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Anyone been to Alla Spina yet?

h
Hungryin theBurbs Mar 5, 2012 11:48 AM

I'm thinking of checking it out soon and I'd love to see what some Chowhounds think. Any particularly great dishes? Can't miss beer?

  1. c
    cwdonald Mar 5, 2012 12:02 PM

    I haven't been there yet either. I was thinking of going tomorrow night after dinner at Route 6 because the brewer from Birrifico Bruton will be there.

    http://tinyurl.com/82tuk8y

    1. d
      deprofundis Mar 5, 2012 12:39 PM

      I went on opening night. Since then I think they have tweaked the menu and prices slightly, but I couldn't tell you exactly what has changed. My impressions:

      The space - actually a little smaller than I thought it was going to be. They have a large bar area and several tables, as well as a chef's counter. There is a little upstairs area above the bar with a table that seats 8. There is also a lounge area with a few couches and tables, and a tv. The space has a garage & grafitti theme. It's nice, but not romantic or luxurious or anything like that. Sort of reminds me of Amis.

      The beer - something like 20 beers on tap, with a good mix of domestics and imports. They also have 2 cask beers and 2 wines on tap. I asked about the wine drafts and was told that they come in kegs, just like the beers, and are filled with nitrogen so the wine isn't exposed to the air. They have a house beer brewed by Victory called Novello. This was priced at $5 for a 10oz draft, and is probably the most economical choice out of what struck me as a very expensive beer list. I stuck to Novellos. It is actually quite a good beer. The imported beers are pricey, but may be worth it if you enjoy trying unusual imports. You can drop some serious money here if you have more than 1 or 2 imports.

      The food - I had the pretzels with beer cheese (excellent), the swordfish blt (very good, but a little overdressed), and the nutella zuppa inglese (excellent). The menu is Vetri's interpretation of upscale bar food, and is heavy on pork and fried things. Nothing wrong with that. Prices are reasonable for this type of place. It's the cheapest of the Vetri places, with most of the larger plates $16 or less, and the smaller plates $10 or less. They also offer 3 comfort-food pastas, like mac & cheese and lasagna. And they have a blackboard with oyster, crudo, and pig specials. They even have a soft-serve ice cream machine, and you can get affogato-style ice cream with shots of beer poured on top.

      Service - friendly, but confused. I will cut them some slack because they just opened.

      My overall impression was positive. They are still working out some kinks, but it's definitely worth checking out.

      12 Replies
      1. re: deprofundis
        b
        barryg Mar 5, 2012 01:32 PM

        Were the large plates entree size? What were the portions like on the small plates?

        10oz drafts is absurd. It makes for very dishonest pricing if you ask me. Village Whiskey does the same thing, maybe they are 12oz there, but either way I don't like this trend.

        1. re: barryg
          c
          cwdonald Mar 5, 2012 01:40 PM

          With regard to beer size, I actually prefer it this way. Many of the beers are high gravity.. and should be served in something smaller than a pint. Capones, my favorite beer bar these days serves nine oz, 13 and 16, varying it based on the size of keg, and how high the alcohol content is. That to me is ideal.

          My favorite beer story is when I went to of all places Pizzeria Uno in Doylestown and saw they had Mad Elf on tap. The young lady behind the bar asked me whether I wanted 16 oz or 22 oz... Mad Elf is 11 percent. So size matters.. but I agree that you shouldn't rip off your customers either.

          1. re: cwdonald
            b
            barryg Mar 5, 2012 01:55 PM

            I understand but they are serving all beers as 10oz, including the 4.2% Yards Brawler and 5.5% Allagash White, for $5, that's $8/pint. VW serves pours of Kenzinger for $5, not sure if that's 10oz or 12oz but either way, that kind of markup of pedestrian beers just makes me feel like a sucker, no matter how good the food is, and these places are going for a "casual" atmosphere. Just serve pints and charge $8, at least I won't feel fooled and ripped off. Not to mention that you still are going to end up with a large bill at Vetri's so-called "affordable" little brother because of the alcohol prices. When Alla Spina was announced it was supposed to be a "super casual neighborhood trattoria," just be honest with us Marc.

            1. re: barryg
              d
              deprofundis Mar 5, 2012 02:20 PM

              I'd also add that Vetri doesn't include the 10% beverage tax in any of the pricing in any of his restaurants. So that $5 pour of Allagash or Novello is really $5.50. I'm not sure how common that is. Seems to be more common at upscale places.

              1. re: deprofundis
                b
                barryg Mar 5, 2012 02:25 PM

                $9 pints of Allagash White, neat.

              2. re: barryg
                c
                cwdonald Mar 5, 2012 02:36 PM

                FWIW .. brawler s the cheapest of their beers, which is 4 dollars, and that works out to 6.40 a pint. Not completely out of line. The sly fox pikeland pils for 6 dollars comes in at a whopping 9.60 a pint., definitely no bargain. I will pay for quality, but I am not looking to pay double for ordinary beer. But even more so Vetri should be criticized for not having appropriate glassware. The choice of 10 oz glasses feels more like a bean counter saying they can save money and training if they only have one size glass. For a place that is supposed to make beer one of the highlights, they are off to a very poor start.

                1. re: cwdonald
                  b
                  barryg Mar 5, 2012 02:45 PM

                  Brawler is listed as $5 on the website, Pikeland for $4.50
                  http://www.allaspinaphilly.com/index....

                  Where are you looking for prices?

                  I agree, I am willing to pay for quality and exotic tastes, but these markups are insulting. I'm not sure if the Italian drafts at $8-10 (pre-tax) per 10oz is competitive or not. I know I had a 12oz Italian import (bottle) at Le Virtu for I think $9, which I was happy to pay for an exotic beer at a good restaurant.

                  1. re: barryg
                    c
                    cwdonald Mar 5, 2012 02:53 PM

                    Your link shows it as 4... which is where I was looking.

                    1. re: cwdonald
                      b
                      Buckethead Mar 5, 2012 02:57 PM

                      This is what I'm seeing:

                      yards, brawler $5 / english dark mild / phila / 4.2%

                  2. re: cwdonald
                    d
                    deprofundis Mar 5, 2012 02:50 PM

                    I agree re: the glassware. I'm pretty sure they use identical glasses for every single draft. I don't know how they pour bottles. Maybe they will add more glassware to the mix over time. Then again, maybe they won't.

                    Also, how do you feel about the fact that they have a whopping 20 beers on draft? Unless they turn over the kegs very quickly, I would think this is a recipe for flat beer.

                    1. re: deprofundis
                      c
                      cwdonald Mar 5, 2012 02:58 PM

                      Twenty is standard. A place like Capones in East Norriton is able to move beer and they have more taps than that. I think its when you get over 50 that you have a problem. I remember going to Gingerman in NY which has something north of 66 beers on and the bartender did taste the beer before serving to me. And she had a palate that could tell if its bad (and a tasting notebook behind the bar that was incredible) If Vetri is successful, twenty beers will move without a problem.

              3. re: barryg
                d
                deprofundis Mar 5, 2012 02:09 PM

                I have to agree that I thought the beer markups were punishing. However, an occasional splurge isn't going to break me. But it definitely isn't a place I would want to hang around and drink at all the time. I did think the prices on domestics were OK.

                I can only speak for the plates that I had. I found the pricing and portion sizing to be fair. Similar to a place like Amis. If you order 2 small plates, one larger one, and a couple of the more modestly-priced beers, you will probably be satisfied and the bill will be around $50-60 all-in.

            2. u
              urbanfabric Mar 6, 2012 08:28 AM

              Someone please report back on the pork shoulder for four... that sounds like my idea of a heavenly evening.

              2 Replies
              1. re: urbanfabric
                c
                cwdonald Mar 6, 2012 08:33 AM

                Perhaps the next time uhockey is in town he can have it all himself... ;-)

                I wonder if they are going to be doing some chef table or like events given that they have a big table upstairs. Definitely worth keeping an eye on.

                1. re: cwdonald
                  uhockey Apr 30, 2012 04:52 PM

                  lol. I just saw this. Is the lamb shoulder that legendary? :-)

                  We're trying to get a group for Alla Spina on 5/24 actually, just to sample a bunch of stuff. Alternatively, if anyone wanted to meet up late - like 11pm - on 5/25 I'd be game.

                  http://endoedibles.com

              2. c
                chowdownphilly Mar 7, 2012 03:50 PM

                I went last night with 6 people. we tried as many things as we could... The sausage, veal sandwich and artichokes are not to be missed. the restaurant is another winner for team vetri for sure... i can't wait until they can open their beautiful custom garage doors

                1. t
                  travelmad478 Mar 12, 2012 04:06 AM

                  Four of us went on Saturday night and had a good time. We had
                  - the pretzels (beer cheese very tasty, but oddly the pretzel bites were just OK--lacking in salt, didn't have that good pretzel crust)
                  - mackerel crudo (very good but a miniscule portion)
                  - deviled eggs (again, just OK, and very little "punch" in the yolks)
                  - fried sunchokes (quite tasty but could have used some dipping sauce)
                  - pork terrine (excellent, and the applesauce was a great addition to the dish)
                  - beer cheese toast with egg and bacon (very good but not all that interesting)
                  - grilled cheese (good)
                  - lamb speck (delicious, and very lamby-tasting--a nice departure from the overwhelming focus on pork)
                  - schisola polenta (not at all what I was expecting--a tiny dish of soft polenta to be eaten with a spoon, whereas I was thinking it would be some squares of crispy polenta--it was kind of weird in the context of bar food, although tasty...would have been fine as a side dish on a main course)
                  - crespelle (basically, spinach lasagna...only OK, not a standout)
                  - pork pot pie (really good, just chunks of ham under a crust, but a lot of flavor)
                  - beer float with stout (I didn't try this but it got a good review from its owner)
                  - chocolate sundae (fried bananas were the winner here--but for my money, you do not make sundaes with soft serve)

                  Between the four of us we had two beer flights, about four drafts, and a couple of cocktails, and the bill came to $210. We were full and I had no complaints about the beer sizes, really--some beers aren't meant to be served in pints, given the alcohol content.

                  In general the meat dishes were the real standouts. I was very, very happy with the pork terrine, pork pot pie, and lamb speck. The rest of what we had was fine, but really, does EVERYTHING have to be cheese/bread/pork? After a while this just got kind of old. It's hard to make a whole meal out of it without getting very repetitive. To be fair, we could have ordered more fish, but there is a near total lack of vegetables on the menu, which is hard for me to deal with. Nonetheless, I think my dining companions were very happy (particularly Mr. travelmad478 who basically exists on pork, carbs, and cheese in daily life anyway!)

                  1. Chinon00 Mar 12, 2012 05:05 PM

                    I've gotta say I really like Vetri's cooking but a 10oz pour at these prices for beer is disgraceful. Beer is supposed to be an affordable luxury. It's bad enough that it's tough to get a glass of wine for under 10 bucks. Now we're approaching that for a pint? C'mon Marc.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Chinon00
                      d
                      deprofundis Mar 12, 2012 05:34 PM

                      The beer at Alla Spina is extremely expensive, *however* I saw a few of the bottles they serve at The Foodery the other day and they were not cheap. For example, a 10oz draft of Baladin Issac is $9. The bottle, which I'm pretty sure was a little less than 9oz, was like $9.75. So maybe the prices at Alla Spina aren't out of line.

                      1. re: deprofundis
                        Chinon00 Mar 12, 2012 06:34 PM

                        "So maybe the prices at Alla Spina aren't out of line."

                        The domestic craft prices are out of line. No place in the city that I'm aware of serves Victory, etc at that price/vol.

                      2. re: Chinon00
                        c
                        cwdonald Mar 12, 2012 05:49 PM

                        Chino... good beer is approaching the price of good wine... ask what people paid for a 6 oz pour of Pliny this weekend. Go to capones, and we regularly pay 8 dollars for a 9 oz pour... I do not have a problem with it for rare italian beers. I do have a problem with it for a local beer like Yards brawler. Not having a 16 oz pour for a local beer because you only have a 10 oz glass is sheer laziness. If Capones in East Norriton can have three pour sizes, certainly Vetri can too. Shame on Marc. He should be ashamed of himself.

                        1. re: cwdonald
                          Chinon00 Mar 12, 2012 06:23 PM

                          "Chino... good beer is approaching the price of good wine..." Not where I'm drinking in the city. I pay $5-$6.50/pint for the vast majority of domestic crafts and a bit more for Belgians typically from 10oz-12oz; I guess then we aren't far off when it comes to craft imports. And its still a fact that the majority of "great" beers can be had regularly by the average guy or gal. The same cannot be said of "great" wines.

                          Edit: Those $8 beer at Capones that are 9oz are very high in alcohol in addition to being often wood aged and just plain rare.

                      3. p
                        PhillyCook Mar 22, 2012 06:37 AM

                        Loved the pig tails and the pork terrine -- may be the best potted meat item I've ever had, and I've had a lot over the past couple of years. The pig tails were fatty, fried, yummy goodness -- messy to eat but a lot of fun. I also loved my pig pot pie.

                        I like that there are food items at a range of prices. I could see going here for a splurge night again sometime, or stopping by for an early dinner sandwich after work, which wouldn't break the bank at all.

                        Plus, in the summer, those garage doors come up and let all the nice air in. Already happening, I hear, since the weather's been so great this week.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: PhillyCook
                          b
                          Bigley9 Mar 22, 2012 07:53 AM

                          those pig tails are amazing!

                          1. re: PhillyCook
                            u
                            urbanfabric Mar 22, 2012 07:53 AM

                            Sounds pigtastic! We are thinking that it's not that far from the new music venue, Union Transfer, so it might make a good pre-show spot.

                          2. b
                            boats Mar 28, 2012 07:36 AM

                            I went last night before a concert. I was underwhelmed to say the least. We had the mackarel crudo with lemon, olive oil, parsley, and sea salt. It was ok. Way too much olive oil. It masked the flavor of the fish completely. The sunchokes were good, but they served them with ketchup!!! Seriously...ketchup?? The kale was disappointing. The mortadella hot dog was solid. I would have it again. Great mustard that was served with it. We also got the zucchini which was probably the best thing we had. It tasted like a bite of summer. It will be awhile before I give it another go.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: boats
                              e
                              EESphillygal Apr 2, 2012 07:53 AM

                              My husband and I went about 2 weeks ago now and we were also underwhelmed. I really wanted to like this place because I have great memories of these fun fried food places in Rome where you would sit at a picnic table with white paper tablecloths and pass around baskets of fried cod and fried zuchini blossoms while drinking pitchers of beer. Maybe it was my fault because I had that in mind and Alla Spina was nothing like that.
                              I love Vetri's other places, but this place seemed a little confused. The sports bar decor somehow reminded me of TGI Fridays. We started with oysters which were good. We liked the sunchokes and even didn't mind the ketchup. We also had the pigs tails which could have really been fried anything. The veal breast hoagie was tasty, but the toppings overwhelmed the meat so it could have been any fried, breaded meat and it would have tasted the same. The bread was great though.
                              I have to agree with everyone else's sentiments about the beer. Some beers are meant to e in a pint glass and not at those prices.
                              We would give it another try, but definitely not in a rush.

                            2. d
                              deprofundis Apr 2, 2012 08:28 AM

                              FYI - I went to Alla Spina again a little over a week ago and the printed menus have changed to say that the beers are 12oz. The glasses were identical. I don't know if the original 10oz was inaccurate or what.

                              1. b
                                Buckethead Apr 19, 2012 09:03 AM

                                I tried it last night and really liked the mortadella hot dog, prosciutto cotto, lamb speck, and pig tails. The pig tails are much different than Jamonera's, at Alla Spina the tail bones are split and they are served on the bone with an agrodolce sauce all over them, so they eat more like chicken wings (messy). The only disappointment was the food-service mayonnaise served with the beef-fat fries.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Buckethead
                                  p
                                  phillyjules Apr 20, 2012 05:43 AM

                                  I went last night and I was surprised to see so empty on a Thursday night. I wasn't digging the atmosphere and the space just seemed too big. Our waitress was nice but a complete knucklehead. I guess it's trying to be a nighborhood bar but it just doesn't work...

                                  I'm glad that I went but I don't think I'll be back since there's so many other places serving great barfood and the drinks were pricey. My husband and I shared the lamb speck, a sausage dish, poutine, and the veal hoagie. I'm still thinking about that hoagie since it was delicious. The poutine hit the spot but reminded me of disco fries which I used to eat at Jersey diners.

                                2. l
                                  Liltonysdad Apr 25, 2012 04:55 AM

                                  Sword Blt, sunchokes, razor clams, I still dream about them.

                                  1. s
                                    sadiefox May 31, 2012 10:36 AM

                                    We made a reservation for this Sunday -- a special beer week event. I hope it's good.

                                    12% Imports Beer Pairing Dinner with Founder Brian Ewing
                                    5 Courses, 5 Beers, $55! Meet the man behind one of the world's most exciting beer portfolios, and enjoy his penchant for rare, unique, and wonderful alongside a 5 course meal at Alla Spina. Reservations required!

                                    1. s
                                      sadiefox Jun 4, 2012 10:55 AM

                                      We went last night for a the beer dinner as part of Beer Week. I'm so glad we did -- got to try a lot of menu items, excellent beers, and it was a ridiculously great value for $55 per person. We were seated in 2 group tables in the upstairs loft area, which was a little tight but everyone had a good time.

                                      Arrived a little early and ordered a beer at the bar -- an Italian Saison for $10 that was ok. I agree with some of the comments above -- the glasses are silly. I don't mind it for some beers but would feel ridiculous drinking a Yards Brawler out of it. But I guess I wouldn't order a Brawler at a place like this anyway so who cares.

                                      Started with the deviled eggs, which I enjoyed. Simple but they really showcased the flavor of the porcini. The pretzels with spicy cheese were delicious. And I really loved the schisola polenta stuffed with taleggio and served with brown butter and crispy sage. They were slightly larger than golf balls, not in a bowl like somebody else in this thread described. Not finger food though. This was paired with Stillwater Stateside Saison.

                                      Next course was crudo di carne and a mixed salumi board: pork rillette with spring onions, lamb speck with horseradish butter, prosciutto cotto with fava beans and lemon and rustic pork terrine with apple sauce. All were great, but my favorites were the the bright green puree served with the prosciutto and the lamb speck. This was paired with a Belgian gueuze which was really great with the meats.

                                      Third course was the baked oysters with parmesan, lemon and parsley, fried snails and the crispy sunchokes. Those sunchokes were addictive -- what a great flavor and very crispy. I did not feel they needed any sauce or ketchup but they were served with the ketchup. Served with Evil Twin Weird Grape.

                                      Then finally, the whole roasted pork shoulder -- this was served on top of a green salad and with an assortment of pickled vegetables. The pork was great, what can I say. It was coated in a rich shiny glaze and crispy skin. I enjoyed the pickles too -- things like celery, white radishes, carrots, eggplant, peppers and cucumbers. Served with T'Gaverhopke, a Belgian quad.

                                      For dessert was vanilla ice cream topped with some of the Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break that it was served with -- simple and delicious.

                                      Overall, we really enjoyed everything and would go back. I was glad we got an opportunity to try such a wide variety of dishes that would not have been possible with 2 or 4 people. I can see how a meal here would get pricey. But next time we can try some things we haven't had.

                                      I thought the decor was interesting -- an auto garage theme. The weather was great so they had the nice big bay doors open.

                                      43 Replies
                                      1. re: sadiefox
                                        Chinon00 Jun 4, 2012 12:11 PM

                                        Thanks for the report. Quick question tho", why would you not wanna order a Brawler "at a place like this"?

                                        1. re: Chinon00
                                          s
                                          sadiefox Jun 4, 2012 12:55 PM

                                          haha, because if I was going to a "place like this" I'd be looking for more deep cuts and things I don't see on tap too often, and I'd be prepared to spend a chunk of change on food and drink. I can get a Brawler at lots of places. And I'd probably want it in a pint glass, not that stemware.

                                          1. re: sadiefox
                                            d
                                            deprofundis Jun 4, 2012 01:16 PM

                                            I agree with sadiefox. Alla Spina, while it is the cheapest of the Vetri spots, isn't cheap. I think that's the problem with the place. The type of people that are prepared to spend that kind of money can just go to Osteria. The food at Alla Spina is good, but not good enough to make it a destination restaurant (like Osteria). And the younger crowd isn't going to travel out of their way to get up there and pay the steep prices to drink/eat there. I do go there once in a while for happy hour, or while I'm waiting for a table at Osteria.

                                            1. re: deprofundis
                                              uhockey Jun 5, 2012 06:45 AM

                                              I cannot comment to the beer selection, but I went to Alla Spina twice in my last visit (and Vetri again, as well) and save for one somewhat average dish I thought everything at Alla Spina was executed at a very high level. The dessert menu needs some work, but the savories and particularly the vegetables were all impressive and the service, for a "gastropub" is FAR better than it needs to be.

                                              Met Marc on my first visit, as well, which was a real treat (he'd just come from lunch service at Amis and was on his way to do dinner service at Vetri) since he was 'just stopping in to check up and see how everything was going.'

                                              http://endoedibles.com

                                              1. re: uhockey
                                                d
                                                deprofundis Jun 5, 2012 03:00 PM

                                                Don't you think that such a pork-heavy menu, no matter how well executed, limits their appeal? I'm pretty sure they added more vegetables to the menu to address exactly that concern. And also, as the inky food critic noted (in his mostly glowing review), their pasta dishes aren't that great. And that area of north Broad is still a no-man's land. Are people willing to go out of their way to go there? It's still an open question imho.

                                                1. re: deprofundis
                                                  Chinon00 Jun 5, 2012 03:14 PM

                                                  "And that area of north Broad is still a no-man's land. Are people willing to go out of their way to go there? It's still an open question imho."

                                                  Isn't Osteria really close? Haven't they been open for awhile and doing ok in that area?

                                                  1. re: Chinon00
                                                    c
                                                    cwdonald Jun 5, 2012 03:17 PM

                                                    Osteria is two blocks up, and it is right next door to Route 6 the new Stephen Star restaurant. I don't think location is as much an issue as the menu, the beer selection and prices and the atmosphere.

                                                    I have only been once. I enjoyed it immensely, and thought the food was quite good. To me their menu is what the Farmer's Cabinet should aspire to be. High end food with high end beer.

                                                    1. re: Chinon00
                                                      d
                                                      deprofundis Jun 5, 2012 03:21 PM

                                                      As I said in my previous post, Osteria is a destination restaurant, Alla Spina is not (imho of course). Osteria could be anywhere and people would go.

                                                    2. re: deprofundis
                                                      uhockey Jun 5, 2012 09:12 PM

                                                      Pork is in. Kahan is and has been making a killing with it at Publican and Avec in Chicago and David Chang built an empire on pork buns.

                                                      IMO, the menu isn't terribly pork-centric and I didn't try the pastas. The poutine, the mortadella hot dog, the shrooms, the sunchokes, and the polenta cheese balls were all great while the pretzels on the happy hour menu were a great deal.

                                                      If you want pasta, go to Osteria or Amis. This is just another outlet for Vetri, totally different style but very well executed IMO.

                                                      http://endoedibles.com

                                                      1. re: uhockey
                                                        d
                                                        deprofundis Jun 5, 2012 09:41 PM

                                                        The food at Alla Spina's fine. But if you lived on the main line, would you drive to Broad & Mt. Vernon to go to Alla Spina? There are enough good gastropubs in this city that people don't need to go to a messed up location to get their drink/grub on. Osteria does well, *despite* its location, because it is in an elite class of restaurants. People come from everywhere to go there. The fact that Alla Spina is now doing 3 hours of happy hour every day is a sign of distress. When has Vetri ever been known to discount anything?

                                                        1. re: deprofundis
                                                          c
                                                          cwdonald Jun 6, 2012 05:19 AM

                                                          Frankly living in the suburbs I would prefer to go to Alla Spina Route 6 or Osteria over center city, for one reason and one reason only. Parking. I can park on the street or in a lot for a lot less than what it costs in center city (unless I use the lot across from GSK which costs 5 dollars after 5). I resent the parking mafia in center city, or the pain of parking in South Philly or East Passyunk.

                                                          1. re: deprofundis
                                                            b
                                                            Buckethead Jun 6, 2012 07:18 AM

                                                            "When has Vetri ever been known to discount anything?"

                                                            *applause*

                                                            1. re: Buckethead
                                                              c
                                                              cwdonald Jun 6, 2012 08:00 AM

                                                              You don't think that Vetri will be on Groupon the way Le Bec Fin was?

                                                              1. re: cwdonald
                                                                b
                                                                Buckethead Jun 6, 2012 08:29 AM

                                                                I keep meaning to post about my 2nd-ever visit to Vetri but I keep putting it off. Let's just say for now that even a Groupon may not get me to go back. It was robbery. Only one dish out of all of them was really stupendous and I had already had it last time I was there. I really couldn't believe it when they served us caramelized onions in a crepe. I couldn't believe that the spinach gnocchi everyone raves about are the same thing that I had. And the service wasn't that great either. Osteria is better and obviously a lot cheaper.

                                                                1. re: Buckethead
                                                                  d
                                                                  deprofundis Jun 6, 2012 08:47 AM

                                                                  That onion crepe is one of his most famous dishes. A little overrated, but still pretty good. I think the spinach gnocci are pretty excellentt, though. I had a few stupendous dishes last time - the bandera quail, the fettuccine with morels, and the veal breast were real stand-outs. The service I experienced was great, although I have had less than great (but still not bad) service when they get really busy.

                                                                  1. re: deprofundis
                                                                    uhockey Jun 6, 2012 12:50 PM

                                                                    The pistachio flan, the gnocchi, the bandera quail, and the goat are all outstanding dishes and being a bit of a gnocchi fanatic it is still the best I've ever had.

                                                                    http://endoedibles.com

                                                                  2. re: Buckethead
                                                                    b
                                                                    barryg Jun 6, 2012 10:11 AM

                                                                    How was the first visit and when was it?

                                                                    1. re: barryg
                                                                      b
                                                                      Buckethead Jun 6, 2012 10:28 AM

                                                                      My first visit was maybe 3-4 years ago, they were still doing a la carte then and Amis and Alla Spina didn't exist, so maybe Vetri's attention was more focused on his namesake restaurant than it is these days. It was much better then, I still didn't think it was worth the money but it came a whole lot closer then than it did on my second visit. I remember dessert in particular being totally incredible on my first visit and a total letdown on my second visit. The wine pairings as well were absolutely worthwhile on my first visit and just kinda OK on my second. And the one dish I had both times (foie gras pastrami) was a lot better the first time, although now it's just one bite on the plate of small things they bring you to start the meal.

                                                                      1. re: Buckethead
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                                                                        deprofundis Jun 6, 2012 10:53 AM

                                                                        What were your desserts? I've been to Vetri 3 times (first time was April 2011). The first dessert I got was a rhubarb linzer tart. It was good, but didn't blow my mind. The second time I got the chocolate polenta souffle. That was pretty awesome. The most recent visit they gave me the pistachio flan. That one was incredible - probably the best dessert I've ever had.

                                                                        By the way, I have noticed the foie gras pastrami getting smaller from even a year ago. On the last 2 visits it was about the size of a thumbnail. It's a shame because that's one of the best things they make.

                                                                        1. re: deprofundis
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                                                                          Buckethead Jun 6, 2012 11:09 AM

                                                                          I'll start a new thread on it, I have the menu with all the dishes we had marked off but I don't have it handy. The dessert that I loved the first time I was there, years ago, was a pine nut cake.

                                                              2. re: deprofundis
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                                                                barryg Jun 6, 2012 08:26 AM

                                                                Actually Amis did have a happy hour when it first opened (remember that Amis was supposed to be a casual drop-in trattoria when it first opened) . He is going for a bar scene here much more so than at his other restaurants. I don't see trying to draw people in before 6pm and after 10:30pm as desperation--yet. Since this is a pub vibe, the brand won't suffer for offering happy hours like it might at Osteria.

                                                                1. re: deprofundis
                                                                  Chinon00 Jun 6, 2012 10:00 AM

                                                                  But aren't there enough good restaurant in this city to not go to Osteria as well?

                                                                  1. re: Chinon00
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                                                                    deprofundis Jun 6, 2012 10:24 AM

                                                                    No, at least none operating at such a high level as Osteria.

                                                                    1. re: deprofundis
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                                                                      Buckethead Jun 6, 2012 10:32 AM

                                                                      If you haven't tried Vedge yet you should, it's on the same level as Osteria in my book.

                                                                      1. re: Buckethead
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                                                                        deprofundis Jun 6, 2012 10:48 AM

                                                                        I will definitely get to Vedge at some point.

                                                                  2. re: deprofundis
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                                                                    Bob Loblaw Jun 7, 2012 03:35 AM

                                                                    i dunno... living in mt. airy, i'd rather take the train to/from center city than drive to alla spina (let alone drive to center city itself).
                                                                    but i'm not planning on taking the train to center city just to take the bsl to N. Broad.

                                                                2. re: deprofundis
                                                                  Chinon00 Jun 7, 2012 04:44 AM

                                                                  So my wife and I went to Alla Spina last night for beers and enjoyed it. But again I must take issue w/ your description of the area. Despite it being a "no-man's land" I guess, I saw men and women in the immediate area jogging and walking their dogs; apparently w/o concern of losing their lives. The area is also close to Fairmount which is thriving part of the city with development now almost reaching Broad. You act like it's in Camden.

                                                                  1. re: Chinon00
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                                                                    barryg Jun 7, 2012 05:03 AM

                                                                    To nitpick, the neighborhood to the east of Fairmount, bordering Broad St, is Francisville. It is developing very rapidly.

                                                                    1. re: Chinon00
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                                                                      Hungryin theBurbs Jun 7, 2012 05:37 AM

                                                                      I agree there is nothing wrong with that neighborhood. Coming from the Elkins Park area, we find it much easier to go to that neighborhood (faster and easier parking). It is also a good destination area coming from Temple campus. I know many people (myself included) who have started going to Alla Spina or Route 6 as destinations. Osteria is one of my favorite restaurants in the city, but sometimes the atmosphere and price point of Alla Spina are preferable.

                                                                      1. re: Hungryin theBurbs
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                                                                        deprofundis Jun 7, 2012 06:35 AM

                                                                        Convenient for you because you drive there. It's not in a part of town that I'd be comfortable stumbling onto the street at 2am. Also, I don't see how a place that charges $18 for a hot dog and beer could become popular with the college crowd.

                                                                        1. re: deprofundis
                                                                          Chinon00 Jun 7, 2012 07:30 AM

                                                                          "It's not in a part of town that I'd be comfortable stumbling onto the street at 2am."

                                                                          So you don't feel comfortable walking onto the street when you leave Osteria at night?

                                                                          1. re: Chinon00
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                                                                            deprofundis Jun 7, 2012 07:43 AM

                                                                            No, I don't feel comfortable walking onto the street when I leave Osteria either. But I also don't go to Osteria as often as I go to the neighborhood bar. And I leave Osteria much earlier than I leave most bars. That means I can take the bsl home from Osteria, vs being stranded when I leave Alla Spina after the subway closes. I'm also more likely to drive to Osteria because I'm not going to be drinking like I would at Alla Spina.

                                                                      2. re: Chinon00
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                                                                        Bigley9 Jun 7, 2012 06:39 AM

                                                                        I always feel as if I must be immune to the neighborhood when I read people's descriptions of the Alla Spina/Osteria area - I've worked 2 blocks away for 15 years - but I don't feel threatened here, never had an issue with my car, etc. I think the no man's land description at this point has more to do with the walk from City Hall - Until you get to Route 6, there isn't much happening at sidewalk level which makes it feel empty, or at night desserted

                                                                        1. re: Bigley9
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                                                                          cwdonald Jun 7, 2012 06:44 AM

                                                                          And the flash mob @broad and spring garden last year certainly doesn't help the area's reputation.

                                                                          1. re: cwdonald
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                                                                            barryg Jun 7, 2012 06:55 AM

                                                                            Nor does the huge school district-owned vacant lot there.

                                                                            1. re: cwdonald
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                                                                              deprofundis Jun 7, 2012 07:36 AM

                                                                              Well to be fair, flash mobs have happened in center city too. The neighborhood's not Camden, but it's several notches below any area of center city, fairmount, northern liberties, most parts of south philly, etc. My point being that if you could teleport Alla Spina 10 blocks in any direction (except north), suddenly it's much more of a destination to a lot of people.

                                                                              I also think some of the pricing is out of whack, the $8 hot dog being my favorite example. The pretzels are good, but $5 is steep unless you're comparing them to a movie theater. The beer list is insanely expensive, and the prices don't include the famous 10% alcohol tax. I might be comfortable paying $3.50 per oyster at Barclay Prime, but not here.

                                                                            2. re: Bigley9
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                                                                              Cheesesteak Jun 7, 2012 07:45 AM

                                                                              Couldn't. Agree. More. It's always funny to see such harsh outside opinion. I'm born and raised in the city, have family in the Northeast, Kesington, Fairmount, Manayunk and Roxborough, went to high school at Broad and Vine, work downtown now, and I've never had a problem or witnessed a crime. Maybe I'm lucky, but that's besides the point

                                                                              I've been to Osteria 3 times. The food is good but the service is a bit convoluted, imho. I'm confused as to how someone from the 'burbs would be comfortable going to Osteria because it is a "destination restaurant" but that somehow changes when applied to Alla Spina. So it's worth it to drive from the 'burbs and theoretically risk life and limb for a pizza with arugala and prosciutto but not for a mortadella hot dog?

                                                                              1. re: Cheesesteak
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                                                                                deprofundis Jun 7, 2012 08:35 AM

                                                                                I take issue with your post on several points. First off, Osteria serves some of the best Italian food anywhere, and minimizing that by saying people drive there for pizza with arugala & prosciutto is not fair. Alla Spina is good, but the food isn't going to win any awards.

                                                                                Second, you don't understand the demographics of Osteria's clientele. We are talking about, by and large, moneyed, sport coat-wearing, middle-aged people driving into "the city" for a "night on the town", who valet-park their Mercedes and Cadillacs, and never really have to set foot in the neighborhood at all. These people are not going to go to Alla Spina.

                                                                                1. re: deprofundis
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                                                                                  Cheesesteak Jun 7, 2012 10:33 AM

                                                                                  Soooo your answer to my question is basically "yes".

                                                                                  Look I'm not trying to get into any kind of boring socioeconomic debate. The area below Fairmount Ave and above Spring Garden isn't much to look at, and that's mostly because there's not much there. I personally feel safer there than in some areas of Northern Liberties, which has been hot as a blow torch for the past 7-8 years but still has problems with crime.

                                                                                  The recipe that Alla Spina is following looks pretty simple: get in on the ground floor of a faux-sketchy neighborhood where the rent is still reasonable, then make kick-ass punk-rock foodie-cool food that forces people to show up. It happens all over the country: the Publican, which AS admittedly gives many nods to, places like Momofuku Ssam Bar in NY, and Animal in L.A.

                                                                                  In your estimation they have a long way to go, especially since they're blatantly overcharging for good beer in a city that is overflowing with normally priced good beer. I have not been there yet, but the neighborhood in which it is located is the last thing that is stopping me.

                                                                                  1. re: Cheesesteak
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                                                                                    deprofundis Jun 9, 2012 02:32 PM

                                                                                    Went to Alla Spina a couple days ago. I was surprised how many people were there - the place was pretty packed around ~9:30. The beer list seems to have some more affordable options (and affordable at this place means $6 or $7 for a 10oz pour) compared to when they opened.

                                                                                    I had the schisola ($6), crispy sunchokes ($4), the veal milanese hoagie ($12), and the soft serve twist ($6).

                                                                                    The schisola, little fried balls of polenta stuffed with cheese and served in a tarragon brown butter sauce, were pleasant but not life-changing. Recommended.

                                                                                    The crispy sunchokes were not crispy, they were ~1/2 inch cubes of flabby fried sunchokes served with a side of ketchup straight out of a bottle. I can't complain too much for $4, but I expect more from a Vetri place.

                                                                                    The veal milanese hoagie, served with bacon mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, and hot peppers, was outstanding. As Laban said in his review, possibly the best elevated hoagie in the city. However, I must take issue with the neon green hot peppers, which were obviously out of a jar. It didn't bring down the whole dish, but those peppers annoyed me. It's not difficult to pickle your own hot peppers. Nonetheless, I highly recommend this sandwich.

                                                                                    ETA: The hoagie was served with a side of potato chips (bbq or salt & vinegar). I chose bbq (the better of the two), but I have had both on separate occasions. The chips are perfectly fried and wonderfully crisp and salted, but the flavoring (ie, the bbq or salt & vinegar component) just lacks. They don't taste like anything - all I could taste was the saltiness.

                                                                                    The soft serve was excellent and tasted like fresh strawberries. Recommended, but I think $6 is a little steep for soft serve.

                                                                                    After around ~11ish, the place cleared out to the point where only maybe 2 or 3 tables were occupied, and a handful of people (many friends and employees of the Vetri places) were hanging out at the bar. The place does serve food until I think 1am. It does appear that they are drawing a crowd based on the food, which is overall very good but with a couple weak spots.

                                                                                    1. re: deprofundis
                                                                                      uhockey Jun 19, 2012 05:00 PM

                                                                                      Odd, the sunchokes were fantastic when I went, crisp gives way to creamy. I agree with you on the shisola.

                                                                                      Regarding the neighborhood - I jogged there. Daily. Times ranging between 4am and 6am. Never once had an issue whereas jogging down Race Street at ~4:45am I had some creepy bum dogging me and asking for "anything I got" for a good 100 yards.

                                                                                      http://endoedibles.com

                                                                    2. re: sadiefox
                                                                      Chinon00 Jun 4, 2012 08:02 PM

                                                                      So it's driven by commoness and not style. Ok.

                                                                      1. re: Chinon00
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                                                                        sadiefox Jun 5, 2012 06:54 AM

                                                                        Yep :) Locally-produced beers are generally my go-to choices for everyday enjoyment but I like sampling all kinds of brews... Alla Spina is definitely the kind of place to try some things not normally found elsewhere.

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                                                                  barryg Dec 18, 2012 11:06 AM

                                                                  I tried it recently and overall, it's just another solid gastropub with pretty good food. The food was all good but there were flaws with some of it and nothing stood out as some revelation over the item it was a gussied up version of.

                                                                  The veal hoagie had great hoagie flavor but the veal was way too chewy and the bread was good but over-toasted. The Guinea Hen Poutine didn't have enough gravy or cheese, and the hen didn't add any definable flavor. Salt & Vinegar chips were good but the BBQ ones were way overseasoned. I tried several other items and everything was about the same -- good but not notable.

                                                                  Food prices are very fair which was good, but beer prices are outrageous, and they still haven't fixed the stemware. Serving a weissbier in those goblets is ridiculous for a place at this price point that is ostensibly focused on beer. They also only have one type of wine glass. Very odd for a restaurant that obviously had a lot of money put into the concept. Really, Vetri should be embarrassed that his pub offering in a beer-obsessed city is lacking this important detail.

                                                                  Service felt overly formal for a place with such casual atmosphere and food. None of this is to say Alla Spina is bad at all, but I was hoping for more from Vetri. I would definitely go back if in the area but I don't think it's worth a special trip from outside the neighborhood, and actually I'd probably go to Prohibition Taproom instead -- and they have the correct glasses for the beer.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: barryg
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                                                                    barryg Feb 18, 2013 10:13 AM

                                                                    An update... tried Alla Spina for Sunday brunch and it was very good -- and no wait to get seated plus easy parking. There were a lot of interesting menu items, though it could use a couple lighter options. The hash browns were especially great.

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