For more than 30 years, Camp Bowie residents have enjoyed authentic Italian classics at Aventino’s, a neighborhood gem with three generations of family history.
Walking into Aventino’s midway through dinner service on a Thursday night, I’m pleasantly surprised by the warmth of the dining room. The atmosphere is relaxed, yet polished, and more upscale than its strip mall exterior implies. The space is small but airy, dark wood and earth tones, with family photos and art for sale on the walls. Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore” plays softly over the speakers.
A quick look around at several full tables suggests that a reservation would have been wise. Still, my dinner companion and I are greeted warmly and seated without delay. This is my first visit to the West Fort Worth classic, and even though owners Chris Hight and Erica Paez Hight relocated the restaurant when they reopened in 2012, I can still feel the echoes of the Paez family’s 1982 original. Its history surfaces not only in old portraits on display, but also in the family recipes served up daily by Chris, Erica and their son and sous chef, Zander.
Aventino’s menu includes a diverse and unapologetic selection of Italian comfort food with all the simple classics you expect, plus a few dishes you might not. Whether it’s an unfussy Eggplant Parmesan or spicy Shrimp Diablo, dishes cater to a variety of tastes and offer quite a bit of personalization—you can add meatballs, artichoke hearts and other extras for a small fee.
For a starter, we opted for the Focaccia Mozzarella ($14) recommended by our server. Four slices of warm, rosemary-perfumed focaccia are served with a small Caprese salad of ruby red tomato slices, fresh mozzarella and homemade pesto. We particularly enjoyed the light and lovely house-made focaccia.
The seafood menu looked enticing, but for our first visit, we opted for heartier fare—the Veal Saltimbocca ($24), sautéed veal stuffed with sage, prosciutto and mozzarella and served on linguine with a Marsala-mushroom sauce, and Chicken Cannelloni ($16), chicken and spinach-stuffed shells baked with ricotta, Romano and mozzarella cheeses plus a lovely, slow-cooked tomato sauce. The lightly breaded veal was thicker than expected but tender and served with a wonderfully creamy, mushroom-forward sauce. I only wish the pasta tasted freshly made. The cannelloni was delightful—delicate tubes of pasta packed with an abundance of spinach, chicken and cheese.
Both entrees included a salad of spring greens and vegetables topped with herby, red wine vinaigrette.
For dessert, we enjoyed the decadent crème caramel ($5.75). The dense custard has more heft than flan, but with a silky smooth finish and soaked in a tawny pool of liquid gold—the perfect bookend to a meal celebrating carbs and dairy.
Though not as adventurous as some of the city’s newer Italian fare, Aventino’s recipes are solid and pedigreed. The relaxed menu and atmosphere don’t translate into lackadaisical service, however. In fact, from start to finish, we enjoyed impeccable service. I was also struck by the diversity of young and older patrons I saw during my visit. Although tastes change over time, I guess no one tires of a traditional family meal served with care and the warmth of home.
Location: Aventino’s, 5800 Lovell Ave.
For Info: 817.570.7940
Hours: Mon.-Fri. (Lunch) 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., (Dinner) Mon.-Thurs. 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
What We Liked: At one point, when our server noticed we were lingering over our salads, she seamlessly returned our entrees to the kitchen rather than piling the plates on the table as so often happens when dining out nowadays.
What We Didn’t: Although the majority of the menu is reasonably priced, some higher dollar items didn’t offer the “bang for the buck” we hoped.
Our Recommendation: The cozy and relaxed dining room is the perfect place to catch up with old friends over a glass of wine, yet is intimate enough for a date night.