In Alexandrias West End, at 4231 Duke St., sits a remarkable dining experience named Tempo Restaurant, just Tempo to its friends. A converted Shell gas station, the property was reinterpreted in 1990 by Serge and Wendy Albert, husband and wife restaurateurs, who wanted to introduce a modern take on northern Italian cuisine infused with their French and California upbringings. The result looks like an adorable white beach house with large windows and a small gang plank entrance, reminiscent of seaside bistros where couples might retreat above Malibu and the Pacific Coast Highway.
Once inside, the space is modern and sophisticated, very much a West Coast retreat with knowledgeable staff providing first class service. Achilles, the seasoned maitre d, is the immediate face of the establishment, and you will get to know him well on your regular nights in the dining room or during your drive-bys to pick up takeout, which waits for you at the intimate wine bar within insulated containers stacked in petite purple bags. But I digress.
Tempos ultimate distinction is its food, and more than one Alexandria restaurant owner has quietly confided that Tempo is where they go on their nights off, a restaurateurs restaurant, the ultimate compliment. Classic appetizers range from Carpaccio (sliced tenderloin on a bed of garlic vinaigrette, capers and Parmesan that is utterly delectable) to weekly specials such as Insalata di Spinaci (baby spinach salad tossed with mushrooms, strawberries, apples and warm bacon dressing that should be bottled and sold!). Especially appealing are their array of freshly made, daily soups.
Their entrees are spot on in both taste and presentation, but the Capelli dAngelo Napoletana (very thin egg pasta with tomatoes, garlic and basil) is a perennial favorite along with the Scaloppine di Vitello Rosemary (veal scaloppini with fresh rosemary, cream and Dijon mustard).
Ideal for special occasions as well as the weekly night out, the Alberts finish the meal with decadent desserts that rival the finest French pastry shops, their Grand Marnier Cheesecake topping the list. Tempo is consistent, quality cuisine and casual elegance, a family business that is just the right tempo for its Alexandria neighbors.
Tempo serves lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. For hours and reservations, call (703) 370-7900 or visit temporestaurant.com. Join the Tempo eClub online for special discounts.