It’s also consistently ranked among the top Italian restaurants in the Albuquerque area by local diners.
From the outside, Joe’s is standard fare, but once inside, guests are treated to a scene straight out of a classic Italian eatery – authentic Mediterranean groceries line the walls of the entrance, a small but bustling bar features housemade sangria, and an open kitchen behind that offers a peek into the creation of the cuisine.
The cuisine is as good as it gets. After a phenomenal glass of draft Marble Indian Pale Ale (and then another), my dining companion and I ordered the 8-ounce petite filet and the Surf & Turf, respectively. In true Italian fashion, the meal starts with a complimentary plate of fresh bread with two garnishes. One is a traditional extra-virgin olive oil dip with sprinkled herbs and fresh-ground pepper, and the other is an absolutely delicious but small serving of Joe’s house bruschetta: Tender tomatoes mixed with fresh onions and garlic, then a hint of sweet basil, combine to make an almost salsa-like topping. My dining companion loved it.
I ordered a side salad with Italian dressing to go with my steak. Fresh mixed greens, beautifully ripened grape tomatoes and a few thin slices of cucumbers paired beautifully with a tangy housemade dressing, served on the side. Some side salads feel more like a meal; this one was the perfect size.
The main courses arrived with a bit of fanfare – garnishes of thick green onions delicately flowered atop giant servings of rustic mashed potatoes looked like miniature palm trees. A distinctly rich demi-glace arrived on the side for dipping, made of reduced beef stock and a high-quality Chianti. Though delicious, a richly flavored sauce wasn’t needed to complement our expertly prepared filet mignon.
The steaks were a little larger than the promised 8 ounces and were cooked to perfection, then topped with a tiny dollop of butter. My companion’s was finished with fresh sautéed mushrooms and six large shrimp scampi, also perfectly cooked and delicious. The mashed potatoes were tasty, and a few potato skins added a nice overall texture.
The menu features a comprehensive list of pastas, of course, with every possible combination of housemade sauce and protein, all served in giant pasta bowls. A respectable list of fresh seafood options is also available, and a couple even feature local green chile.
We finished our meal with a slice of New York-style cheesecake that was rich and fresh. The cheesecake is the simplest option from a dessert tray that featured nearly a dozen Italian classics, such as housemade tiramisu and cannoli, and if you’re a fan of cheesecake, Joe’s is worth the trip.
Also, the service is fantastic. Black-clad waiters quietly dance among tables, most of which are filled with couples on dates rather than families, so the atmosphere inside feels a little more Milan than Albuquerque. A tiny koi pond just outside the entrance adds a hint of Osaka, but then a crystal-clear view of the Sandias bring you right back to New Mexico.
Joe’s Pasta House certainly has more to offer than romance, though. It hosts special events and offers a full catering service for weddings and parties, and it features a lunch buffet for $9.99 Monday through Saturday.