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cozy, authentic italian, byob...?

hi there. i'd like to take my boyfriend out to eat at a cozy, authentic italian restaurant for his birthday (it will be a saturday night). i'm looking anywhere in the philly area . we'll have a car so i don't mind driving.

i'm not looking for anything too modern/trendy or crazy expensive. ideally some place rustic, intimate with fantastic food. i'd prefer byob but it's not a must. oh, and someplace where the noise level allows us to carry a conversation.

we don't live in the area anymore so i'm clueless as to where to go.
thanks in advance!

edited: i guess i should also add that he's a bit of a foodie. we're not looking for the hottest new place - just great good and atmosphere.

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  1. BYOB's- La Viola, Branzino, Melograno, Caffe something(!) Vista, Tre Scalini
    Not a BYO but a foodie destination, Le Virtue, also Osteria or the high end Vetri

    1. Mr. Martino's on Passyunk Ave.

      1. I think bonappetite means Caffe Casta Diva.

        I've been to Porcini, a tiny place on Sansom, which I really liked. Seems to fit the bill perfectly.

        1 Reply
        1. re: linguafood

          All of these recs seem so great! I am going to a little more research on each one and try to decide.

          Keep the ideas coming. Thanks everyone!

        2. I would second Mr Martino's (although I think they vacation in Aug sometime so be careful!) and Le Virtu and add La Angolo

          1. I'm a fan of Mr. Martino's, but Le Virtu would be my suggestion. It kind of depends on what exactly you mean by "crazy expensive".

            5 Replies
            1. re: Buckethead

              yeah, i guess "crazy expensive" is all relative ;)
              i'd prefer somewhere around $125 (gratuity included) for two. i'll spend a bit more if it's not BYOB, to include a bottle of wine

              1. re: newbiechick

                Mr. Martino's will probably cost you half that, it's BYO. Le Virtu would probably be over that, you could spend less depending on what you order. Entrees there start at $21, but usually when I go I just skip the entrees and get an appetizer and one of their pasta dishes, which are almost all under $20. They make great fresh pasta.

                You didn't say where in NJ you'll be but if you're near Collingswood I would also consider Blackbird (http://www.blackbirdnj.com/), their gnocchi are fantastic. Their entrees are more expensive than Le Virtu's though.

                1. re: Buckethead

                  thanks, this is great info. price really isn't set in stone for me. i'll pay more for great food, but of course, if i can get great food for less $ than that would be great, too.

                  i did look at blackbird online and their website didn't seem too appealing (i know, not the best way to judge a restaurant...but i can't help it! it seemed a bit dark and halloween-ish).

                  the thing about martino's that threw me off was an article that said all the food is cooked in advance and then reheated for service. is nothing made fresh there? is it authentic italian or your italian-american fare?

                  1. re: newbiechick

                    I'd say it's Italian-American. I read that article. I will say that though I do like Mr. Martino's, the food there is the least interesting of those three places, and some dishes there are way better than others, probably partly due to the fact that some things are fine when they aren't prepared to order and some things aren't. I really like the sausage and polenta dish, the spinach lasagna, the white bean soup and the lemon dessert. But I've had things there that weren't good. You will have a better meal, food-wise, at Le Virtu or Blackbird (or L'Angolo). But then again, Mr. Martino's will only cost you half as much, and their atmosphere is unique.

                    1. re: newbiechick

                      Mr Martino's is good but not great. Many other Italian restaurants have better food and more ambitious menus, but the atmosphere at Mr Martino's meets your criteria exactly. It is very hard to find a BYOB that is not very loud; Mr Martino's is pleasant in this regard.