Where to Eat This Weekend: Italian Stallions
Black shutters, white tablecloths and patterned pottery suggest that you’ve stepped inside a country inn in Tuscany, Provence or Mexico, although the pressed khakis and figure-skimming dresses on the clientele say Malvern. Dim and sometimes deafeningly loud, this rustic-chic BYOB draws western Main Liners of all ages with its remarkably tender octopus, house-made pastas and entrees like wood-roasted goat.
Alba, 7 West King Street Malvern, 610-644-4009
The latest addition to Valerie Safran and chef Marcie Turney’s burgeoning 13th Street empire is rustic Mediterranean restaurant Barbuzzo. The handsome barn-wood-paneled and marbled interior features an open kitchen and a full-service bar — a first for the duo, who also operate BYOs Bindi and Lolita (and four more businesses) on the same block. The cuisine takes inspiration from Portugal, Spain, France and Italy, putting out fare like pig “popcorn” — a crisp, crackly interpretation of chicharrones; tender grilled octopus with potato, assorted preparations of pickled and preserved vegetables, house-made pastas and Neopolitan-style pizzas, cooked in an authentic wood-burning oven.
Barbuzzo, 110 South 13th Street, 215-564-9300
The owners of Le Virtù rode Passyunk Avenue’s restaurant wave all the way down to their 1900-block locale. But a meal at this trattoria feels more like Abruzzi than South Philly, with homemade pastas inspired by Central Italian classics. Think spaghetti-like maccheroncini alla chitarra coated with a lamb ragu, and surprisingly savory cocoa raviolis stuffed with braised rabbit, tossed in sage butter and sprinkled with crunchy amaretto cookie crumbs.
Le Virtu, 1927 East Passyunk Avenue, 215-271-5626
A charming oasis in a sea of double-and triple-parked cars, BYOB L’Angolo is value-priced to boot. Credit for this small miracle goes to owner Davide Faenza, a native of Gallipoli, down in Italy’s heel, and his wife Kathy, who makes the desserts. The seduction begins just inside the front door, when you spy the glorious assortment of room-temperature cooked vegetables that includes zucchini, bell pepper, eggplant, carrots, potatoes, onions and beets, plus chickpeas and frittata. Order antipasto misto as an appetizer, and you’ll get some of everything, a platter large enough to share.
L’Angolo, 1415 Porter Street, 215-389-4252
The lightly charred Lombarda pizza, topped with a soft-cooked egg. A tangle of tender candele noodles just coated with a wild boar bolognese. A massive, meaty rib eye for two, served over white beans and grilled scallions. The petite polenta budino, an unexpected and delicious dessert, crowned with chocolate-hazelnut cream. All that, plus a quartino of food-friendly vino, makes casual, convivial Osteria one of the best restaurants in Philadelphia.
Osteria, 640 North Broad Street, 215-763-0920
Villa di Roma
Tourists might flock to Ralph’s up the street, but locals who know — and don’t want to splurge at nearby Saloon — head to the Villa. The marinara, served on everything from chicken parm to steak pizzaola to our fave, the linguine Abbruzzi, is the perfect blend of robust garlic, fruity olive oil, parsley and, of course, lots of crushed tomatoes.
Villa di Roma, 936 South 9th Street, 215-592-1295