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Need Italian Recs, Please!

I am taking my husband out for his birthday next month and would like recommendations for a good Italian restaurant. I'm not a fan of the traditional South Philly red sauce Italian; I prefer Northern Italian cuisine. My husband is a big meat eater and particularly a fan of papardelle with meat sauce or mushrooms.

I no longer live in the area so I'm somewhat out of touch with good places to go. I took a look at the "top 50" recommended by Philadelphia Magazine but wasn't that excited about the selections. We are staying in South Jersey but happy to drive to Center City or South Philly. A BYO is okay and reservations are a must - we're doing this on a Saturday night and don't have an open-ended amount of time available to us. It doesn't need to be super hip, just pleasant with a nice ambiance and good food - and preferably no toddlers! (I have one at home). Price is not an issue but good value is: portion size should be proportional to price.

My mom sent me the following list of possible candidates. Please provide information about these places and recommendations of others that you think might fit the bill. Thanks in advance for the help, and I hope the specifics above are helpful in narrowing the field - I know there are an endless number of good Italian places in Philly.

Davio’s
L’Angoloa
La Famiglia
Monte Carlo Dining Room
Melagrano
Kristians
Cucina Forte
Valentino’s On the square

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  1. I'm not the biggest help since I can only comment on La Famiglia, but I really liked it there; and I'm totally with you on the northern Italian cuisine. I've heard good things about Branzino from a cousin and will be going there next week.

    Other than that, this is totally random and since you're driving through the area might not be as helpful since it's not in center city (it's in the northeast) but my favorite Italian place in Philly is this place called Zacone's... but like I said, it's not in center city...

    2 Replies
    1. re: padovana

      Where is it? My parents are watching the above-mentioned toddler for the evening and they are in South Jersey; but I am about equidistant from all 3 bridges so I can be a little flexible.

      1. re: doc_k55

        The address they give is 3151 Cottman Ave so that means you would get off at the Tacony Bridge. If you're intersested, I recommend calling because it's a TINY place and they are closed randomly. Also, it's a BYO.
        And here's the number: (215) 335-2435
        If you decide to go, ask which desserts are homemade... they don't make them all but they'll freely tell you which ones are homemade.... they had amazing pistachio ice cream made by the grandmother last time I was there .

    2. I would recommend Paradiso. It's in South Philly, but not "red sauce" (not that there's anything wrong with "red sauce"). They have a good selection of pastas and meat entrees. In fact, their pappardelle with mushroom ragout is something we order just about every time we go there.

      They are not a BYO and do accept reservations.

      Check out their menu...

      http://www.paradisophilly.com/

      1. There is a new Italian, called Salento, on Walnut St, between 22nd and 23rd that I thought was excellent, and quite authentic. Not Northern Italian, but not "red gravy" either--Pugliese Cuisine. It is owned by the folks who own L'Angolo, but is a little more formal and upscale, but not too pricey.

        1. Monte Carlo Living Room is closed.

          Not sure about Northern vs Southern, but for expertly made Italian cuisine and for a special occasion I love Branzino and Caffe Casta Diva.

          1. L'Agola is great, but small with tables close together. What about La Viola? The new site across the street from the old restaurant is larger, food is quite good and very reasonably priced.

            1. Since you are going to be in S. Jersey, would you consider a few suggestions in Jersey? Sapori and Bistro Di Marino in Collingswood are excellent, not your typical red sauce type places at all. Tre Famiglia in Haddonfield also just got a very good review:http://blog.nj.com/artful_diner/2008/...
              All are BYOB.

              2 Replies
              1. re: mschow

                Really enjoyed Bistro Di Marino last year with a group of friends. Wonderful food and they didn't skimp on the portions. (We actually shared some.)

                1. re: Seeker19104

                  La Famiglia is a Philadelphia staple.
                  Off your list I would highly recommend Caffe Casta Diva (a BYOB) and Paradiso. Both are excellent.
                  Branzino is excellent for Italian and seafood.
                  Bon appetit.

              2. Thanks to all the suggestions. I pre-screened the menus (he's a bit of a picky eater!) and ended up reading him the ones from Paradiso, L'Angolo and Davio's. He picked L'Angolo, so that is where I'm making the reservation. I appreciate the help.

                1. I haven't been, but I've heard very good things about Nunzio's in Collingswood. I believe there is some connection between the former owner or chef from Monte Carol Living Room.

                  1. Tre Scalini 1915 East passyunk 215-551-3870. this a a new location for them. The food it great, bybo of course

                    Also Cucina Forte