New Alabaster restaurant offers authentic Italian, great prices

Published 6:24 pm Thursday, January 29, 2009

In an inconspicuous storefront in a strip mall in Alabaster, the smells and tastes of Sicily and Southern Italy converge to create something very special in Joe’s Italian Restaurant.

The wafting scents of garlic and cheese will lure you inside. The authentic Italian dishes will keep you coming back for more.

Elvira and Giuseppe Bertolone — he from Sicily and she from southern Italy — met and married in Genoa, Italy, on the Italian Riviera. A honeymoon to California whet their appetite for America and the couple moved there when their children were young.

In Gilroy, Calif., the Bertolones opened Joe’s Italian. (“Joe” in Italian is short for Guiseppe.) The couple operated the restaurant for more than 30 years before “retiring” to Alabama, where one of their two daughters, Mary, moved more than 10 years ago.

Daughter Sonia, and son Michael also came to Alabama with their parents. The two are following in their parents’ footsteps with Joe’s Italian in Alabaster, which they opened a little more than two months.

What a glorious two months it has been, said Sonia.

“The reception has been incredible,” she said. “All of the people here have made us feel so welcome, and it’s mutual. We love being here.”

Sonia handles much of the business end of running the restaurant, as well as the baking. She makes a variety of breads and homemade desserts, including Tira Misu.

Brother Michael is in the kitchen with his mother, Elvira, where they work magic with garlic, olive oil, pasta and pancetta.

Father Joe “fills in the blanks,” greeting customers with his Italian-flavored English, seating them, doing whatever is needed.

“We make fantastic pasta dishes. We make all of our filled pasta dishes from scratch,” Sonia said. “Ours is just simple, fresh Italian dishes.”

The Bertolones have worked to make certain their offerings are affordable, too.

“We know the economy is terrible,” Sonia said. “We’re not expensive. The average price for lunch is between $6 and $7.”

Her favorites? “Our lasagna is fantastic. So is our cannelloni.”

Joe’s Italian is located at 21 Weatherly Club Drive at Hwy. 11. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 9 to 2 p.m. For more information, call 663-1222.