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]