Uhockey Reviews Day 2 Philadelphia – Sam’s Morning Glory, Beiler’s Bakery, Miller’s Twist, LaCroix, Tacconelli’s, Modo Mio
- uhockey Sep 1, 2010 05:17 PM
First, a word of thanks to all the Philly Hounds who made my trip great. All in all I spent about 2 hours doing work in Philly and 100 hours enjoying the sights, sounds, people, art, culture, and food!
Full reviews will be posted here with cross links to my blog for pictures.
Full text as below, pictures in the blog.
SAM'S MORNING GLORY DINER, BEILER'S BAKERY, MILLER'S TWIST
I have to admit Sam's Morning Glory Diner was not on my "must visit" list when I originally planned my trip to Philadelphia, mostly because I'd heard seating was incredibly limited and waits could top 2 hours. Waking up the day after Amada's pig roast and heading north while chatting with my Aunt I passed the "Singing Fountain" and decided to alter my path from the previous day.....as it turns out the path would lead me right past the door of Sam's and upon looking at the menu and seeing no wait I decided to stop in.
Stating that they "pride themselves on creating innovative menu items from the best of our local bounty" and listing the local markets they support (The Italian Market and Reading Terminal Market specifically) I have to say I liked the feel of Sam's - it reminded me of a cleaner and less hipster Dottie's True Blue. Greeted by a friendly young woman at the door and told to sit wherever I like I additionally received a smile and greetings from the pierced and inked young lady at the griddle who would prove quite handy at cooking, conversing, and singing along with the excellent overhead soundtrack featuring U2, Interpol, Radiohead, and more.
Seated at a cozy table I was presented with the standard menu and the list of daily specials and my coffee was quickly filled. A hefty and dark brew served with cream and all sorts of sweeteners I fixed the coffee to my liking and was thrilled by the fact that Sam's allows you to fill your own (and to take a cup for the road.) Browsing the menu I identified three items I wanted to try but was unfortunately told that half orders could not be accomidated. Settling on the choice that sounded most unique I waited while watching others receive their Monkey French Toast, enormous fresh biscuits, and omelettes.
Approximately 20 minutes passed before my order would arrive, and arrive it did in grand fashion. Titled Homemade Cornbread French Toast the dish featured "Fresh Orange Zest in our Rich French Toast Batter, topped with Sliced Strawberries and served with Whipped Cream and Maple Syrup" and it was every bit as good as it sounded. Three thick slices, crispy on the outside and custardesque within the toast had the expected cornmeal texture but lacked the grainy texture of sub-par cornbread and the orange essence was a welcomed touch. Adding butter and syrup (alas, not pure maple) created a delectable pairing with the fresh berries and whipped cream and the entirety of the dish was surprisingly light, refreshing, and tasty at a mere $9.
Finishing up my breakfast and getting another cup of coffee to go I settled the modest tab and was bid farewell by both cook and server. A friendly place with affordable (and excellent) food I must say I liked Sam's a lot and I understand the long weekend waits. That said, a better quality syrup and a bit more leniency on half orders is something all breakfast spots need to consider - some people don't just want a big homogenous plate....I really wanted to try that Monkey French Toast.
Not full but with lunch and two dinners already planned on each side the Phillies/Astros businessman’s special at Citizens Bank Park I figured the next stop on my sightseeing and eating agenda would be the Philadelphia Free Library and some of the downtown outdoor sculptures (Love and the Claus Oldenburg Clothespin) before swinging by the Reading Terminal Market for some game time snacks. Walking quickly (the blisters had not yet formed on my feet at this point) and realizing the library would not open until 9:30 I instead opted to head to Reading first and found myself standing before the impressive selection of Beiler’s Bakery shortly after the market opened its doors.
With at least 100 options available I asked the small man dressed in traditional Amish attire what he’d recommend for a true Beiler’s experience and he directed me to no less than four items that he said were “best you’ll ever taste.” Not wanting something as simple as a donut and knowing that I’d be eating quite heartily throughout the day I opted to select two of the four, paid the modest fee of $4 cash and made my on to other stands after stopping to take some pictures of my purchases.
Although some time (plus a lunch and a pretzel) passed between my purchase and the consumption of Beiler’s products in the left field bleachers during the 5th inning I will note that both items were excellent. Beginning first with the Pumpkin Whoopie Pie I loved the way the soft cake blended with the extra creamy filling – like a portable pumpkin pie with whipped cream, heavily accented with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. The second item, the very definition of Pennsylvania Amish Cooking would be Shoofly pie – essentially a gooey molasses and brown sugar pie with a texture somewhere between pecan pie without the nuts and coffeecake with more moisture. Profoundly sweet and topped with a crumbly butter topping there was nothing elegant or reserved about this pie – it was down home, simple, and delicious.
My second stop in the market on this Thursday would be another Amish spot – this time Miller’s Twist. Having already stowed my Beiler’s items for game time and assuming a pretzel would be best eaten hot I asked the young clerk what she recommended, the Pretzel sticks or the big twist and she suggested the twist. Paying the modest fee and watching the other employees assemble pretzels rapidly as more people arrived to place orders (and here I was thinking I was the only one who’d be eating a pretzel at 8:30a,) I snapped a picture and made my way to the street to continue my walk.
Warm, buttery, somewhat sweet and not overly salty the Twist was everything I’d read and more – pretzel perfection. Sure there are any number of places in Philly offering 20 pretzels for $5 and I admittedly did not try any of those – but at only $1.85 for something as good as Miller’s Twist I really don’t feel the need to skimp…especially when compared to the $5 over salted Stadium Pretzels offered in most US cities.
The thing about Sam's that bothers me is that they cook orders sequentially by table. So if you want something small but there are ten tables ahead of you ordering frittatas, you are in for a wait. I do like their house-made ketchup and agree about the syrup comment. That's what makes the Dutch Eating Place IMO.
Also glad you liked the MIller's Twist pretzels. Next time you will have to try the churro-esque cinnamon sugar ones.
Full Text As Below, Pictures in the Blog
LACROIX at the Rittenhouse
Despite many people telling me it was worth it, that it was “different” from other buffets, that I’d have plenty of time to get to my plane I just couldn’t justify making reservations for one at Lacroix’s luxurious Sunday Brunch. Try as I might I’ve never been enamored by buffets and relying on public transport to get me to the airport I simply couldn’t go against my instincts. With that fact noted, however, I had heard some fantastic things about new Chef Jason Cichonski’s menu approach and I given the setting and menu I knew I owed it to myself to give Lacroix a try…with dinner’s already booked solid for my trip I figured a lunch would suffice.
Arriving at Rittenhouse Square dressed casually around 11:15 and making my way into the lavish hotel I was treated as a valued guest – doors held, all “sir, please, and thank you,” a liaison even offering to walk me to the restaurant. Chatting as we walked up a single flight of stairs I was told a little bit about the hotel and restaurant and assured it was “one of the best in town.” Arriving at the entrance to Lacroix I was introduced to the Maitre D’ and led to a lovely table along the lower rim of the dining area. Floor to ceiling windows, marble pillars, white tablecloths and plush velvet chairs I was next presented with a menu and asked if I’d like the drapes up or down – opting for up the room was flooded with fresh sunshine and water was filled.
Greeted next by my server, a pleasant young man with great knowledge of the cuisine and the local area, I was told lunch was just starting while breakfast was just ending and I was asked which menu I wanted to see. Jokingly I stated “how about both – and dinner too…” little did I know he would say “certainly” and return with all three menus in a matter of minutes. Making sure that all three menus could be prepared I received an “absolutely” and was left to decide as if this request was somehow normal or expected. Thrilled I took to browsing the options and identified no less than 10 things that sounded wonderful.
Realizing that I had aggressive dinner plans and afternoon snacks already planned I decided to temper my ordering and suffice for one appetizer, one entrée, and one dessert – approving of my selections, particularly the appetizer, my waiter took note that I was planning to attend the Phillies game at 1:00 and assured me that wouldn’t be a problem. Disappearing for only moments he would return quickly with a bread basket featuring three warm breads paired with a clean and mellow butter. Rosemary Pepper Ciabatta, Sourdough, and 9-Grain – all excellent, but all merely tasted in order to save room.
Arriving first amongst my ordered courses would be a dish my waiter described as “The best Foie Gras I’ve ever had.” While I can’t say I felt quite so strongly, Foie Gras Torchon with Warm Banana Bread, Shaved Carrot Salad, Peanuts did deliver a fantastic impact for its $14 price tag. A ~3oz torchon, thick and unctuous (as opposed to airy and creamy like that of Keller) served atop piping hot moist banana bread the liver literally melted in the mouth. Adding texture would be a lightly vinegar seasoned salad of carrots and spiced peanuts – the whole dish worked very nicely and had a pleasant degree of East meets West that seemed to highlight much of Cichonski’s repertoire.
My main course, ordered from the dinner menu, would be Hudson Valley Duck Pastrami with Swiss Chard and Grilled Brulee Peaches. Ample in portion and rippled with a gratuitous layer of fat and crispy skin the flavor of the bird itself was superb. Not overly salted but instead accented with hints of paprika, coriander, sugar, and garlic the “pastrami” influence was certainly notable and an excellent juxtaposition to the acidity of the lightly seasoned salad and grilled peach with a crackling layer of sugar. My reigning favorite form of protein the duck was exemplary – on par with the best I’ve had.
Having heard that Lacroix makes an excellent soufflé from a local Philadelphia epicure I inquired about it when I was originally offered the various menus. Given the time it takes to prepare a proper soufflé my waiter had to inquire with the kitchen – thankfully they said it would be no problem and they’d start it early so as not to delay my departure for the game. Described as an “Angel Souffle” and adorned with swirls of silver and gold the dish would arrive piping hot and standing tall and proud. A Peppermint Dark Chocolate Souffle with Coconut Anglaise and milk chocolate tapioca I first pierced the cloud of chocolate and was met by a gush of aromatic chocolate. Taking a bite the hints of mint were appreciable but not overwhelming as the creamy dish melted in the mouth. Adding the shot glass of Coconut Anglaise and creamy chocolate tapioca I was delighted as the soufflé remained standing tall – no deflation at all and maintaining its composure throughout consumption.
With my meal completed and plenty of time to catch the SEPTA to the stadium I sat and chatted with my server for a while about the Rittenhouse area and my other dining plans for the trip – a Philadelphia native he was friendly and informative despite his young age. Declining coffee I was brought the bill along with a plate of candied orange peel, dried cranberries, and candied almonds as well as a box of two house-made chocolates that I would save for the game – chocolate ganache and caramel, both attractive and tasty.
Settling the tab and making my way to the door I was asked if I needed directions to the nearest SEPTA and upon declining I was bid farewell by my server, the hostess, and on the way out of the hotel the concierge who walked me to the restaurant even asked how I liked the meal. Making it to the game in plenty of time (even if the Phillies didn’t seem interested in playing) I looked back on meal and even now I think it may have been the most underrated meal of my trip. A beautiful setting, fantastic food, and friendly professional service is something that all restaurants should aspire to – and something that LaCroix pulls off seemingly effortlessly. Next time I’m in Philadelphia I’m going to the brunch, no doubt.
Thanks all - the blog is something I do for fun and the memories, the dining is something I do to enjoy the cities I visit, the posts here are to give feedback to the folks who help make sure I don't end up eating at sub-par places. :-)
Chowhound is probably the best epicurean free travel resource out there, imo, so I'm glad to give back.
Full text as below, pictures in blog
TACCONELLI'S PIZZAREIA, MODO MIO
Dinner on the second day of my visit to Philadelphia would see me doing something quite uncharacteristic – deferring to the tastes of another – and a stranger at that. A man familiar to the ranks of Chowhound and (as it turns out) more fine dining Meccas than anyone I know – delucacheesemonger – had offered to meet up with me for a meal…or two. Volunteering his car, his company, his intelligence, and (most importantly) his wit the decision was made to visit two spots on his recommendation – Tacconelli’s Pizzeria and Modo Mio. For the sake of full disclosure I will note that Mr. cheesemonger was a well known entity to both restaurants and as such the service may have been skewed in our favor…but from the looks of things I’m rather certain both restaurants treat everyone like a VIP.
With reservations (mandatory at both stops, one to reserve the dough and the other for a seat) made by my companion for 6 and 8 I arrived early – as always – and Mr. cheesemonger welcomed me as though we’d known each other for ages. Chatting about food, life, medicine, travel, and any number of other topics time passed quickly and we made our way to the car for the short drive to Somerset Street - home of what many call one of America’s 10 best Pizzas.
Arriving moments before our reservation time I was honestly surprised at the unassuming nature of the location – small, homey, wooden booths, false hardwood floors, paper plates, Styrofoam cups – what wasn’t surprising was the warm welcome…Tacconelli’s is a place where everyone is treated like a regular and all the regulars are treated like best friends. A one man, one oven operation utilizing recipes and an oven dating back to World War II Tacconelli’s keeps it simple – patrons must call in advance to reserve dough and that dough is utilized to make one size of pizza with a limited number of toppings. Payment is cash only, hours are ~4pm to ~9pm 5 days a week, and alcohol is BYO. 1/2 and 1/2 pizzas are allowed – mix n’ match as you like. Seated we were poured water and given menus – the cheesemonger knew what he wanted on his half and after a moment I knew what I wanted on mine.
Seated and chatting time went quickly – but even so it was hard not to be jealous of each and every sublime looking pie coming from the kitchen…Tacconelli’s should sell tickets just to smell the tomato and garlic laden air. Approximately 40 minutes after entering Tacconelli’s our pie would arrive – one half “White” with salt, black pepper, cheese, garlic, whole tomatoes, and spinach and the other a “Regular” pie with cheese, sauce, and prosciutto. Featuring a cracker crunchy semolina base with just a bit of char the crust was flawless – not bubbly or chewy, but not “too hard” either – just flawless. The cheesemonger made an interesting analogy I’ll not repeat, but it will stick in my mind on how to judge a crust from here on out.
Folding a piece and taking a bite I was wowed by the sweetness of the sauce and the mild saltiness of the pork – neither were overwhelming, both shined as though they were born to go together. Devouring a second piece I managed to burn the roof of my mouth – a small price to pay. Graciously offering up a slice (and then a second) of the other half I have to admit that as good as the sauce was and as much as I fancy my ability to order, my companion’s experience paid off – the “white” pie was even better than mine. Amply garlic laden but tempered elegantly by the fresh tomatoes and creamy mozzarella the fusion of ingredients was simplicity at its best – a magnificent pie that undoubtedly constitutes the best non-designer pizza I’ve ever tasted.
Settling the modest tab (after learning the rules of liar’s poker) and being bid farewell by our server I felt like I was just hitting stride for a night full of fantastic dining. Rustic and low key Tacconelli’s is one of those hidden gems that a tourist without a car could never get to – a loss for them, but good news for the locals – keep it a secret, else face the issues now surrounding Great Lake in Chicago.
Making our way to the car our next stop would be Modo Mio – with the cheesemonger telling me of his myriad previous experiences at the restaurant I rather expected a warm welcome, but what we got when we arrived was more than I’d have ever guessed – servers stopping by to say hello while we waited for a table, the hostess stopping for small talk…and their warmness extended past my companion to myself – even before the meal Modo Mio felt like a family gathering. Telling the cheesemonger that they had a special surprise for him “fresh from the market” we waited only moments before being led to our table at the center of the bustling dining room.
A small space with an impossibly small kitchen for the impressive menu size, Chef/Owner Peter McAndrews’ restaurant definitely delivers on their website promise of “we hope that you will visit and indulge your passion for food and friendship. We are intimate and loud at times, but we have a great time!” Energetic but not deafening, low-lit but not cliché “dark-romantic,” tight but not cramped, and plain but not boring…the feel was like Babbo but less loud or Vetri but less formal. Before getting deep into the review I will note that the small space did have a couple drawbacks – the first being nearly elbow to elbow with your fellow diners…the second, well, we’ll get to that later.
Re-greeted by our server (we talked outside before seating) two small bites and one large one would arrive even before the menus – amongst the amuses would be two bruschetta – one a grilled rustic bread with snails, aged provolone, lemon caper butter and the other with crispy pulled goat, black cherries, and aged balsamic. Featuring subtle and crispy bread brushed with olive oil and lightly charred I personally loved both options – the briny snails tempered by the sharp provolone and lemon caper butter while the gamey goat was brought to a peak by the combination of sweet cherry and sharp balsamic vinegar.
The second dish to arrive would be a complimentary surprise for the cheesemonger. A fan of tripe, and particularly Modo Mio’s previous menu version, he had apparently noted that on his previous visit their version was a tad pedestrian and as such this time the chef had gone out of his way to make amends. Served in a large bowl and easily big enough for 2 (and as it turned out a 3rd,) Lamb Tripe and cabbage stew with parsley, olive oil, basil plus grilled Tellagio bread was my first experience with Lamb Tripe, but ideally not my last. Flawlessly cooked the offal was minimally gamey and mildly pork-like in flavor. Cut into thin strips the preparation was raw and rustic with the flavors reminding me of my Grandmother’s Hungarian Style Stuffed Cabbage. With my companion appropriately impressed but already starting to feel full we offered a sample of the dish to our neighbors and they graciously accepted. When the biggest complaint about a dish is that it is “too much good food” and “now I have to come up with a different antipasti to try” that is saying something.
With menus finally delivered, along with a house made crusty salted semolina bread served with a clean yet grassy olive oil and a dollop of fresh Ricotta, I was stunned by the variety of selections and the $33 for four courses menu turista. Settling quickly on an antipasti and pasta I asked my server which secondi he recommended and given his lack of hesitation I went with his suggestion. Already getting somewhat full the cheesemonger went with 2 antipasti, no pasta, and a secondi…it would still prove to be too much food; luckily he was dining with a great cleanup man.
Before getting into the meal I will note that the service was resoundingly friendly, efficient, and informative – not just to our table, but to everyone around us. Speaking fondly of a recent visit to Italy and how it influenced the menu there was a passion in everyone’s voice – from the kitchen to the servers the staff itself seemed the closest knit I’ve seen outside of (perhaps) Alinea. I will also note here a rather serious service gaff that occurred when the bread lady stumbled while carrying ~10 plates of olive oil and ricotta across the restaurant – one of those plates ended up on my back with the viscous fluid rolling down my spine and soaking my shirt while staining my pants. Exceptionally apologetic and offering everything from a free meal to overnight dry cleaning to hints on how to get the stain out myself I was shocked by the degree of attention and stated I’d gladly take care of it myself – really, it was the apology that made all the difference…especially after “the Spiaggia incident,” and really, with as good as the rest of the meal would prove to be for such a bargain basement price I’d have been embarrassed to let them comp the bill; mistakes happen and the rest of the service was absolutely exemplary.
Beginning the meal proper would be my “Polpo” with grilled octopus, spicy chickpeas, raisins, almonds, lemon, arugula. A salad in presentation but with warm grilled octopus setting the temperature somewhere around that of the room this would be the first many agrodolce presentations from Chef McAndrews. A hearty balance of crunchy and smooth, spicy and acidic, sweet and sour there were no wasted elements and the balance was quite impressive. At 1/2 the price of Amada’s Octopus there was more here and it was vastly superior in taste and texture
The cheesemonger’s first course would’ve been my choice had he not ordered it. Entitled “Crocante” with prosciutto wrapped chicken livers, cherries, gorgonzola, and sweet red wine reduction this dish was perhaps my favorite of the evening. Lightly fried pancetta encompassing mild chicken liver was served over warm artichokes and chopped cherries tossed with a creamy gorgonzola. Topping the whole amalgam with a thick and aromatic red wine reduction and spices lent an almost haute-Marsala flavor to the whole dish – it was beautiful.
Waiting a short while and chatting about my new friend’s significant foreign travel I was again impressed by how well I could hear and be heard without yelling – unlike Scarpetta and Babbo I think the lack of music definitely helps. Arriving shortly would be my pasta and his second antipasti…and as it turns out I’d end up eating most of both dishes as he was already starting to get full. Beginning first with my “must order” dish at any Italian restaurant, gnocchi, Modo Mio’s option featured classic ricotta dumplings topped with crab, plum tomatoes, capers, and cream. Topped nicely with sweet crab and sweeter tomatoes in a surprisingly lightly brined sauce the gnocchi themselves were unfortunately not terrible memorable. Dense and flavorful, but not the light dumplings I’ve come to expect.
Faring better amongst the second courses would be “Lingue” with braised calf's tongue, pizziola, portabello, plum tomato, and capers. Inspired by the Italy trip our server stated that the concept here was to “introduce” diners to tongue by creating a pizza-esque flavor without the dough. Delicate and thinly shaved the protein was surprisingly light while it was actually the mushrooms that lent heft to the dish. With ample notes of basil, tomato, olive, caper, and cheese I can say their attempt to replicate a pizza flavor was spot on and I enjoyed the dish much more than I had expected.
Completely stuffed my cohort stated he would only have “a bite” of the main courses – had I known that I would have just had him order the two I was trying to decide between. True to his word when his Braised Lamb Shank with Rosemary, Lemon, Vin Cotto arrived he took a bite, smiled and said “wonderful” before pushing it my way. Fatty and succulent the lamb literally fell off the bone and melted in the mouth - simply paired with gentle spices and lemon the agrodolce preparation was plated atop heated red wine and worked just like the lamb tripe…warm, rustic, hearty, and wonderful.
My secondi selection (trumping the duck on our server’s suggestion) would be “Animelle” with veal sweetbreads, artichoke, pancetta, lemon, and thyme. Bearing in mind the fact that I’d already eaten substantially during the day and was now eating for two I was lucky this was so good – it was worth being “stuffed” for. Ample in portion, crispy on the surface and creamy within the offal was paired inspiringly with crispy artichokes – similar in texture yet vegetal in composition. Topped with chopped pancetta and a lightly lemon accented olive oil the entire plate came together nicely and ranks amongst my favorite dishes in Philadelphia – an assessment that Phillymag also seems to agree with.
Moving towards dessert our server again appeared to tell us the specials – with both of us quite full but dessert included in the menu turista we listened and ordered…only to have the server provide us a third dessert that the kitchen was especially proud of on the house. Ever giving and pleasant we were also offered shots of Sambuca (a first for me) and a glass each of Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1999 – warm, pleasant, and floral even to my naïve nose.
Starting first with the cheesemonger’s dessert option – a simple and rustic spiced pear tart with Almond Ice Cream. A free form galette with a buttery crust and high notes of cinnamon, brown sugar, and clove accenting the sweet pears - lovely, light, and complimented nicely by the aromatic ice cream.
My option would be the Chocolate Budino with hand whipped cream and strawberries. Somewhat drier than a traditional Budino the overall texture of the dish was actually somewhere between a pudding and a soufflé. Light and small like the tart the budino was a nice end to the meal, though not extremely memorable.
Our third dessert and the last taste of the evening would be Gorgonzola Panna Cotta, White Figs, Honey – it would also be (by far) the best dessert of the night. Like a composed cheese plate arranged into a stunning cheesecake the panna cotta would prove to be impossibly light despite its hefty cheese notes while the pungency and bite of the aged cheese was tempered beautifully by the lavender accented honey and sweet poached figs.
Bordering on a genuine food coma at this point we were asked if there is anything else we’d like and while I’m sure I would have liked to try almost everything on the menu we decided to take a rain check. Settling the tab – a mere $45/pp with a hefty tip – we bid farewell to the staff and I again received apology from the servers for the spill who offered to have me back the following evening at no charge. Thanking them again but declining the offer we made our way to the street and (thankfully) my friend volunteered to drive me back to my B&B.
Looking back on my visit to (and receipts from) Philadelphia Modo Mio would invariably be my cheapest lunch or dinner – less than 1/2 the price of Le Bec Fin and less than 1/3 the price of Vetri…it was also cheaper than recent Italian jaunts in New York, Las Angeles, and Columbus. While not every plate was spot on, the dishes that did excel did so to an incredible degree and not a single flavor fell short of at least being good. Speaking with fellow diners (and waiters) at Zahav, Vetri, Supper, and Le Bec Fin I can’t say I was surprised by the fondness with which people speak of Modo Mio – it truly is a special place that I was lucky to enjoy with a fantastic fellow gourmand.
161 W Girard Ave, Philadelphia, PA
Great review! I really enjoy the detail in your reports. I want to love Modo Mio, but, sadly, have had more than one bad service experience that turned me off. While I have seen the "regulars" treated as you were, I have never received such friendly treatment. The food is great and your report is making me want to give it another try, but it's hard to overcome three bad (in different ways) service experiences in a row (and I'm not generally a difficult customer in any way and rarely complain about service in a restaurant).
we went tonight to Modo Mio at the rec of a philly foodie friend. We had driven up from MD to drop our daughter off for a party and we wanted to eat prior to the drive back. We went at 5PM, Sat evening, without a reservation and we were seated right away since we were the first there. The staff couldnt have been nicer and our server Steve was not only extremely helpful and right on in his advice but also extremely attentive and pleasant. The food was delicous with the $33 tourista 4 course meal a steal. we had the warm grilled octopus salad and the mussels in red sauce as appetizers. Each was delicious and the superb crusty peasant bread so good to soak up the sauces. outr pasta course were the lasagna with a fried egg on top and the buccatoni with pancetta. Both were superb. main courses were the melt in your mouth flagarent braised lamb with rosemary and the delicous grilled whole bronzini. deserts continued the perfect meal with a delicous panna cotta and a sweet dark chocolate flourless torte which I washed down with a cappucinno. Our waiter was nice enough to pass on a 3/4 filled bottle of nice red wine that someone had left the night before. It is BYOB. Final damage was $45/pp including tax and tip. Every dish was great, so full of flavor and textures and perfectly finished. Although the portions are modest, we were stuffed after the 4 courses. LOVED IT and difinitely will go again next time in Philly!