495 Shirley Street, Winthrop, MA 02152
--- Winner, Best Italian Restaurant in Boston Area, 2009 ---
Even though it borders Boston, Winthrop is a relatively small town that is not typically seen as a real dining destination. But this scenic seaside community has more good restaurants than you might think, including not one, but two excellent Italian dining spots within a block of each other on a commercial stretch of Shirley Street. And while we like D'Parma enough to have featured it on our site, we feel that Alia Ristorante is an equally good option--and may be even more interesting in some ways, since Italian cuisine is only part of what it has to offer.
Alia Ristorante is a charming place, with appealing and romantic touches including attractive curtains in the front windows, dim lighting throughout the dining area, comfortable wooden chairs and tables, and ceiling fans up above. There are maybe 15 tables inside the restaurant, so it isn't a spacious place, but certainly has a cozy feel. The menu at Alia notes that the food is "Mediterranean-inspired Italian," and while this is indeed the case, it should be mentioned that the Mediterranean end of the menu leans toward Moroccan food, as the friendly and personable husband-and-wife team who run Alia Ristorante have Moroccan and Italian roots, respectively. And the folks here are more than happy to make dishes that may not be on the menu, as everything at Alia is cooked to order.
So what does the menu at Alia include? Well, for one, perhaps the best tortellini soup that this writer has ever had. This exquisite dish includes the unforgettable taste of roasted garlic mixed with a delicious tomato base, and fresh, tender tortellinis mixed in. The lentil soup isn't too far behind, with a mild, earthy flavor coming from its thick broth. Main entrees include a delicious orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta) dish that comes with sweet sausage and perfectly cooked broccoli, all in a rich garlicky cream sauce; a tortellini fedalla that includes tender pasta, moist pan-seared chicken, and a creamy pesto option; and a veal orvieto, which includes veal tender enough to cut with a fork, as well as artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and mushrooms in a delicate wine butter sauce. Other entrees include lamb ossobucco, pan-fried salmon, tortellini with prosciutto, and ravioli with spinach and feta cheese. For dessert, the homemade tiramisu is fabulous, with a rich amaretto taste that you won't soon forget, and the chocolate mousse cake is similarly decadent. If you come at lunchtime, a number of sandwich options are offered, including paninis. Prices are low overall, with most dinner items being around $10 to $15. One note: Alia Ristorante does not have a liquor license, but there is a package store around the corner.
Winthrop is fortunate to have two great choices for Italian cuisine within a stone's throw of each other. And in the case of Alia Ristorante, there is indeed more than just Italian food offered. It may tough to choose where to dine when you arrive in this quiet Winthrop neighborhood, but we feel that you can't go wrong with either place; just keep in mind that Alia may be the better choice if you want a few Mediterranean options.
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