The Revisit: Fond

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Every cook loves getting a bigger kitchen, and Lee Styer is no exception. Two-and-a-half years after moving Fond half a block from its original niche on Passyunk Avenue, he still remembers the liberation he felt.

The new liquor license was just the beginning. All of a sudden he had a walk-in fridge. Enough dry-storage capacity so that he could buy a whole case of onions at a time (rather than just five pounds). The days of sharing a single oven with his pastry chef (and wife) Jessie Prawlucki were definitively behind him. Read more »

Molto Molto: Gran Caffè L’Aquila Reviewed

Spaghetti carbonara | Photo by Ryan Scott

Spaghetti carbonara | Photo by Ryan Scott

Pretend you’ve been led into a new restaurant wearing a blindfold. We’re playing a game: When I uncover your eyes, you try to piece together enough clues to guess what sort of place we’re in. Go! The 24-flavor gelato counter would give it away too easily, so I yank the blindfold a few steps beyond it. Your eyes fall on a white wall lined with bottles of Campari and Martini dry vermouth. Fresh espresso hits your nose just as a Serie A soccer rerun steals your gaze. You look around. The place is choked with waiters rocking natty short-brim fedoras of a sort most often found atop comic-strip gangsters (but apparently resurgent in Milan). A montage of touristic photos and factoids loops on a second TV — tidbits about Venice and Rome alternating with Maserati commercials. Read more »

The Electric Dim Sum Acid Test: Bing Bing Dim Sum Reviewed

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Bing Bing Dim Sum | Photo by Courtney Apple

If restaurateurs were rock stars (and in Philly, they’re as close as we come), Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh would be vintage R.E.M. Whether they’re slinging ramen with brisket and matzo balls, as at Cheu Noodle Bar, or papering the walls of their new Bing Bing Dim Sum with acid-trip dumpling emojis, they have a knack for twisting a budding trend just far enough to make it unmistakably their own.   Read more »

Three Bells for Palladino’s

The Kobe Ribeye at Palladino's | Photo via Palladino's

The Kobe Ribeye at Palladino’s | Photo via Palladino’s

Craig LaBan finds that Luke Palladino has managed to find an unfilled niche in Italian-loaded South Philadelphia. At Palladino’s, there are excellent steaks, focaccia di Recco that LaBan predicts will become one of the most sought after plates in the city, and other dishes that stand out.

Among my other favorites were a juicy duck sausage roasted with pickled grapes over goat-cheese-whipped polenta; the baked crepselle rolled around wild mushrooms enriched with Taleggio; a refined casino take on oysters (instead of clams) that roasted those mollusks to perfection. A house-extruded pasta was the secret al dente weapon that elevated the spaghetti alle vongole with tender cockles in flavorful broth to another level.

Three Bells – Excellent

Palladino’s in South Philly: Northern Italian with a chop-house twist [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Palladino’s [Foobooz]

Two Retro Reviews from the Weeklies

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Olde Bar | Photo by Arthur Etchells

 

Brian Freedman visits Olde Bar for Philadelphia Weekly while Adam Erace reviews Franky Bradley’s for City Paper. Freedman is in love with the fried clams at Jose Garces’s redone Bookbinders and he’s even more impressed with the redo.

The Olde Bar is a Jose Garces project—the kitchen is helmed by Chef de Cuisine Mike Siegel—but it feels different from his other restaurants around town. Indeed, in his attempt to honor the legendary space, he has accomplished something both difficult and important: Bringing the past into the present, without peddling in either preciousness or hokey nostalgia. The Olde Bar feels both classic and vibrant at once, just like that fried clam.

Read more »

Restaurant Review: Lo Spiedo

Photo by Steve Legato

Photo by Steve Legato

It was no surprise that the Navy Yard’s Saturday-night gate guard greeted my car with wry amusement. Given all the restaurants in all the neighborhoods of Philly, who picks one in a deserted office park half a forlorn mile from the nearest SEPTA station? I wish I could have seen him later when a sleek SUV limo rolled up, blinker flashing for Lo Spiedo.

The Vetri Family’s latest restaurant may profit most from its location at lunch, when this resurgent hub teems with some 11,500 workers. But it can also thank Uber, which no doubt delivered many of the customers who filled this stately brick building in after-dark Nowheresville with Center City-level weekend energy. Read more »

Two Bells for Capofitto

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Craig LaBan reviews Capofitto, the new artisan pizza spot in Old City from the team behind Capogiro. He finds the new pizzeria is just what the historic neighborhood needs.

I know, I know. More pizza. Just what Philadelphia needed. But if it’s created with as much dedication to craft as Stephanie and John Reitano bring, one as good as Capofitto can represent a quality-of-life improvement. And these two bring the same commitment to the details of authenticity that elevates the gelati at their Capogiro chain far beyond mere ice cream.

Two Bells – Very Good

Capofitto is a welcome addition to Old City [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Capofitto [Foobooz]

Restaurant Review: Juniper Commons

Juniper Commons | Photos by Michael Persico

Juniper Commons | Photos by Michael Persico

At Juniper Commons, where old newspaper headlines paper two walls in a triumph of microfilm and selective memory, there’s electricity in the air.

E. GERMANY OPENS BORDERS

SURGERY OVER, REAGAN IN CHARGE

PHILLIES RULE THE WORLD

Lionel Richie’s on the radio — along with Air Supply and Hall & Oates, all those smooth synthesizers washing over the occasional drum-machine downbeat of early LL Cool J. Votive candles flicker in amber ashtrays beneath globe lights fed by telephone-coil wire, and the lounge area goes back to the future with wingback chairs out of the Jetsons’ living room. Read more »

First Bite: Nom Wah Tea Parlor

nom-wah-tea-parlor-delivery-940Nom Wah Tea Parlor kind of opened today. The New York based dim sum spot has a Philadelphia location at 218 N 13th Street and the kitchen is ready, even if the dining room isn’t. So they’ve begun offering delivery via Caviar.

Since we were intrigued and figured you would be too, we placed a late lunch order. In just under 50 minutes our order was at the front desk.

Read more »

The Revisit: Serpico

Serpico photo courtesy the anagramatic Mike Persico

Serpico photo courtesy of the anagramatic Mike Persico

There’s only so much a clean bathroom can tell you about a restaurant, but every now and then they speak volumes.

To face the poster of Olivia Newton-John wearing her “Physical” gear in the Juniper Commons men’s room is to know, conclusively, that there’s no escaping the 1980s there. The inexplicably unflattering powder-room lighting at the late, unlamented Avance — which had inherited perfectly good illumination from Le Bec-Fin — encapsulated the misguided priorities that sank the place. Even the community chalkboards lining Crow & The Pitcher’s facilities testify to that restaurant’s yearning to be adopted by a neighborhood that’s never really rallied behind a tenant at that address. (And where else but Miami Beach could have a setup like this?) Read more »

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