Order this... Real Italian food, made with love, at Aldo’s
There’s a phrase in Italian that epitomizes Aldo’s restaurant: “Tutti qui sono familiari.” In English it reads “everyone here is family”, and that is both literally and figuratively true of a restaurant that has been on the island in one form or another since the 1960s. You may remember Leo Sr. delivering pastries to you on a boat in the harbor, or maybe you went to the bakery in the old fire barn on Weldon’s Way where it still stands today. Perhaps you ordered a pizza or sub in the early days when there was were just four stools, two tables, and a bunch of kids who now run the show at the restaurant it’s become. Big Stevie, Little Stevie, Ana and Christina have managed to expand their pizza parlor into a restaurant that seats more than 120 and at the same time make you feel like you’re sitting in someone’s kitchen, surrounded by family and friends and eating homemade Italian food that tastes of Old World comfort. Even though it’s just one street removed from the busy main street, you’ll never feel rushed or crowded here — you can sit down inside or out on the patio, sip on a homemade limoncello spritzer and split a clam pizza or sup on a bowl of zuppa di pesce brimming with lobster, shrimp, scallops and mussels that brings the ocean right to your table.
The dining room is covered with pictures of the Leone family from generations past and present, by themselves and with treasured guests. Outdoor dining options vary; a covered tent is adorned with twinkling lights at night, or you can sit in the open under bright red umbrellas, protected from the street with privacy fencing and greenery reminiscent of dining al fresco on an Italian street. Big parties walk off the street and are seated almost immediately, everyone’s wearing t-shirts, shorts, flip flops and hats. Strollers and dogs are welcomed, this is a restaurant where everyone is comfortable, and all needs are accommodated with seemingly effortless grace.
Aldo’s has food for everyone — a light lunch, a satisfying dinner, a flaming appetizer for two to six at your table. We sampled two dishes from both sides of the spectrum. Seafood à la Aldo’s, a light dish of tender shrimp, scallops, lobster and spinach bathed in a sherry wine and mama butter sauce, is carb-free and lovely. Cheddar cheese adds some heft to the dish without overpowering the ocean flavors of the shellfish. Tortellini Portafino, named after a region in Italy, is a creamy, filling and satisfying comfort food. The pasta is tossed with pancetta, shallots, peas, and served in a light creamy sauce. The addition of sundried tomatoes to the dish adds a wonderful burst of flavor in each bite. We also recommend the Wheel of Parmesan, an appetizer or dinner that is prepared table side. The parmesan wheel is flamed with cognac and pasta is tossed in the center of the melting cheese, coated with the mixture and served on plates for all to enjoy.
What everyone is eating/drinking
Diane and Dave from Block Island come to Aldo’s frequently, Friday nights being their favorite “date night.” They’ve been regulars for about 35 years, and Dave always gets “pepperoni pizza, extra sauce, extra pepperoni.” Diane prefers the Veal Milanese with arugula and shaved parmesan. They love Aldo’s because “it’s easy. You don’t have to get dressed up. We love the Leones, and the food is consistently good.” Other long-time customers include Joe and Pat from Guilford, Conn. who have been “coming here since 1976, and we can tell you some stories!” They stay for about six weeks each summer “and we’ll come to Aldo’s at least seven to eight times, sometimes twice a week.” Pat says they come here because “the Leones are very friendly, wonderful people — Ana always gives me a hug, and they treat us like family.” Joe is a fan of the Pasta Bolognese, while Pat prefers to try “different things — I like the Veal Parm or the Veal Picatta or the Manicotti or the Lasagna — all the food is good!” Outside on the patio diners Nathaniel from Chelmsford, Tara from Baltimore, Meg from Stoneham and Rich and Deb from North Kingstown pronounced Aldo’s as “real Italian food, we love that it’s a family-run restaurant and they really care about what they do.” Nathaniel stated that the Italian sandwich is “the best sandwich on the island, and I’ve tried a lot of them.” All had come here before and declared the Eggplant Rollatini, Seafood Ala Aldo’s, Pepperoni Bread and the Cheese Wheel appetizer “awesome.” A family of five from East Greenwich — mom Stephanie and dad Bob along with Ryan, Courtney, Avery and pup Frosty sit under the covered patio. “Every time we come to Block Island, we’ll end up eating here three to four times while we’re here.” Ryan says, “the games are the best.” (Arcade-style games are in the bakery next door.) Avery agreed. “The claw machine with the duck is my favorite. And the ice cream.” Courtney is a fan because “this the only place where they give you the (grated) cheese on the table and I don’t have to ask for more because I really really love cheese.” Parents Bob and Stephanie usually get the Eggplant Parm and Pasta with Meatballs, all love the pizza, and Frosty is thrilled with “a nice bowl of cold water.”
Every diner I talked to at Aldo’s was happy — happy to be here, happy to eat the food, happy that they found a place on the island where they can sit, take their time with a meal, and be treated like they’re part of the extended Leone family. Great Italian food, a warm and friendly atmosphere — it’s easy to see why dining here once becomes a yearly tradition for so many customers.