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Help me decide between these Italian places in PHL

The decision has been made: Italian in Philly Sat. night. Staying at an airport hotel, so not having to cruise around too much would be a bonus. The front runners are (in no particular order):

Osteria -- read some positive reviews
Il Portico -- menu looked good
Porcini -- been there, liked it, would go again
Le Virtu -- I saw the thread on this, mixed reviews.... but I *really* like the looks of their website / menu.

Your invaluable input is, as always, very much appreciated!

grazie :-D

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  1. Osteria is awesome but tough to get a reservation. You should trying calling them today. It's pricey but worth it. I've never been to Le virtu but it looks like a good restaurant. Porcini is okay. I guess it depends on your budget and if you're looking for a BYOB.

    What about Raddichio or Sovalo? Some other Italian places to consider..

    1. Eh, can I say none of the above? My faves: Radicchio, Cafe Casta Diva, Branzino.

      1. Osteria is the best,but also the farthest away and the most expensive. If you don't mind these two things, it is a class above the other places on your list.

        Il Portico has been around for a very long time and gets very little buzz on Chowhound. I was last there several years ago and it was very good, but I can't say how it is lately. it is quite formal and also pricey. I'd choose Osteria both for the food and a more fun, lively atmosphere.

        Porcini--Fine, though as others have said, some of the other BYOs are better, like Caffe Casta Diva.

        Le Virtu--haven't been yet, but menu looks great and I've heard good things from a couple friends who went.

        1. I like Il Portico, but the food, while good enough, isn't exactly innovative. The spot also puts you right in Rittenhouse, so if you want to get a drink or something afterward, you can just walk a block or two.

          Personally, as the other two comments alluded to, there are a few other Italian spots you may want to consider. I'll echo the Radicchio & Casta Diva recs.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Ali

            Here's another for Casta Diva and Branzino.
            And I'll add a Paradiso to the mix.

          2. Thanks for all your comments. Radicchio strikes me as too 'Americanized' (for my taste at least), what with all the vodka cream sauce, etc.

            Same could probably be said for Branzino, which has the red sauce / white sauce thing going -- that is generally a no-go for me. I am sure they're both great in their own way, but not what I am looking for.

            Couldn't find a website for Casta Diva, though their menu on menupages.com looks good, despite the insane number of typos (and I am very sensitive to that -- it's my job after all). I shan't blame them for that as it isn't their own website, and it certainly says nothing about the quality of the food there.

            So I think I'll have to decide between Le Virtu and Paradiso. Damn. It's hard work ;-P.

            thanks all! I shall report on the dinner soon.

            9 Replies
            1. re: linguafood

              I would seriously reconsider Radicchio and Branzino, which are far from Americanized. They could not be more Italian.

              1. re: linguafood

                If you're only going to be in town for one night, one dinner, I would not recommend either of those places.

                Melograno is another place you might consider, but they don't take reservations.

                1. re: Buckethead

                  Hey Bucket, what don't you like about either? Melograno does look good, too.

                  Perhaps I should mention that my focus when choosing a place is on the antipasti and paste. I hardly ever get any secondi, so the pasta choices are what *turns me on* to a place.

                  And in that aspect, Radicchio just didn't rock my world. Though I will reconsider Branzino, saturn ;-) -- they're antipasti sound good, and their pasta selection is, on second view, nice as well.

                  I guess to narrow it down to one (finally, so I can shut up about this *g*), I'll have to see what the easiest destination is by car from the aeroporto...

                  and perhaps the closest to one of the Capogiro locations. I'd love to check out their gelato for dessert!

                  1. re: linguafood

                    Both locations of Capogiro are in Center City Philadelphia, which is the hardest area to find parking. Branzino is near both locations, especially the 13th street one. Porcini is very close to the 20th Street one, but again, I think the food there is nothing special. Also look back into Caffe Casta Diva, in Center City, near the 20th Street location.

                    Le Virtu and Paradiso are in South Philadelphia. It's not hard to get parking, closer to the airport but no Capogiro. I think they are both good but not great.

                    1. re: saturninus

                      course you could eat in South Philadelphia and take a cab to the 13th st Capogiro (for less than parking)

                    2. re: linguafood

                      If the paste are what you are after, Paradiso is really good. My wife and I ALWAYS order their pappardelle with wild mushroom ragout either as an appetizer or a pasta course. It is outstanding. And the duck ravioli is quickly becoming a new favorite of ours as well.

                      1. re: Philly Ray

                        Per my posting on your other post...also consider Villa di Roma, which is the best of true south Philly restaurants and is in the heart of Soth Philly on 9th street. If you want a pleasant drink before hand try the Royal tavern on Passyunk...

                        1. re: Philly Ray

                          Hey Philly Ray! Thanks for a wonderful rec! It was a piece of cake to get to the resto, the service was outstanding (seriously, excellent service), and the food was delish. My man and I shared the calamari salad with lemon aioli which was really nice, then we shared the duck ravioli (appetizer size) which basically melted in your mouth, and with a distinct duck flavor...

                          I then went for the pappardelle as per your suggestion and liked them as well, and my man had the special of the day: 3 double lamb rack chops with mint pesto and ratatouille. The lamb was very flavorful, but for some strange reason, each was done differently: one medium-rare as ordered, one medium, and one basically rare. The flavor made up for that, but it was weird.

                          They also brought the wrong wine for me to taste first (I had picked a Sicilian Grenache), instead they brought The Stump Jump. Well, I can tell ya I was happy about that mistake, because that one was much, much better. When I get back home, I'll have to look for it in our local wine & spirits.

                          Again, mille grazie, happy holidays, etc. etc. More food next year :-D!

                          1. re: linguafood

                            Glad you liked it!

                            I didn't want to mention this up front, but my wife and I are regulars there and have come to know the chef/owner and manager (and most of the waitstaff) very well. It is one of the few places we have been able to take our infant daughter to without raising eyebrows. In fact, the last time we were there, our waitress kidnapped her and gave HER a tour of the kitchen (she was fascinated by the dishwasher, we hear). For all of the times we have been there, we have yet to have that honor/privilege, lol. I'm glad they extended that same level of gracious service to you also.

                            But anyway, glad you liked the food and everything else, minor hiccups aside.

                            Happy Holidays to you too.