A couple of weeks ago, I asked about Aleo, a Med/Italian place on W 20th between 5th and 6th. No one responded, so I figure no one has been. Thus, I offer my review.
First off, it's not suprising that no one responded. At peak dinner time on a Friday night, there were perhaps 8 tables sitting. There seemed to be virtually no tables turning. The place felt empty.
Second, Aleo is a lovely space and the service is extremely gracious. My two companions and I (all pretty serious food people) sat outside in the garden. Except for the plethora of ants on the ground which bit my sandal-shorn feet (I unfortunately learned this only the next day when I was covered in itchy red spots), it was a gentle oasis from the city. I imagine it a perfect place for a small party (which they do, by the way). Two other notable things with respect to service. A) If you want something on the menu modified, or if you want something that's not on the menu, they'll gladly do it for you, provided that they have the ingredients. B) At the end of the evening, the owner came around offering everyone free after dinner drinks and asking about our experience. It was a really endearing gesture (Then again, I don't think he had much else to do.)
Third, the food......I wish I could say that I LOVED it. Sadly, I didn't. Nor did my dining companions BUT, we didn't dislike it either. It was pleasant. Reasonably priced. Tasty. Nothing to write home about or go out of your way for. Good for when you want a place that isn't going to be crowded, takes reservations, isn't going to break the bank, and has something on the menu for everyone.
For apps, we had the tuna tartare, which was fairly generic and underspiced, and the almond crusted calamari, which was the best thing we ate there. It was crispy and great!
For dinner, I had the pancetta wrapped halibut with clams, mussels, and spinach in a saffron sauce. It was served with a parmesan flan. The flan was yum. The fish, however, was slightly overcooked and significantly underseasoned. One of my companions had the lamb chops with carmelized onions and couscous and the other had the rib eye with portobello fries (He's on Atkins, so he didn't have the mozzarella whipped potatoes that came with it). They both liked their entrees very much (I don't eat red meat, so I can't judge). Neither one, however, was wowed. For dessert, they brought us strawberries and cream at our special request. I very much regretted not getting the Tiramisu. Oh well.
Overall, I'd go there again, particularly if I wanted to eat outside and was worried about getting a reservation or waiting elsewhere. I would not, however, go out of the way for it. Sad to say, given what I saw, I'm not optimistic about Aleo's longevity. Too bad. Making the flavors bolder and raising the culinary standards a notch would make it a really great summer dining destination.
FYI, their website is: www.aleorestaurant.com.
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