Lighthttp is a very good alternative for Apache. The exact details on why, how and when are outlined on lighttpd's website, but I choose it for my development environment; because it is light: having five forked apache processes idling around, merely to develop a simple module is way OTT, I think.
I found that Ubuntu's vanilla lighttpd in served Drupal Just Fine[tm], except for the clean urls. Which is not hard to get working either.
- Edit /etc/lighttpd/lighttpd.conf and uncomment the "mod_rewrite", rule in the top setting server.modules.
- Run sudo lighty-enable-mod rewrite to enable the module
- Create a new file ls /etc/lighttpd/conf-available/10-rewrite.conf And add the contents of this file there (or download it and save it as the file mentioned above)
- Restart lighttpd sudo /etc/init.d/lighttpd restart
Now you can access your drupal site(s) on example.com/drupal. Note that the /drupal is virtual, it is not an actual directory. I use that to make sure the rewrite does not try to rewrite all CSS and image urls too. It serves me fine on my development environment.