The unassuming strip mall on the edge of Corydon used to have a secret. But the secret – Alberto’s Italian Restaurant – is out. Chef Al – Alberto, that is – Papsodero has brought a lifetime of Italian-influenced recipes to southern Indiana. He’s not from Italy but from New York City, learning first of all from his Italian dad and grandmother. He took himself to restaurant kitchens at 14, and when he left New York at 17 for Norfolk, Va., and then stops in Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona, Florida, Kentucky and, because he was in the Army Reserves, Afghanistan, his culinary repertoire expanded. By the time his daughter was a toddler, this single father was an executive chef in Iowa, crisscrossing the state to oversee a number of restaurants. “But I was gone all week and my daughter was being raised by a nanny,” he says. “My child needed me.”So he took a vacation and visited relatives in southern Indiana, and he put his career on hold.
Eventually he opened Coza in Jeffersonville and was there until eminent domain and a new bridge meant his building was being torn down. He also cooked for the University of Louisville football team for a season – their Sugar Bowl season. Then friends told him they needed an Italian restaurant in Corydon. Alberto’s opened on the Square downtown, then moved to the strip mall near the interstate. He’s in the kitchen every night. “I cook every single dish that leaves my kitchen every night,” he says.
He tastes as he cooks, digging plastic spoon after plastic spoon out of his apron pocket to test his dishes. He says he goes through boxes of spoons each month. Two other Papsodero eateries are on the Square in downtown Corydon. Yo Mamma’s Pizza and Smokin’ Butt BBQ offer food different from Alberto’s, but all is made with the same care and watchfulness that’s a trademark of the Papsodero way.
The pizza business is moving to the Alberto’s site and in its downtown spot Swanky Franky’s Hot Dogs will open. Papsodero often does double duty in the evenings, keeping watch over 12-year-old Kennedy as she hangs out with Dad in the restaurant on many after-school evenings. She may not work in the kitchen – it’s too hectic for her – but somehow the knowledge and expertise of her personal mentor soaks in. Proof comes when she nonchalantly offers culinary insight to friends when she visits their homes. And when diners ask for suggestions at the restaurant, Kennedy immediately singles out Dad’s lasagna and pistachio cake.