Cape Cod Style with an Italian Touch
The Mannino family’s two Alessio locations offer the finest of Italian cuisine with distinctive flair
by Jenny Graham

The owners of the La Vecchia Cucina (Italian for “the old kitchen”) in Buckingham have brought the greatest of their former restaurant to their newest establishment, Alessio’s Seafood Grille in Warrington. From the iconic wood-burning oven to the grilled steaks and seafood, all of the best-loved elements of La Vecchia Cucina have become part of the new Mannino family gem. The rustic cuisine, all cooked in the wood-burning oven, reflects what owner Joe Mannino describes as a mix of northern and southern Italian favorites, with a Cape Cod style.

One set of Massachusetts-inspired favorites off of the Alessio’s Seafood Grille menu are the seafood buckets. These savory cornucopias feature a medley of fruits de mer. One such feast, the Cape Cod Clam Bake, named for the city that inspired the dish, comes with one whole lobster, 24 clams, 60 mussels, 10 scallops, two snow crab clusters, and 20 peel-and-eat shrimp, king crab legs, plus corn and potatoes, all seasoned with Old Bay and steamed to perfection.

“People are just loving it,” Mannino says of that entrée. “When that thing comes to the table, their mouths drop.”

The array of crab varieties at Alessio’s Seafood Grille includes seasonal soft shell and hard shell, Alaskan king and snow crab, but the fresh seafood options hardly stop there. Guests also have the option of ordering whole fish or choosing to add shrimp, scallops or lobster to the seafood bucket of their choice.

A number of the Alessio’s Seafood Grille signature entrée items also feature seafood. The crab and shrimp imperial, for example, is a rich blend of breadcrumbs, parsley, butter and mayonnaise, while the seafood pescatore combines mussels, clams, calamari, shrimp and scallops in the guest’s choice of either white or red sauce. There are meatier signature items as well, including the veal parmesan, meat lasagna, Louisiana-style smoked ribs and “pasta a la Pamela,” which features pasta marinara, chicken breast and fresh mozzarella cheese.

The Mannino family also owns Café Alessio in Doylestown, which, like its sister restaurant, serves Italian favorites—but with the added bonus of Japanese dishes as well. Renowned sushi rolls include the “Doylestown,” a medley of barbecued eel, crabmeat and cucumber finished with avocado and eel sauce; the “Pink Floyd,” filled with shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, avocado and cucumber, all wrapped in rice and a pink soy sheet and finished with spicy mayonnaise and eel sauce; and the eponymous “Joe Mannino,” which features spicy tuna, white fish, and cucumber topped with tempura and seaweed salad.

Café Alessio has a longer, more storied history in Doylestown, as the establishment is more than a decade old, but shares the vibrancy, quality and flair of the Warrington restaurant. In addition to delicacies inspired by the Far East, Café Alessio has a stunning outdoor dining area for patrons to enjoy now that the weather is finally warming up after a long, cold winter.

Both Alessio restaurants feature a bevy of regularly rotating specials sure to delight even the most discerning palates. At Alessio’s Seafood Grille, guests can enjoy appetizers such as salmon, tuna and shrimp dip; grilled Mediterranean octopus; spicy salmon oysters; and stuffed peppers. Special entrée options include veal saltimbocca with prosciutto and fresh herbs; soft-shell crabs with pasta in a tangy puttanesca sauce; and lobster Fra Diavolo, featuring shellfish with pasta tossed in a spicy tomato-based sauce. At Café Alessio, past best-loved specials have included salmon-stuffed crab imperial; fresh rigatoni with wasabi cream sauce, tuna and salmon; and blackened, grilled ribeye steak topped with lobster sherry cream sauce. All items are available in gluten-free form.

As any Italian ristorante worth its salt must, both Alessio restaurants offer an expansive selection of delectable pastas. Cloud-light pappardelle, for example, is made with just salt and flour; the dearth of eggs results in a pasta that is airy yet satisfying.

The pizza at both Alessio restaurants is a “must have.” From the dough—made using double zero flour, a particularly soft and refined flour used to make pizzas in Italy—to the toppings, guests are ensured that thought and care have gone into every layer of each pie.

Notably, Mannino prefers to use only fruit woods such as apple or cherry in his wood-burning oven, as these types of kindling impart a unique flavor to dishes. “The fruit wood gives the food a nice flavor,” Mannino says. “It makes a big, big difference.”

He explains that the oven at the Warrington location, which can burn upwards of 700 degrees, cooks a pizza in just a minute and a half. This, he states, is how it’s done in Italy.

“Everything is made to order,” Mannino emphasizes. “We don’t prep anything ahead of time. You can taste the freshness. That’s a big difference from when you go to a chain place. … When you eat at our place, you can feel the difference.”

In addition to offering the freshest and finest foods, both Alessio establishments offer another unique feature—a family atmosphere. Mannino runs both establishments with his wife, Jackie, and their three sons—Alessio, Giuseppe and Giovanni—who are on hand at both locations. Jackie spearheads work at the Doylestown location while Mannino more often calls the Warrington restaurant home. This shared effort, and the hands-on nature of the owners, ensures that both restaurants maintain not only high standards of quality and consistency but also a unique family flair.

“This is my passion,” Mannino says of his restaurants. “I love making people feel good when they leave. … There’s no better feeling in the world.

He adds, “Try either place. I promise you’re going to have a great experience.”

Alessio’s Seafood Grille
827 Easton Road
Warrington, PA 18976

Café Alessio
24 N. Main Street
Doylestown, PA 18901

Photograph by Rob Hall