Archive for the 'Italian' Category



March 27, 2007
Cuisine: Italian

640 N Broad St, Philadelphia 19130
At Wallace St

Phone: 215-763-0920

Ciabatta, Focaccia, Breadsticks (complimentary)

Pizza: Polpo – octopus, tomato, red chili flakes and smoked mozzarella ($17)

Antipasti I: Tripe Alla Parmigiana ($10)

Antipasti II: Wood Baked Manilla Clams with guanciale and scallions ($12)

Primi: Bucatini with Testa Ragu ($16)

Secondi: Rabbit Casalinga with pancetta, sage and brown butter ($26)

Dessert: Tangerine Zuppa Inglese ($8)

The Astronomer, Luscious, and I trekked up North Broad last week to try Marc Vetri’s much anticipated new restaurant, Osteria. The space was immense compared to the shoebox-sized eateries in Center City. We were seated near the front next to the host and bar. For a Tuesday night, the restaurant was packed (minus the bar), but not too noisy.

Since it was our first visit, we weren’t sure how much food to order. Seeking advice from our waitress, she suggested that we each order an antipasti, primi, and secondi, but that seemed a little excessive (and expensive). In the end, we opted to eat family style and shared one pizza, two antipasti, a primi, a secondi, and one dessert. It was just the right amount of food for three kids who love to eat.

We knew we were in for a treat because the complimentary breads served with olive oil were excellent. The Ciabatta soaked up the olive oil like a sponge, the Focaccia was doused in oil beforehand and melted in our mouths, and the breadsticks were classic.

The Polpo pizza was the first dish to arrive–the thin crust, melted fresh mozzarella, and flavorful octopus rocked our worlds! None of us had ever had such a mind-blowing pizza experience before. The Polpo is definitely tops!

With such an incredible start, it was difficult for the subsequent dishes to compete with the spectacular Polpo. The tripe was the next to arrive. Unlike me, the Astronomer and Lush are not huge fans of stomach lining. I’m most familiar with eating tripe in a bowl of phở and was looking forward to the Italian preparations. The tripe tasted as though it had been stewing for hours because it was incredibly delicate and not at all chewy. The tripe and cannellini beans were served in a lovely marinara sauce with cheese sprinkled atop. The sturdy crostini was a great vehicle for the tripe. However, the texture of the beans was too harsh when paired with the tripe.

Lush and The Astronomer focused on the Manilla Clams with guanciale and scallions while I was enjoying the tripe. Both agreed that the clams were decent, but unspectacular and the broth was wonderful with some bread. Overall, the dish was very ho hum.

The pasta and rabbit were brought out together. Initially The Astronomer thought the rabbit was delicious, but as the meal progressed the salty meat became less appealing. Lush agreed that the rabbit was overly salty. Since I was stuffed at this point, I only had a few bites and thus the salt didn’t overwhelm me as much. The rabbit rested in a pool of oily polenta that turned us off a bit and the pancetta looked unappetizing sitting in a bath of oil.

The Bucatini with Testa (pig’s head) Ragu was respectable. The pasta was made in house and the testa tasted like sweet bacon. The Astronomer really liked this dish. Lush and I thought it was good, but paled in comparison to the Polpo. Perhaps the pizza should have been brought out last so that the other dishes could have been given a fair shake.

For dessert we shared the Tangerine Zuppa Inglese. Our final courses were so buttery and salty that the refreshing citrus “tiramisu” really hit the spot.

I very much wanted to love Osteria because of Vetri’s reputation, but wasn’t thrilled by most of our selections. The next time I return, I’ll order the Polpo and tripe and call it a day.


Pizzeria Delfina


March 15, 2007
Cuisine: Pizza, Italian

3611 18th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

Phone: 415-437-6800

Appetizer I: Spicy Cauliflower – with capers, garlic and Calabrian chilies ($6)

Appetizer II: Collard Greens – with guanciale and chili ($6.50)

Pizza I: Panna – tomato sauce, cream, basil, shaved Parmigiano ($10)

Pizza II: Hen O the Woods – mushroom, thyme, Taleggio ($15)

A trip to The Bay would not be complete without a meal with my Oaktown friends, Maria and Jessica. Jessica heard good things about Pizzeria Delfina, namely that it was tasty, vegetarian-friendly, and not too pricey. The pizzeria is an offshoot of Delfina, a high-end restaurant next door. I do appreciate fancy restaurants opening up more casual eateries with equally fabulous food such as Otto (Babbo), Osteria (Vetri), Brasserie Perrier (Le Bec Fin), etc.

We started our dinner by sharing two vegetable plates–collard greens and cauliflower. Maria insisted on having leafy greens because she’s a bigger health nut than I am, while Jessica and I chose the starchier cauliflower. The Spicy Cauliflower was garlicky, just firm enough, and fried to perfection; the chilies added a sensational bite. I wish cauliflower could always be this delicious. The collard greens also included some chilies, which tied together the two veggies nicely. Neither Jessica, Maria, The Astronomer, or I had ever had collard greens that weren’t cooked to death a la Soul Food. We were all surprised by how flavorful and delicate the greens were. The guanciale (unsmoked Italian bacon prepared with pig’s jowl or cheeks) were fabulous because bacon makes just about everything better!

Unfortunately, the pizzas were not nearly as spectacular as the appetizers. Jessica, Maria, and I shared the Hen O the Woods. Surprisingly, the mushrooms were tasteless and not the least bit woodsy and as a result, the pizza fell flat. Additionally, the crust was mediocre and the thyme was missing in action. We should have listened to Maria and ordered the Broccoli Rabe. The Astronomer’s Panna suited his taste, but was pretty basic and thus boring.

Già Pronto


January 31, 2007
Cuisine: Panini, coffee, salads

20th and Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Phone: 215-568-1994
Website: none

Applegate Farm Roast Beef – Cooked medium-well with chipotle mayo, grilled red onions, cheddar cheese, and romaine lettuce on Italian Ciabatta Bread ($6.50)

In a city where hoagies and cheesesteaks rein supreme, it’s been difficult finding the perfect panini. The paninis I had at Paninoteca and Felinni were good, but nothing special.

Thank goodness for Già Pronto! The roast beef panini was stellar and definitely worth writing home about (or maybe just blogging about).

I only have two requirements for panini: 1. the bread must be toasted and feature grill marks 2. the cheese needs to be melted. My roast beef panini came through on both points. Additionally, the sandwich’s ingredients were top-notch featuring only 100% natural ingredients and hormone-free meat.

The Ciabatta was perfectly toasted and sturdy. The cheddar cheese had a deliciously strong flavor. The grilled red onions added a layer of sweetness, while the chipotle mayonnaise added some kick. The roast beef, seasoned with salt and pepper, was naturally flavorful. My only complaint was the wilted romaine lettuce. Perhaps the sandwich artists should add the romaine post-toasting to avoid soggy greens. Overall, an outstanding sandwich. I’ll be back.


January 20, 2007
Cuisine: Sandwiches, Italian

Reading Terminal Market, 12th & Filbert
Philadelphia, PA

Phone: 215-923-6175
Website: none

Roast Beef Sandwich with Sharp Provolone ($6.25)

One of the Astronomer’s favorite vendors at the Reading Terminal Market is DiNic’s. We stopped there for a quick bite on Saturday while shopping for produce at the market. Since we arrived late in the afternoon, DiNic’s only had roast beef sandwiches left. The customer ahead of us assured us it was great, so we ordered it.

The roast beef sandwich was INCREDIBLE; I’ve had none better. The meat was thinly sliced and moist. The bread was sturdy, yet soft and fragrant. And the provolone was flavorful and strong. The roast beef’s drippings atop the sandwich tied the bread, meat, and cheese together beautifully. DiNic’s sandwiches are truly out of this world! I can’t wait to try their famous Roast Pork Sandwich on my next visit.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup or more grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 6 slices thick bacon or pancetta
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound dried spaghetti

In a good-sized salad bowl, combine eggs, cheese, salt, and pepper to form a mixture heavier than cream but lighter than pancake batter. Cut bacon or pancetta into small pieces and fry slowly in olive oil. Meanwhile, cook pasta in three or four quarts of boiling water. When pasta is al dente, drain and quickly add to the bowl with the cheese and egg mixture and toss. Add the hot bacon and olive oil in which it was cooked, and stir to cook the eggs. Serves 4.

Recipe by Franca Tasso from Life is Meals by James and Kay Salter

Substitutions: Used turkey bacon in place of bacon/pancetta. Added green onions because Mario Batalli does so in the Spaghetti alla Carbonara at Otto in New York City.