I’ve gotten better service at the DIY froyo place off South Street than I did at SoWe. One Saturday night, I made a reservation for 8:15. The table wasn’t ready then, so our party of four was ushered outside, where we waited five minutes for a server, and then another 10 minutes for the drinks she forgot to bring us. The cocktails were comped, which almost made up for the fact that it was nearly 9 p.m. when we were finally seated—at a hastily arranged table outside the dining room, next to the bar, with broken hinges that kept knocking big flanks of wood against our knees. After the move, our food was brought out at random. My mussels and mac-and-cheese gratin were delivered simultaneously, while my friend’s starter soup came after her tuna tartare. Oh, and then our waiter decided to argue with us when we raised objections. If the food had been exceptional, the nonstop horrific service might have been forgiven. Alas, it was not.
First appeared in the December, 2013 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
Chef Ben Thomas and his wife, Elena, have taken a big risk opening Cerise, a BYOB in Bryn Mawr. If you want to have dinner here, you have to buy into a $47 four-course prix-fixe menu (a $39 three-course is available Wednesday and Sunday), and at that price, proper Main Liners are going to balk at the lax (though very friendly) service, the too-bright room and the lack of table linens. And though the menu can be a little hit-or-miss, the French-trained Thomas, who has worked at Lacroix and Sycamore, does have some real skills, which he best shows off with his perfect chicken liver mousse and house-made pastas. It’s just too bad you can’t order them à la carte.
First appeared in the December, 2013 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
Rotolo | Courtney Apple
Trey Popp comes to Pizzeria Vetri with great expectations but too many of the pizzas literally flopped.
The further away I got from the pizza menu, though, the better Pizzeria Vetri got. There are lovely salads: arugula and roasted fingerlings slathered with killer pesto, and a “wood oven” salad that’s a belly-filling medley of corn, chanterelles, blistered green beans and top-drawer ham, studded with ricotta salata. There’s exceptionally fresh-tasting kegged wine from the Gotham Project, and bottled sloe-gin fizzes and Americanos that serve two for $12. The rotolos are instantly the best savory pastry in town: crispy pizza dough coiled Cinnabon-style around mortadella and ricotta, doused with pistachio pesto.
Two Stars – Good
Restaurant Review: The Best Food at Pizzeria Vetri Isn’t the Pizza [Philadelphia Magazine]
Pizzeria Vetri [Official Site]
Spaghetti and meatballs at Little Nonna’s | Photo by Jason Varney
Trey Popp finds that Marcie Turney has breathed new life into red-gravy Italian at Little Nonna’s.
Just to be safe, though, order the polenta and meatballs to share; Turney packs her cornmeal with enough cream, taleggio, fontina and parmesan to put the most shameless cheese grits to shame. And you’ll want to have room at dinner’s far end for pastry chef Sara May’s spumoni, which ditches the usual neon palette in favor of a moody sundae richly muddled with roasted cherries, chocolate pizzelles and pistachio-olive oil.
Three Stars – Excellent
Restaurant Review: Next-Level Comfort Food at Little Nonna’s [Philadelphia Magazine]
Little Nonna’s [Foobooz]
Photo by Jaeson Han
Craig LaBan checks out Talula’s Daily and finds that Aimee Olexy has another hit on her hands.
My favorite dish of all my Daily meals, though, was the paper-wrapped surprise of skate en papillote. Almost always seared, the flesh took on an unexpectedly luxurious quality in a tangerine-scented steam, and concealed beneath its butter-glossed wing a trove of root vegetable treasures. Each was cut and cooked to a unique shape and texture, from weird and squiggly little crosnes, to earthy soft Jerusalem artichokes, snappy shaved ribbons of multihued raw carrots, bittersweet marbles of tender baby turnips, and crunchy cubes of al dente kohlrabi.
Three Bells – Excellent
Talula’s Daily cafe & market is affordable Olexy excellence [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Talula’s Daily [Foobooz]
Craig LaBan reviews the Jewish-Italian deli mashup that Laura Frangiosa and partners, husband Josh Skaroff and friend Brian Flounders have created at Avenue Delicatessen in Lansdowne.
The Avenue, opened in the spring in a tidy, rehabbed Lansdowne storefront that had been the long-running Doyle’s Deli, is a genuine deli mash-up – one part Jewish (Skaroff’s family), one part Italian (Frangiosa’s family.) It sounds like a gimmick. But when I bit into an arancini and saw the molten core of corned beef-studded Swiss and sauerkraut oozing from the risotto ball’s center, I knew this was 100 percent from the heart – with a side of Russian dressing.
Two Bells – Very Good
The Avenue Delicatessen: A welcome mishmash of Italian and Jewish comfort food [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Avenue Delicatessen [Foobooz]
Mistral in Princeton lands reviews in the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer this week. Scott Anderson and business partner, Stephen Distler who also on Elements in Princeton, opened the BYOB in May with Ben Nerenhausen as the chef de cuisine. Both the Times’ Fran Schumer and the Inquirer’s Craig LaBan gave the Mistral a “very good” rating. Both highlighted the octopus and scallops. LaBan definitely had problems with service (they lost his reservation on one occasion) or he might have even rated it higher.
Small Plates, and a Taste of Many Cultures [New York Times]
Mistral helps put Princeton in culinary Ivy League [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Mistral [Philadelphia Magazine]
Late Summer Farmstead Collection | Photo by Courtney Apple
Trey Popp says it’s a shame that Talula’s Daily’s chef Scott Megill’s dinner was interrupted by a sales pitch.
But somewhere before dessert and the individually tailored cheese course, our cheerful waitress broke the enchantment of Aimee Olexy’s ode to homespun coziness by delivering what you’d have to call a sales pitch. Everything on the table, she divulged, was a product for sale by Anthropologie.
Two-and-a-half stars – Good to Excellent
Philadelphia Restaurant Review: Talula’s Daily [Philadelphia Magazine]
Talula’s Daily [Philadelphia Magazine]
BBQ Lamb with cumin flavor. Photo by Jason Varney.
Trey Popp reviews Xi’An Sizzling Woks (formerly Xi’An Famous Food) in Chinatown. There he discovers a side of pickled garlic cloves that set the tone for his glowing review.
Read more »
Adam Erace reviews Marc Vetri’s temple of pizza, Pizzeria Vetri, and comes away impressed.
They all begin with a dough that eschews oil, per Neapolitan doctrine, and cooks up with a crisp crust and soft but structured center. Most follow with an aurora of the bright, tangy tomato sauce, then a collection of toppings, like house-made sausage, mozzarella, roasted fennel and fennel fronds. That pie, the Salsiccia, was great, but I liked the straightforward Margherita even better.
The shiniest new addition to the Vetri Family is turning out serious pies [City Paper]
Pizzeria Vetri [Foobooz]