You eat sitting among stacked-up pumpkins, sacks of flour and boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables. There are bowls of free fruit on the tables. And there's a row of old cookbooks to leaf through while you wait for your order. The atmosphere is so intimate it's like you've walked into a friend's kitchen.
This, I was impressed to discover, is the home of the gourmet $5 pizza. Al Albero does half-price pizza at lunchtime (every day except Monday and Tuesday). There's a range of 14 pizzas from slow cooked lamb to roast vegetable. There's also a range of pasta dishes priced from $12 to $18.
I ordered the slow-cooked lamb pizza – braised lamb shank (very tender), tomato, goat's cheese, dried tomato and thyme. It was basically a lamb shank casserole on a pizza and it worked perfectly. My stomach is rumbling now remembering it.
The roast veggie and herb pizza (tomato, mozzarella, capsicum, zucchini, eggplant and herbs) was also impossible to fault. We did have to eat the pizzas reasonably quickly, before the thick sauce made the base soggy.
The pizza base is unusual – kind of a cross between thin crust and deep-pan. Normally, my preference is for crunchy thin crust, but this has changed my opinion – it was light, almost chewy and extremely filling. After one small $5 pizza, I was full.
The service was fast and courteous, friendly but not in your face. And extremely helpful. My friend, who can't eat onion, wanted the Pasta Pescatore, but then found it came with a Napoli sauce (containing onion). "No worries," she was told, "I'll make a white wine sauce for you."
There are also salads for $6 to $14 and sorbets for $4. Drinks run along the quality lines of Charlie's Honest Quencher Old Fashioned Lemonade.