Restaurant Alba

Sean Weinberg has restaurants in his blood. His parents own the legendary Rose Tattoo Café in Fairmount, and, after years of studying cooking—including stints in Italy and Mexico, and an externship under The French Laundry’s Thomas Keller—he worked five years at the helm there. Along with his wife Kelly, Weinberg has always been intensely passionate about farm-to-table cooking, and he was frustrated by the limitations of being in the city. So they moved. “In the city, we got deliveries once a week and were forced to make that last,” says Weinberg. “Now I can go out to the farms personally a couple times a week. Some of our stuff never sees a refrigerator.”

Weinberg integrates all that beautiful local product into rustic Italian cooking, much of it done on a huge woodfire grill, which helps to amplify the natural flavors. “The soul of any good Italian restaurant is the ingredients,” says Weinberg. “It’s really about letting things speak for themselves, letting them sing.”

The farm-fresh focus means a seasonal menu, which can take some getting used to for American eaters. “Some people look at us and think we’re not doing a good job because we’re not carrying asparagus right now. Getting people to eat seasonally, and understanding why we cook seasonally is actually more of a challenge than coming up with the dishes.”

Being out in the ’burbs has other advantages. The Weinbergs keep a home garden and raise chickens whose eggs end up at Alba. Sean is always fiddling with their diet, trying to get the best possible product. “Eggs are probably one of my most important ingredients,” he explains. “People always wonder why the pasta is so good, and all the custards. It’s all about the eggs.”

 The Weinbergs have cultivated personal relationships with a cadre of local farmers. For years, they have bought cheese from Birchrun Hills Farm. When the Millers mentioned raising their male calves for veal, Alba volunteered to be their first customer. “It’s 100 percent grass-fed, not finished on feed in any way, no antibiotics, no hormones,” says Weinberg. “From the get-go, it was some of the best veal I’ve ever had.”

Those relationships are the lifeblood of Restaurant Alba. “We’ve always looked at it as an obligation to support local farms, and be sustainable. I’ve never looked as it as a trend,” he explains. “We have the ability to touch so many people and teach them about local foods.”

Restaurant Alba, Sean and Kelly Weinberg, 7 W. King St., Malvern (adjacent to the Malvern R5 Train Station) restaurantalba.com