For the first time in my life, a 20-minute wait to be seated for dinner is entirely too short.
As the hostess calls my name, I sadly peel my face from the glass case holding Alpine Bakery’s mesmerizing selection of cakes, pies, and pastries and sulk to my table. I feel like a child being called in to supper from the playing in the yard. I’m hungry, I know that I need to eat, but I’m not done having fun yet.
Partners Bill Clementi and Steve Bishop started Alpine as a wholesale bakery over 15 years ago, eventually opening their first retail shop in 2004. With their recent move to a much larger location in Alpharetta, they have grown the once quaint bakery and take-out pizza joint into a full-service Italian restaurant.
Though most long-time fans of Alpine will hardly recognize the place, the pizza and stromboli have not changed a bit. The traditional stromboli ($10), a 2-pound torpedo of cheese, pepperoni and Italian sausage, served with house-made marinara sauce, remains one of the best in town. Clementi, a native of Long Island, bakes New York-style pizza in 14-inch or 18-inch ($11/$14) pies in large, foldable slices on a usually crispy crust. But the high quality toppings ($1.50 each) are the real star of the pies, particularly the thinly sliced Italian sausage.
The take-out pizzeria side of the business built a fiercely loyal following, whose demands for proper seating ultimately lead to Clementi and Bishop’s decision to expand. However, the Italian menu cooked up by new executive chef Jerry Fulwider gives their popular pizza a run for its money.
The crab carbonara ($19) — spaghetti with jumbo lump crab, Parmesan, pancetta, and cream sauce — arrives cooked to a perfect al dente. Bites of crispy prosciutto add a satisfying layer of savory flavor to the penne, shrimp, chicken, and gratinata sauce of the Alpine rustica ($13).
Don’t let a night at Alpine Bakery pass you by without trying the daily selection of hand-rolled gnocchi (at market price). My dish, a rosemary gnocchi with a roasted garlic cream sauce, could square off against any that I’ve tasted. Though I can’t speak to what flavors you may find on your visit, Fulwider’s flawless technique yields gnocchi as it is meant to be: light, pillowy dumplings that dissolve against the roof of your mouth.
Every trip to Alpine Bakery seems to end where it began — staring into that magnificent display of sweets. The options are too many to name, but my favorites include the red velvet cake ($34-$70 whole or $7 per slice), snickerdoodle cookie ($11 per pound) and the classically prepared cannolis ($2.95). Whatever your sweet tooth craves, they have you covered.
Though the drive may intimidate those living far away, Alpine Bakery has evolved into one of the better destinations for Italian fare, whether in or outside of the city. Bring your appetite or plan to haul home a doggie bag, because the portions are anything but skimpy.
But whatever you do, make sure that you save room for dessert.Alpine Bakery and Trattoria 12315 Crabapple Road, Alpharetta Food: Pizza, pasta, Italian entrees and a vast and varied full-service bakery Service: Friendly, but the majority of the staff is still relatively new and has a few kinks to work out Best dishes: The daily gnocchi, stromboli, N.Y.-style pizza and anything from the bakery Vegetarian selection: Though most entrees include some form of meat, there are over 14 vegetarian toppings for the pizzas or stromboli and a selection of salads Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express Hours: Lunch: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays. Dinner: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sundays. Bakery: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays- Thursdays, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sundays. Children: Fine Parking: Ample Reservations: No Wheelchair access: Yes Smoking: No Noise level: Low to moderate Patio: No Takeout: Yes