Thursday, February 28, 2008

Gioia Mia

2025 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, 215.231.9895 (Edited to add: This has recently closed.)

Girlfriends, you need a night out. If, for any other reason, than to unload your husband-related frustrations, like one of us did Wednesday night at Gioia Mia.

Gioia Mia (pronounced joy-ah mee-ah) is a casual, comfortable Italian restaurant with an open kitchen and many wines by the glass.

You'll certainly have no problem getting a prime table at the time of your choice on a Wednesday night. We were the first ones in just before 8 p.m. greeted by Max, a lovely gentleman with a heavy Italian accent.

We started with the tableside prepared Caesar Salad--a close version to the original recipe. But, you better like garlic because you'll offending anyone within sight and tasting it the next morning. Then, on to the Tortine di Granchio con Funghi, which is sauteed lump crabcake over portabella mushroom in a light tomato sauce. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to crabcakes, (I was raised in Maryland, after all.), so I didn't love that particular combination.

I had Pesce del Giorno--Branzino, baked whole than fileted at the table. Always a nice touch (but, better when they get all the bones out). It was very moist and light with tomatoes, olives, onions and lemon juice, accompanied by green beans, simple yet crisp and fresh in a light olive oil and herb roasted potatoes.

Girlfriend Mo had the Ravioli all’Aragosta, lobster ravioli and jumbo shrimp with asparagus in a tomato-cognac sauce with fresh sage. Girlfriend Roz had the Risotto alla PescatoraRisotto with shrimp, mussels, baby clams & calamari in white wine sauce. You can also have it with red sauce, but the white was recommended. No one complained...well, about the food, that is. We girls love to vent.

Dessert was shared since we were all stuffed, but a good meal must always end with something sweet. The Tiramisu (My must-have dessert in any Italian restaurant.) came in an oversized martini glass. Creamy, thick with nearly a shot of dark rum at the bottom, much of it soaked into the lady fingers. Yum!

Read some other reviews: Philly Weekly; City Paper.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Copper Bistro

614 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia, 215.627.9844

Closed June 2009

Good, not great. That was the consensus after dining at Copper Bistro in Northern Liberties recently. It's a small restaurant situated on the main drag. Notable features include an open kitchen, exposed brick wall with little nooks of candlelight and copper kitchenware as decor. There are two dining rooms; the main one with the kitchen and a smaller one in the back with about 4 or so tables. We sat at this table in the back practically tucked into the fireplace. As much as I love fireplaces, I don't want to eat in one. Thankfully, it wasn't working!

The menu is a melting pot of cuisines: French, Belgian, Asian, Mediterranean and more. We started with the cheese plate ($12.50). I love cheese plates. You learn about new cheeses and usually they're paired with an intriguing side you would never otherwise know about. At the same time, I hate cheese plates--the portion size is always a tease. There was a french cheddar, a goat's milk and fig bread. Not bad. My entree was Day-Boat Scallops with Wild Mushroom Ragout and Potato Rosti Mushroom Jus ($23.50). Husband had shrimp. I'm waiting for him to elaborate on that. For whatever reason, our entrees took really long to show up so we ran out of time for dessert. (We had a play to get to.) Aside from the long wait, the server was friendly and knowledgeable. But overall, nothing wowed us. The best part was the 2005 Frog's Leap Cabernet, but we brought that.
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