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Ristorante Al Dente - CLOSED

925 2nd Street South East, Charlottesville, VA 22902-6172
+1 434-295-9922
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  • Excellent46%
  • Very good11%
  • Average18%
  • Poor11%
  • Terrible14%
6 Mar 2014
“mis representation”
31 Dec 2013
“An Excellent Italian Dinner in Charlottesville.”
Restaurant Hours Closed
Italian, American, Mediterranean, Fusion, Vegetarian Friendly
925 2nd Street South East, Charlottesville, VA 22902-6172
All Details
Reviews (27)
Traveller rating
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1 - 10 of 27 reviews

Reviewed 7 March 2014

ordered chicken marsela - mushrooms and spinich were not fresh - appeared to be out of a can or frozen. sauce was watered down. the specials advertised were misrepresented.

Thank vickie s
Reviewed 31 December 2013

Each time I come to Al Dente, I enjoy it more. Christmas Eve was amazing. Five of us ordered, each something different. We were all very pleased. Even the salads were delightful. I maintain the best Italian food is found in Little Italy in New...More

1  Thank Angela C
Reviewed 30 October 2013

I hardly ever write reviews but dining at Ristorante al Dente tonight was an amazing experience, perhaps my best dining experience in Charlottesville in the 6 years that I've lived here. From decor to ambiance, and of course food, was out of this world! The...More

1  Thank Ali K
Reviewed 11 November 2012

Dear hubby and I ate at Al Dente before going to see an 8 pm show at PlayOn. We arrived at 6:30 pm and there were approximately 20 other patrons already there. The waitress/hostess/sole person in the front of the house, pointed to the table...More

1  Thank Liz22902
Reviewed 9 September 2012

My husband and I visited this restaurant during restaurant week. Friends had enjoyed it very much so we decided to try it. First we couldn't find it. But over the tracks and down and around we were delighted we did. Our service was great. The...More

1  Thank Caroline Y
Reviewed 28 August 2012

I scheduled a rehearsal dinner for 42 people. Our group took up the whole restaurant. I have to say the service was fantastic. The staff were polite and efficient, the food from appetizers to dessert were delicious. The presentation of each course was beautiful. I...More

Thank 313scott_a
Reviewed 20 July 2012

Went to Al dente for restaurant week in Charlottesville. We've lived in Charlottesville for over a year and never heard of it, so we thought we'd give it try. Wish I had visited Tripadvisor first. In the words of my husband, "everything was great until...More

1  Thank Annashapiro
Reviewed 13 July 2012

This is not a good Italian restaurant. The ingredients, starting with the dipping olive oil, are of a low quality. Indeed, the mushroom sauce for the crepes tasted like canned mushroom soup. Carpaccio, that wonderful Venetian invention, should first attract with the thin, bright color...More

Thank alfonsodam
Reviewed 20 May 2012

Ate there Friday night 18 May. Hands down worst gin martini ever. It was not shaken in ice, about half vermouth; yes room temp. Ok so I am a martini snob; but if u sell it for 8 or 10bucks; do it right. This started...More

Thank msw4n
Reviewed 8 March 2012

The atmosphere is very Tuscany and the lighting was perfect, ordered the mussels in a spicy marinara sauce for the appitizer, my wife had the spinitch tagaltelli,and I had the sea bass with rizzoto. All the food came out in a timely manner and tasted...More

1  Thank JWhitman112211
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Restaurant Details

Average prices
USD 5 - USD 10
Open Hours
11:30 am - 9:00 pm
11:30 am - 9:00 pm
11:30 am - 9:00 pm
11:30 am - 9:00 pm
11:30 am - 9:00 pm
Location and Contact Information
  • Address: 925 2nd Street South East, Charlottesville, VA 22902-6172
  • Location: United States  >  Virginia (VA)  >  Charlottesville
  • Phone Number: +1 434-295-9922
Pick your pasta, pick your sauce. It's a simple concept, and one that Morocco native Karim Sellam hopes will bring more life to his Venetian-inspired restaurant in the Ix building. Introducing Al Dente Pasta Cafe, a classic Italian restaurant that's open for lunch, dinner, coffee breaks, and everything in between. Ristorante Al Dente, which Sellam originally opened on the Downtown Mall in 2003, started out as an upscale dining spot, with white linens, votives, and an extensive menu. The concept remained the same after he relocated to Ix in 2008, but after serving up elaborate, authentic Italian dishes for more than a decade, it's time for something different. "Fine dining, especially being authentic, is a challenge in a small town like Charlottesville," Sellam said. Although the restaurant had a loyal group of regulars, moving from the hustle and bustle of the Mall to the more remote location made it even more difficult to sustain the upscale model, and for years it felt like Ix might as well have been in Siberia. But now, as the 17-acre historic warehouse district is developing, attracting more retailers and an influx of local artists to the art park blooming on the property, Sellam decided it was time for something more approachable and affordable. The menu, which Sellam is in the process of transcribing onto the newly-installed black chalkboards above the bar, is about as simple as it gets: 14 pasta varieties (including a gluten-free option), 14 different sauces, plus a smattering of meat and vegetable add-ins. If spaghetti or gnocchi doesn't strike your fancy, there's also a selection of salads and panini sandwiches. A children's menu features kid-friendly pasta dishes, and freshly-brewed coffee and individually-wrapped snacks like granola bars and snack cakes are available all day. Transforming the upscale restaurant into a more casual space, with a long communal table, new light fixtures, and brightly-colored Spanish paintings on the wall was a gradual process. Al Dente is closed on Sundays and Mondays, so when he wasn't next door managing and cooking in his Moroccan restaurant Al Hamraa, Sellam was hauling furniture in and out, installing chalkboard paint, and fine-tuning the menu. Working seven days a week has always been the norm for him, Sellam said, so buckling down on his days off didn't faze him, especially since it meant Al Dente didn't have to close during the renovations. "I've always been that way," he said with a shrug. So, how did a Morocco native find himself serving up Italian food in Charlottesville? Sellam started out cooking traditional dishes from his home country, which he described as rich, complex, spice-heavy, and influenced by Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. He spent a decade in Italy, cooking and managing kitchens in some of the most prestigious, upscale restaurants in Piazza San Marco, the public square of Venice where elaborate, multi-course meals can run upwards of $5,000. Then he moved to the United States in 2002 with his now-former wife. "When I went to Italy, I found Italian foods really simple. It's just based on simple ingredients, not like Moroccan cuisine," Sellam said. "You can learn it quick. It's like language-if you start from a hard language, other languages are easy. If you start with an easy language, other languages are hard." Because Italian cooking is simple to begin with, the change from fine to casual dining hasn't been much of a transition. "It's still the same quality of pasta and sauces," Sellam said. He noted that every sauce on the menu is made from a classic Italian recipe, with the exception of Alfredo, which is a much heavier, Americanized version of a classic cream sauce, and would never be found on a menu in Italy. Even the bar has been simplified. Sellam decorated it with a colorful display of cookbooks he's received as gifts, and pared down the beverage selections, eliminating the full bar with spirits and cocktails and serving only beer and wine. "When it comes to pasta, it should be wine," he said. "Always simple." Ristorante Al Dente officially became Al Dente Pasta Cafe last Tuesday, and it's open for business 11:30am-9pm Tuesday-Saturday. The restaurant's original menu, with items like black squid ink risotto and veal piccatine, is no longer available, but a little birdie told us that regulars just might be able to get their hands on old favorites if they catch the chef at the right time. Mix and match At Al Dente Pasta Cafe, choose from more than a dozen types of pastas and sauces for your perfect, personalized Italian combination. Pastas Penne, linguine, spaghetti, fusilli, farfalle, fettuccine, gluten-free penne, sweet potato gnocchi, carrot gnocchi, black squid ink gnocchi, arugula and spinach gnocchi, mushroom-filled crepes, butternut squash crepes, cheese ravioli Sauces Marinara, arrabbiata, Alfredo, boscaiola, mare e monte, primavera, puttanesca, amatriciana, Bolognese, polpette, vodka, frutti de mare
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