Popolino Opens Tomorrow

Peter McAndrews is a busy guy. He’s got Modo Mio and Monsu, two outlets for his Paesano’s sandwich shops, and a new restaurant called Il Porto scheduled to debut sometime soon out near Media. But none of that stopped him from swooping in on the space at 501 Fairmount Avenue that once housed the Lafayette Bistro, turning it around in about three month’s time, and announcing that, starting on Wednesday, March 14, it was now going to be the Roman peasant-food restaurant Popolino.

“Classic Roman stuff,” is how McAndrews describes the reach of the menu. “With a little bit of crazy stuff.” He’ll be aiming for the cuisine of the quinto quarto–the “fifth quarter,” meaning basically everything that was left over from an animal once the wealthy and the powerful had taken their share. Offal, in other words. Oxtail, tongue, sweetbreads–the stuff that you really have to work to make delicious. And this will be balanced by some of the things that the poor Romans ate when they weren’t left with just the head and hind-end of the nearest cow–dishes like spaghetti carbonara, veal saltimboca and (McAndrews’ favorite, according to one interview) a calamari fritti with hard-boiled egg, dates, almonds and a version of Roman fish sauce which he swears pre-dates any other country’s attempts at squeezing the juice from fermented anchovies.

Popolino seats 45, will be cash only and BYO, and features a waiter-serviced antipasti bar in the dining room from which customers will order (and pay) by weight. Get sick of all this populist stuff? Then stick to the prosciutto di Parma that’ll be hand-carved to order.

What’s Cooking on 1060: Popolino [CBS Philly]

Popolino [Foobooz]

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  • Lord Chesterf***

    Looking forward to this! Mostly because I am morbidly curious how well they can or can’t pull off a quality carbonara.

  • amz

    My god, the man’s on fire. Well, luck to him. Offal’s a hard sell around here, I’ve noticed, but I’ve been missing a good offal-provider ever since Pif and Ansill left us.

    (Also: oxtails? Oooh. Coda alla vaccinara, maybe?)

  • diParma

    Ditto to the carbonara, hopefully it is stays true to the Roman style. This calamari fritti with fish sauce that he speaks of is the real deal. Chef McAndrews’ food is affordable and just tastes damn good. No gimmicks. And to think this mini-Italian empire coming from an Irishman. Crazy.

  • Judy

    Any word on his pizza spot opening in Media?

  • Dan

    Four of us went last evening to Popolino for dinner. We have all been many time to Peter McAndrew’s other two restaurants. We had an easy time finding parking and were greeted by the Host and seated at a window table in the large, open dining room. They do have a few outside tables. None of us liked the idea of sitting outside with the busy 5th Street traffic going by. We were surprised to see how empty it was at 7:00 PM however by the time we left at 9:00 PM it was about 70% full. They have a $40 tasting menu like Monsu but we opted for just two courses each which was enough food to leave four big men full. For an appetizer two in our party had the Hot Roman Table which is taste of everything on cneter display. It was a large portion for only $8. Another diner had the shrimp and artichoke cake while I had the chestnut gnocchi. All were very tasty and enjoyabl. For the main course, two in our party ordered pasta, I had the sweetbreads but the hit of the evening was the boneless sliced rib eye steak. We all had a taste and felt it was the best dish of the night.

    We asked our server to have the chef go light on the salt as we have noticed at both Modo Mio and Monsu the food, while great, tends to be very salty. All our meals were perfectly seasoned.

    The only complaint we had was the very slow and somewhat impersonal service. Hopefully this will improve before our next visit. We are coming back in a few weeks with a group of six.

  • JTA

    La Porta (not Il Porto) is opened out on 352. Klein has the menu on The Insider

  • Snake

    Which of his 3 Philadelphia restaurants would you recommend for a special occasion dinner. Actually, probably Popolino wouldn’t be the choice, too much offal on the menu for some of the guests. Monsu or Modo Mio.