Rafael’s Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant [4/5]]
4 (80%) 1 vote

Forever questing after good Italian food, the hubby and I found ourselves pulling up to Rafael’s one Friday night. Parking was a series of flashbacks to soccer team pizza parties at similarly small, strip mall located, pizza joints.

Walking in the door, that image was reinforced by the counter–staffed by teenagers and overshadowed by a large menu board–but nearly erased when I turned to look at the dining area. The decor was surprisingly nice with updated paint and metal wall hangings.

The menu was unusually broad including burgers, stir fry, gryos, cheesecake, and baklava. We stayed true to our mission and stepped to the counter to order two fettuccine alfredo pasta dinners with chicken, a side of breadsticks, and two drinks. The dinners include a salad which was handed to us, along with our drink cups, before we left the counter.

We filled our drinks and seated ourselves at an available booth, checking out the decor and people watching as we waited for our food. The balance of our meals came up quickly including, much to our surprise, sides of garlic bread. Apparently the dinners also include generously sized mini french loaves turned garlic bread, which rendered our breadsticks a bit ridiculous.

Undeterred, we laughed at our sudden carb overload and made plans for a to-go box.

The salads were pre-prepared and served in small plastic take away boxes. A pile of iceberg lettuce, a lonely strand of cabbage, a few slices of carrot and somewhat limp cucumber, and one sad looking tomato slice made up a salad so standard as to come close to defining the stereotype. The one saving grace was that the carrot and cucumber were clearly hand sliced on site. (And the carrot was flavorful.)

After the salad, I was a bit wary of my fettuccine alfredo (shown at the top of the post). The red plastic trays and Styrofoam plates weren’t doing much in the way of inspiring confidence. Which made the homecooked flavor of the dish a pleasant surprise. The small pieces of chicken topping the dish were tender, seasoned with rosemary and liberally applied. The alfredo sauce leaned to the thin side with a touch of sweetness. The flavor was pleasant and the sauce and the chicken blended harmoniously.

The garlic bread was smeared with a shockingly bright yellow butter and had a lovely lightly garlickly flavor. Soft in the center and lightly crunchy on the exterior, it had a wonderful consistency for soaking up sauce though it was delicious just as was.

The breadsticks were thin and wide with a pillow-y texture and had what looked to be small bits of cheese embedded in their surface. They were well complimented by the accompanying marinara sauce. A tomato-ey number, well seasoned with onions, celery, dried rosemary, and small yellow seeds the overall flavor was both strong and addictive.

Rafael’s offers generous portions, good food made mostly from scratch, and low prices. This is a comfortable place to stop in at, one that for me evoked community and nostalgia.

Total for the meal: $21.81 (Includes two dinners, two soft drinks, and one order of breadsticks)

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