I met with a small group of friends for a Sunday afternoon meal at a new Italian restaurant in Johnson City.
While Alfredo’s — located in the former Jane’s Lunch Box — is new to Johnson City, the restaurant is not a newcomer to the dining scene. The Alfredo’s at 812 Commonwealth Ave, Bristol, Va., is a well-established restaurant in the region.
I’m lucky to have a group of friends who enjoying dining out as much as I do, and they have been quick to direct me toward new eateries they find worthy of some attention.
My first visit to the Johnson City Alfredo’s was quite pleasant in most respects. When my party arrived, we were invited to take a seat at any table we liked. A server soon arrived with menus and took a moment to take our drink orders.
The menu is quite extensive and features such categories as appetizers, Philly subs and sandwiches, Greek dishes, hot platters and seafood. The menu selections are further expanded by daily specials. There’s also a separate menu for the kids.
Perusing Alfredo’s menu is like taking a quick culinary tour around the Mediterranean, complete with a smattering of Italian, Greek, and Middle-Eastern influences.
Although several of my friends had already patronized the restaurant, this was my first visit. I took time to contemplate the many offerings available as meal-starters, including Garlic Knots, Fried Pickles, Chicken Wings and a Basket Sampler of four Hot Wings, two Mozzarella Sticks, two Chicken Strips, two Hot Bites and French Fries.
My interest, however, focused less on these standard items and more on the Mediterranean-style appetizers, including Hummus, Falafel, Baba Ghanoush and Spinacopita, or a Greek Spinach Pie.
Luckily, one of the specials during our visit was a Mediterranean Dip Platter offering a sampling of Alfredo’s Hummus, Baba Ghanoush and a refreshing Cucumber and Yogurt Dip. I chose this platter to share with friends and was rewarded with some tasty dips served with freshly baked Egyptian Bread.
When it arrived, this platter of dips was dusted with paprika and garnished with tomato and cucumber slices, as well as pitted kalamata olives.
We enjoyed this refreshing appetizer in the refurbished dining area at the restaurant. The bone-white and deep-crimson walls are decorated with beautiful framed silkscreen prints depicting stylized wildlife reproductions, including a giraffe, a pheasant and a raccoon.
Seating is available at tables matched with black metal chairs upholstered with rose vinyl cushions. The floors are covered with green carpet and tile mosaics. There’s also an electric fireplace and flat-screen television to complete the casual, laid-back atmosphere.
Deciding on a main course involved some extensive study of the menu. Among the options I considered were the Eggplant Parmigiana, Stuffed Shells, Chicken Kabob, Stuffed Flounder with Crabmeat and the Aglio-e-olio, or Spaghetti with Broccoli, Fresh Garlic and Olive Oil.
I decided to order the Greek Homestyle Dish, partly based on a recommendation from one of my friends who had already tried this merger of Greek cuisine with classic comfort food.
My friends ordered the Athenian Chicken and the Chicken de L’Giardino, although the possibility of Lasagna, Fettuccine Alfredo or a Cheese Steak Sandwich were bandied about during the discussion.
Our meals came with a salad and a choice of Egyptian Bread, Garlic Bread or Rice.
Since I’d already enjoyed one of the loaves of Egyptian bread, which is basically a generously sized, puffy loaf that is easily torn into bite-sized portions, I paired my dish with rice.
Our salads arrived ahead of the main meals. These light salads consisted of a medley of crisp iceberg lettuce, grated carrots, tomato wedges and slices of red onion, cucumber and green bell pepper slices. I chose the Balsamic Dressing, but my other friends chose the House Greek Dressing, which contained generous chunks of feta cheese.
We had time to finish our salads before the arrival of the entrees. I immediately knew I had made a good choice with the Greek Homestyle Dish, which consisted of morsels of tender, savory chicken sauteed with broccoli and mushrooms, all blended into a flavorful, brown gravy and topped with melted mozzarella cheese. This winning combination of ingredients melded together for a delicious meal with just enough hearty attributes to raise it to the level of a comfort food classic.
My friends also liked their dishes. The Athenian Chicken consisted of chicken sauteed in olive oil, fresh garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms, black olives and an ample portion of feta cheese. The Chicken de L’Giardino features grilled chicken that is baked with green peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, banana peppers and mozzarella cheese. Both these chicken dishes were quite colorful, as well as flavorful and well prepared.
The only slight disappointment on this visit was some erratic service. Our first server disappeared midway through the meal, and the second server only occasionally checked back with us. To make this even stranger, the restaurant was not particularly busy when we arrived. Both servers were personable but somewhat inattentive, which was especially unfortunate as my friends reported much better service during their previous visits.
We chose to indulge in a dessert after we finished off our main dishes. Choices included Rice Pudding, Carrot Cake, Baklava and Zalabia, which is a type of pastry dessert.
Some later research revealed that Zalabia is best described as puffy fritters soaked in syrup or sauces. It is a popular sweet in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries.
We decided to share this dessert. The dessert arrived on a platter, looking like a deconstructed funnel cake that had been drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauces and dusted with powdered sugar. It was certainly an interesting — and tasty — conclusion to the visit.
I’ve also had an opportunity to sample the eatery’s pizza with a takeout order, which consisted of a large, Sicilian-style Shrimp Pizza. This scrumptious pie featured a thick, chewy crust topped with plump shrimp, onions, green peppers and plenty of cheese. It traveled well and made very good eating at home.
Other pizzas on the menu include a Taco Pizza, Greek Pizza, Hawaiian Pizza and a Chicken Alfredo Pizza.
So, if you’re already a fan of Alfredo’s, you no longer have to travel to Bristol, Va., for a meal. If you’ve never visited, consider a meal at Alfredo’s the next time you’re craving some Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. Let them know they were recommended.
AT A GLANCE: Alfredo’s Mediterranean and Italian Family Restaurant, 1109 W. Market St., Johnson City. 434-2665. Open daily from 10:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Menu items range from $2.49 to $18.99. Credit cards accepted. Carryout available. Catering available.