Al Di La
25 Magnolia Road
Bacaro mania and insanely delicious food keep pumping out of this pristinely-cut Northern Italian jewel nestled off a side street in Avondale’s increasinglyBohemian digs. Owner John Marshall raised the bar not only on Charleston area Italian standards but also trend-setting when he set up cuisine camp in his tiny kitchen here when the neighborhood was home to little else except sleepy, little traveled boutiques and a couple of old school restaurants (the now defunct Liberty Cafe and the ever-popular Gene’s).
Six years later, Al Di La continues to evolve with the relatively recent addition of a “bacaro” wine bar that runs parallel to the main dining room and delivers sublime Italian small plates. It brings with it a bastion of wood-oven smoked pizza pies, purely Meditteranean olives, terrines, fragrant cheeses and paired wines along with a refreshing youthful energy and happening-now attitude. Marshall has also extended the confines of the delightfully intimate but mildly cramped dining room to a spacious courtyard dotted with passion red symbols of Italian’s preferred aperitif – Campari umbrellas.
Beyond that, little else has changed (not counting a minor across-the-board price increase – entrees now range from a still modest $15-$16.75), save the incredible fact that the food is better than ever – that is to say in keeping with the theme of the celestially inspired restaurant name, heavenly. Lovingly braised cipollini onions, kissed with a touch of balsamic and brimming with round, sweet flavor greeted us upon arrival and followed us home in an extra take-away box, just because.
The restaurant’s pillowy, hand-made gnocchi are studded with fresh, chunky bites of shrimp in every sinful spoonful of Marshall’s deliciousy restrained tomato sauce. The fettucini bolognese and strangozzi spoletina, in all of their creamy and expertly executed perfection, are fully capable of bringing the dead back to life. While they’re at it, these lucky souls and whoever else finds themselves blessed enough to be seated in Al Di La’s increasingly crowded (reservations are now a must!) embrace, needs to cap things off with the rich, milky cafe au lait and light-as-air tiramisu. To do otherwise, would be a virtual sin in this heavenly, purely Italian retreat.
Al Di La