Restaurant Review: Lo Spiedo
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.
It’s a good way to come, because Lo Spiedo’s shiny zinc bar thrums with a copacetic vibe that shows the restaurant’s best side. I wouldn’t order another off-putting mushroom Martinez (essentially a mushroom-flavored sweet-vermouth martini, which quite literally stank), but there’s no need. From a kegged Fort Washington bordeaux blend to an impossible-to-find 2000 Punset Barbaresco, the fairly priced wine list is a treasure map overflowing with X’s.
The overpriced food menu, on the other hand, is patchy with quicksand. I had nothing but love for the kitchen’s cauliflower and broccoli florets, snatched from the flame at first char and plunked in a full-throated romesco. Escarole and cucumber came together with Calabrian chilies to form an inspired salad. And the Reginette bolognese was soul food in the best possible way. I might have fallen for the octopus arm, too— its carbonization exquisitely limited to the rims of its suckers—if it hadn’t been so huge. And tough. And a slender half-chicken off Lo Spiedo’s titular spit was delicious, with smoke-haunted skin enveloping lemony flesh, though charging $18 for it without accompaniment was a stretch.
But those mostly well-balanced offerings had company that seemed to emerge from an entirely different kitchen. A rash overdose of molten gorgonzola suffocated whatever sweetness or flavor a spit-roasted cabbage might have once had. Roasted carrots were smothered in what tasted like the drippings of 10 McRib sandwiches. The acids were MIA in a salad of flavorless green pumpkin flesh tasting mostly of pepitas and oil. And desserts (aside from a crispy skillet apple pie) only compounded those surprisingly crude disappointments.
Like the neighborhood it has helped to brighten, Lo Spiedo has promise, energy, and ample potential to get better. But whether or not it will remains to be seen.
2 Stars – Good
Lo Spiedo [Foobooz]
Originally published in the April, 2015 issue of Philadelphia magazine.