauce and pappardelle noodles. The veal was wonderfully tender with the rich flavor that is expected from this meat. Strangely when I offered Steph a bite of baby cow she was a bit put off, but I eventually coaxed her into trying it. Steph loved her savory crepes. They came with a tasty Black Angus meatsauce and were topped with a wonderfully creamy bechamel sauce. We both thought the crepes were as good as those we had in France.

Bella Vita is the real deal when it comes to fine dining in Wichita. The food is top notch and perfectly executed. Although the environment is a bit lacking, they are planning to remodel in the coming months. Our biggest knock on Bella Vita was the noise level. When you combine a small dining area with a boisterous  Friday night crowd, it can get a bit loud. At one point a woman who may have polished off a bottle of wine by herself was dropping F-bombs. Rather entertaining.

Bella Vita –

Bella Vita Bistro on Urbanspoon

Avivo Brick Oven Pizzeria- Wichita KS

6 Aug

What object possess the power to get us to drive all the way over to the west side of town at 8pm on a Thursday night just for pizza? A gift card of course! While flipping through our gift card stash the other night we happened upon one from Avivo Brick Oven Pizzeria and decided we would give it a try.  Avivo is located in New Market Square at 21st and Maize. It is a bit hard to find because the actual building is not very visible from Maize, but once you get into the shopping center just drive around aimlessly for several minutes and you will probably find it. There were few customers present when we walked in about 30 minutes before they closed. The setup at Avivo is very similar to Il Vicino, another brick oven pizza place in Wichita. You order your drinks and food at the counter and then seat yourself. Inside Avivo there is ample table seating as well as a bar and patio seating.  Much of the kitchen is visible to the patrons so you can watch your pie get shoved into the large “wood fired oven” they use.

Besides a wide selection of Italian and American influenced personal sized pizzas, Avivo offers salads, pastas, and panini. We both decided to try pizzas on this visit. I went with the Pizza Con Salsiccia (Pizza with Sausage), which consisted of sliced Italian sausage, caramelized onions, tomatoes, and mozzarella and provolone cheeses. Steph went with the Quattro Formaggi (Four Cheese), which included alfredo sauce, mozzarella, provolone, feta, and parmesan. I was a bit disappointed with the end result of my pizza. I would have liked a bit more sausage or perhaps larger chunks to spice up the pie. The pizza crust itself was alright, but not anything spectacular.  The caramelized onions were on the other hand were very sweet and well done. The portion size was reasonable and left me feeling satisfied although I do wish I had tried a side salad. We both enjoyed Steph’s selection better. The alfredo sauce was a nice touch that added creaminess to the basic cheese pizza.

Although I was not blown away with the pizza I had at Avivo, I am willing to give it another try. With their expansive menu there has to be something there that will suit my fancy. The next time I am way out west checking out the Eddie Bauer outlet store I might just swing by.

Avivo Brick Oven Pizzeria on Urbanspoon


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