• April 2010

If you love authentic Italian food — try La Strada on the Avenue

By Hope Katz Gibbs
Editor and Publisher
Be Inkandescent magazine

If you love fresh, authentic Northern Italian cuisine, you must try La Strada on the Avenue, a family-friendly, family-owned gourmet Italian restaurant in Del Ray, just outside of Old Town, Alexandria, VA.

The executive chef is Stephen Scott, who has worked his culinary magic at several DC restaurants such as Zola, Argia’s, Primi Piatti, Galileo, and I Matti. His parents, Stephen and Diana, and sister Courtney, manage the restaurant.

A little history

Stephen’s grandmother, Argia Balboni, knew early in Stephen’s life that he was destined to become a chef. As a little boy, he would sit in her kitchen every Sunday and watch her fix the traditional weekend brunch: a roast of beef, braised chicken, Italian meatballs and handmade tortellini.

Also special was Argia herself, who emigrated to the U.S. from Italy in 1917. Putting family and good food first was always her priority. In fact, most of the ingredients for the family feast came from her garden — a giant yard in suburban Boston.

“Argia taught me the essence of Italian cooking, and it makes me proud to carry on her traditions in my restaurants,” Stephen says today, noting that La Strada is certainly about “la famiglia” —but not just because it’s family owned.

“This will be a place where families can come for a heart-healthy meal that will offer kids something unique, but delicious,” notes Courtney, who is a resident of Del Ray and the mother of two children, 3 and 4 years old. “I’ve seen it with my sister’s kids — when you offer children something delicious that’s served in a big bowl, family style, they are happy to try it.”

Fabulous, fresh food

Locals regularly swing by for supper, or to pick up dinner-to-go, from the a la carte menu, which changes three times a year. Currently, it includes hand-stuffed veal ravioli with morel cream sauce, porcini mushroom agnolotti stuffed with pumpkin in a chestnut sauce, pear & prosciutto stuffed chicken, ossobuco with saffron risooto, pork tenderloin wrapped with pancetto in amaretto sauce.

Always on the menu will be Argia’s famous homemade gnocchi, foccaccia, mozzarella — and 60 different Italian wines, each available by the glass.

Their quarterly wine dinners (which range in price from $75 to $125 per person) have sold out. Plus, in the front of the place there is a wine room, which is great for group dinners of 7 to 10 people, or use as a communal table when it is not reserved by larger parties.

One of the best brunches in town

Each Saturday and Sunday, the house is packed for Nonna Argia’s famous feast that starts with a Proseco Bellini ($7) and fried eggs over asparagus with Parmigiano-Reggiano and a dollop of black pepper Mascarpone cheese ($12). There’s also an artichoke, pancetta and scrambled egg salad ($10), poached eggs over Italian bread with tomato mushroom stew ($10) and Italian toast served with house made mint infused syrup ($9). See more brunch items here.

“Our goal is for La Strada to become that go-to neighborhood restaurant where you can always find fresh, delicious and wholesome food that’s affordable,” Stephen concludes. “When diners walk through the door, we hope to greet them by name and make them feel like they’ve come into our home.”

To make a reservation and find more information visit www.lastrada-ontheave.com.