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Sep 19, 2011 09:38 AM

Branzino or Melograno for the big 4-0?

Visiting the city in a couple of weeks to celebrate a round birthday. I'm generally inclined to go the Italian route (BYOB even better, saved a nice couple of bottles that were presents for other birthdays), as there is no good Italian food to speak of where I live. Unless I make it myself.

In the past, I have liked Paradiso, Osteria, Porcini.

I see that both Melograno and Branzino are super-popular. Is it a toss-up, or is one more 'festive' than the other? I guess since it's a celebration of sorts, I'd like to avoid any place where one has to yell at each other to have a simple conversation.

Staying near Rittenhouse, so both are easy to get to.

Of course, if anyone would like to suggest a 'can't miss, excellent for bdays' resto, please feel free. It doesn't HAVE to be Italian, just something special that won't break the bank.

I made an opentable rez at Branzino just to be on the safe side, but can obviously change this.

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  1. I haven't been to Branzino, so I can't speak to that restaurant's atmosphere, but I've enjoyed Melograno on weekend nights and have been pleased with their noise level. The food was well-prepared and service was warm and prompt. Please report back with whichever you decide upon!

    1. I'm not sure that you can make a reservation at Melograno. I've less tolerance for waiting or Plans B on special occasions like birthdays, than I do on random 'let's go get dinner' occasions.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Bob Loblaw

        Hmm. Well, I left a msg on their answering machine (closed on Mon), and their msg implied that they did take reservations.

        I really like the look of their website better than Branzino's....

        Tinto's looking good, too (I know that's not Italian). Argh. So many choices, one night.

        1. re: linguafood

          I think Branzino is a better environment if you want a nice space for a celebratory gathering (you didn't say how many would be in your party?) I like the food at both but find Melograno a little more "bustling" and minimal in atmosphere. Not somewhere you're going to easily linger with friends or family after the meal, especially if it's a weekend.

          My one experience at Tinto was very cramped seating-wise, very scatter-shot service-wise, and not at all conducive for making me want to return.

          If you're not absolutely set on Italian, I would also consider Meritage in that area, or Matyson, although the noise/space issues are similar at Melograno and Matyson.

          1. re: sockii

            It's just gonna be the two of us. We've been married for a while so probably don't have much to say to each other anyway '-D

            The food at Tinto sounds great, but I think if I had to choose between Branzino and Melograno -- solely based on menus/website, the latter seems to win out.

            Unless, of course, i come up with yet another restaurant. >sigh<

          2. re: linguafood

            Melagrano seems to have changed their reservation policy and now are taking reservations, even on the weekends. I had a party for 12 there on Labor Day weekend (Sat night) and we had reservations.

        2. For the big 40, just you and your husband, maybe 'break the bank' a bit?

          Vetri. If you can get a rez. Italian! Class Act. Worth it, especially for a special

          2 Replies
          1. re: Bashful3

            We certainly *could*.

            However -- we will also be celebrating a big anniversary later this year, and plan on splurging in The City for that occasion (plus I plan on blowing loads of money on vintage dresses in Philly, so food will have to take a tiny bit of a financial backseat, relatively speaking).

            1. re: linguafood

              Keep an eye out on Rue La La for the Lacroix gift certificate offer. You can get a $100 GC for $55. It won't cover the whole meal, but it's not a bad discount. We are using one next month for our 10th anniversary. I also scored a room at the hotel through a relative that works there so we're going "big" on a budget.

          2. Matyson and Meritage are both very special. Take a look at their menus online.
            We had a fabulous dinner at Meritage recently, and Matyson is always excellent.
            Matyson is byob.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sylviag

              I think between those two, Matyson has the more interesting menu.

            2. For just the two of you, I think Melograno is better - it has a cozier vibe and more interesting food, in my opinion. Branzino is good but more basic, and feels fancier (maybe that is what you prefer.)

              2 Replies
              1. re: scottb2

                I've cancelled my rez @Branzino and got a confirmation from Melograno. Still torn between Melo & Tinto.... I'll do a search on what people think of the tasting menu @Tinto.

                1. re: linguafood

                  I think Tinto is better between those two. Their Chestnut soup is great in the fall. Tinto is, however, louder and more ... um ... fancified?

                  Both are excellent, in my opinion.