Friday, May 29, 2009

La Fontana Della Citta

1701 Spruce St., Philadelphia, 215.875.9990

We had been warned. High prices for okay food. But, we pursued the experience anyway.

First impressions were not good. La Fontana Della Citta had the look and feel of a bad suburban restaurant. Gilded framed paintings, marbled faux-painted walls, statues. Statues? Ugh. A bunch of Italian speaking young servers waiting on...just two other tables. Even the website with its auto play music is horrific. It was Girls Dinner, and our collective, "Oh boy." as we walked in the door said it all.

Girlfriend Mo had been there-TWICE-and claims to have had a good experience both times. I was highly doubtful. Especially after we noticed the white bread was stale and the olive oil offered nothing other than greasiness. And, a source of immediate annoyance, the only candle on our table was unlit. Guess the servers were too busy waiting on their two other tables to worry about little details like ambiance. But they had statues for that.

Thanks to Girlfriend Mo, we've now tried calamari in every Italian restaurant we've eaten in in the city. I can't tell you who's is the best, but La Fontana's was pretty tasteless. It came with marinara sauce for dipping which was also, amazingly, tasteless! Salt, a key ingredient, was definitely missing. The texture was light and crispy, but it was down right bland.

At some point, two groups of college girls in short ass dresses came strutting in with their Riunite jugs o' juice. The young Italian servers were smiling so hard, my face hurt. Surprisingly our service did not go downhill from there. And fortunately, the food got better. Hmmm.

The whole fish Branzino special was filleted tableside and was served with sun-dried tomatoes, lemon, and capers. The fish was fresh and the sauce was light and delish. Plus, we found only 3 bones. Of course, zero would have been better, but our expectations were still low. Although, I thought the fish was a little overcooked. Girlfriend Roz disagreed.

The Risotto con Funghi with porcini mushrooms was cooked al dente in rich cognac sauce. Yes, this was a winter heavy meal, and even though it stuck in my teeth, I brought it home and had the rest the next night. Yum.

Girlfriend Mo had another special, the Capellini with Shrimp, Scallops, and Spinach in a rose sauce. I think this was the best entree of the three. Fresh, light with a hint of sweetness.

And yet, the entire time, we snickered at the young girls in their stripper clothes. Girlfriend Roz succinctly put it this way, "I think there's a pole behind me."

We skipped dessert and finished our wine instead. The entrees prevailed, but not enough to warrent a return visit. Ever.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Dmitri's in Queen Village

795 S 3rd St, Philadelphia, PA - (215) 625-0556

Dmitri's is like an institution of the freshest seafood prepared in the most simple way. I'll never forget my first visit. I remember reading the review that raved about the grilled octopus. When it arrived in front of me, it smelled so unappetizing that I couldn't fathom it tasting good. But it did. It was so good in fact, that in the dozen or so times we've eaten there or ordered take out (weekdays only), the grilled octopus was a must-have item. We refused to waste an opportunity to order it.

Except I think I've finally had octopus burn-out. I just couldn't eat it again. My dining partner vehemently disagreed and dove right in. Freshly grilled octopus bits, drizzled with olive oil and served with lemon wedges and hot peppers. Not chewy. Just right. It's best eaten hot right off the grill.

Dmitri's is teeny. Cramped, in fact. Two high top tables placed next to the front door offer window seating as well as a clear view into the open galley kitchen where bar seating is also available for about six. Past that and up a step (Don't trip!) are about seven other tables. Get there early or wait in line...or at the bar across the street at New Wave Cafe.

Hot grilled pita wedges and fresh bread arrives first with olive oil for dipping. If I just ate the pita and the Avocado Citrus Salad I would be perfectly content. The Avocado Citrus Salad is the only salad I order when we dine there. It's not available for take out. My one complaint is that the bowl is way too small. Lettuce, avocado, grapefruit, orange and almond slices are jam-packed in this bowl. It's a struggle to keep the food from falling over the edges.

This last visit I decided to order a special - the scallops. As with all entrees at Dmitri's, the sides were rice and steamed spinach which, I hate to admit, is utterly boring. The scallops were simply grilled in olive oil but were gritty and instantly derailed my appetite. This is why it's best to stick with the basics, I suppose.

For a fresh, simple take on seafood in an intimate atmosphere, give it a shot. Don't expect romantic closeness though. People are in your personal space.

P.S. It's also cash only.
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