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Pizza and more: Scarpa’s offers tasty Italian fare in ample portions

The decor inside Scarpa’s on Montgomery NE is hard to pin down: one part New York City sidewalk, one part Home Goods oil painting, with a touch of Memphis design thrown in, this little Italian pizzeria in the middle of town that’s been serving food here for nearly 25 years feels fun at first – the exterior even feels like a party from the 1980s – but then starts to feel almost too elegant by the time the food arrives.

Luckily, the food is easier to pin down: wholesome, fairly authentic pizza and pasta at a good price, served by people who care about your meal.

The pasta julene ($11.25) is a huge bowl of penne noodles in a light, buttery sauce, full of Roma tomatoes, sliced Kalamata olives, sautéed spinach, pine nuts and chunks of feta cheese. For a couple dollars extra, I got thinly sliced chicken breast added and a few slices of French bread slathered with butter.

It was a delicious, garlicky dish. More than filling, savory but not too rich, it was well-worth the money. The ingredients were fresh, and it was cooked perfectly, but it would have benefited from a little more flavor and a little less salt. Fresh basil would have been a nice addition, too.

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Still, it was an enormous plate of food and would have fed two people – or made great leftovers. I chuckled a bit at the expertly buttered slices of bread, then chuckled again when I saw a small stand outside the kitchen where the wait staff slices and then butters each piece by hand.

Scarpa’s cares about the diner, and it delivers a great value in its meals. Those meals might not be served in a Mediterranean villa, but they’re a great deal nonetheless. And you certainly won’t leave hungry.

Especially if you order dessert.

What the dessert menu lacks in breadth – it’s only one item – it makes up for in depth: a puff pastry smothered in sweet baked apples, cinnamon, sugar and butter, baked in the brick oven until it’s bubbly and gooey, then drizzled with melted chocolate and caramel. Cinnamon ice cream comes on the side, and the whole thing feeds two people at least.

Scarpa’s only dessert, torta de mele, is a puff pastry apple tart served with java chip or cinnamon ice cream. (Jason K. Watkins/For The Journal)

It’s a fantastic dessert, called the torta de mele, well-worth the $7.75. If you’re watching your calories, though, don’t even think about it; this dish will ruin your week.

Scarpa’s has two locations in Albuquerque – the other is at 5500 Academy NE, and it offers catering and online ordering (although not delivery, unfortunately). Gluten-free options are available as well, for those with either real or pretend celiac disease.

Also a great quality: the portability of the food at Scarpa’s. The pastas travel well for takeout orders, they make for great leftovers, and they reheat well. You’ll definitely get your money’s worth here.

The food is good, it’s open every day for lunch and dinner, the service is excellent, the prices are fair, and the bread is buttered just for you. It’s hard to ask for more than that.

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