Altamore Ristorante–Part Two My dinners wiith Alberto

Altamore Ristorante–Part Two My dinners wiith Alberto

By Mike Leifheit

By Mike Leifheit

Restaurant Critic

Owner of the Irish Rose (Rockford) and Irish Rose North (Rockton) restaurants, Mike Leifheit’s “Dining Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants.” These reviews are also available on his website: and featured on the Chris Bowman Show, WNTA talk radio AM 1330.

I am having dinner with Winnebago County Board member from District 7, Polly Berg, at Altamore Ristorante on First Thursday, a coordinated North End Business District event.

At the table next to ours are seated Charlotte Hackin, a commissioner for the Rockford Park District and friends of hers, Lou and Dorothy Meyer. We sit with them briefly and chat. Charlotte is an artist. She does wonderful visions of Tahiti that are evocative of Gauguin. Then our dinner starts to arrive, and we move to our table. Polly and I talk. I want to say one thing about Polly Berg; she is a Democrat who acts like a Democrat. She isn’t one of your Republicrats. We talk about the old days and about Ozzie Walker.I used to work with Ozzie when I was at Larson Sand and Gravel when I was going to college. He used to think I was Frank Larson’s son.

I am having trouble finding a wine I like. All of the wines our waitress has brought are sweeter than I want. Katy, our waitress, is unflappable and does everything she can to please us, but I just can’t find one I really like. But I continue to drink them anyway. In addition, getting up at 4:30 and not taking a nap as well as the two martinis at The Barn are taking their toll. We are served a nice bruschetta and then a salad, but I begin to space out.

I have some really good sausage and peppers, but my attention to detail is overcome by the fact that I am tired and have had too much to drink. Polly is in love with her Shrimp Genovese, a dish not unlike a Shrimp DeJonghe. A young man named Rob Moon joins us. He is a campaign worker for Lisa Madigan, candidate for attorney general.

Later, Alberto brings a beautiful red wine, very dry, absolutely delicious, and some wonderful desserts. There is a chocolate one I particularly like. Alberto sits with us to visit. He is the totally gracious host, in spite of the fact that I am somewhat tipsy. When I get ready to leave, Alberto tries to pick up the check. I tell him he can’t do that, or he will be like Commonwealth Edison. It is my only witty remark of the evening.

The next day, I realize that I was in no shape to write a column about this wonderful man and his restaurant. I don’t know the names of any of the desserts or the wine that he brought to the table. I am a total failure as a restaurant reviewer. Some of Frank’s readers would probably agree with me. I call Alberto and cop to the fact that I had too much to drink, and plead for his understanding and help. He agrees to have lunch with me at the Irish Rose.

The day of our lunch I have Marco make some scratch pasta, his new shrimp dish, and a trout covered with Pico de Gallo and baked in the wood oven. Alberto brings another bottle of the red wine he produced that evening. The wine is Castello D’Abola, a Chianti Classico. It tastes even better this time.

I ask him about the delicious desserts, particularly the chocolate one. He tells me it was Moro in Camica, a not super-rich tort that is a specialty of his wife Annamaria. He also speaks of Canoli. I had forgotten we had them, but I have one of those blinding revelations when he says it. I remember the sweet, smooth taste. They make their own shells and season the Chellino Ricotta filling according to an old family recipe. There was also Tira Misu made by the lovely Annamaria with the beautiful accent. They make Ladyfingers soaked in espresso with a topping of Marscapone, made according to her special recipe. Albert also informs me that the restaurant is open for private parties of 15 or more on a regular basis, not just for First Thursday.

Alberto has purchased the former Jungle Jim’s and is going to turn it into an Italian bar. This should be a great addition to the North End. This, along with the newly remodeled Fantini, should make this the hottest Italian dining out area in the city.

I am glad we have had this time together. Alberto, always the perfect gentleman, overtips Raymon, my waiter. I plan to attend another First Thursday soon, and I tell Alberto so. You should, too.

Altamore Ristorante, 1430 N. Main St. Telephone: 968-5555. Hours and days of operation: Closed Tuesdays; Sunday through Thursday, 4 to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m. to midnight.

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