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Philly's Little Nonna's

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Philly's Little Nonna's

We finally made it to Little Nonna's, for Sunday dinner (they opened early at 3PM for Easter), and we had an excellent meal. Much better, in fact, than some of the prior comments in this thread might have led me to expect.

We started with a couple of the house-bottled cocktails, which were both very tasty and refreshing:

SICILIAN RUM PUNCH: Rum, Amaretto, fresh-squeezed pineapple, lime, blood orange ($10)--ordered 2 of these, it was so good

ITALIAN LEMONADE: Citrus vodka, house-squeezed lemonade, thyme syrup ($10)

For two people, we shared the following, which was so much food that we couldn't really finish the single water ice we eventually ordered for dessert:

GARLIC BREAD: Scarone's seeded loaf, roasted garlic butter, sea salt ($5)--I would agree that it's not the best garlic bread I've ever had, and I would prefer it to be crisper. But I liked the roasted garlic for spreading.

B+V+P MEATBALLS: Fontina-stuffed beef/veal/pork meatballs, soft polenta, San Marzano gravy ($11)--I'm guessing this might be Little Nonna's signature dish, and it was indeed very good. However, I thought it was rather heavily spiced for my taste, and because of that, I could see it being something you would feel strongly about one way or the other. Interestingly, when the meatballs were cut open, there seemed to be a lot less cheese in the center than in the photo accompanying Craig LaBan's review, so perhaps they cut it back due to his comments.

STEAMED MUSSELS: Fiorella's hot fennel sausage, charred corn, roasted long hots, garlic, white wine, basil ($12)--Excellent, right up until the moment I bit off half of the long hot and started hiccuping uncontrollably. Showoffs deserve what they get!

RICOTTA CAVATELLI: Housemade duck sausage, olives, garlic, broccoli rabe, smoked ricotta salata ($14)--Also excellent, this was my second favorite dish. I loved the texture of the perfectly cooked pasta.

ITALIAN SEAFOOD GRILL: Calamari, Gulf shrimp, roasted peppers, swordfish-zucchini speidini, white beans, salsa verde, lemon ($24)--My favorite dish, this had it all: tender shrimp, acidic artichoke, perfectly cooked calamari, excellent grilled bread for sopping up the juices...I will order this every single time I visit.

LEG OF LAMB: We didn't actually have this special, although it was sitting eye-level on the counter staring at us all afternoon, and it looked very tempting. But I'll post a photo of it anyway.

WATER ICE: Blood orange, basil ($6)--Well-made, and easily large enough for two. I'm sure many will like it, but it seemed just a bit unbalanced for my taste, with an awful lot of basil, covering up the citrus, and it was pretty sweet too.

WINE LIST: Fairly short, but with a good range of styles, and affordable. Didn't recognize many of the names, but I did enjoy a glass of Montepulciano ($10). Good stems.

Attractive, somewhat homey space, and I especially like the missmatched "Italian grandmother's" dinnerware. The noise level was moderately energetic, but not excessive, despite the full house. And I didn't find the space at all cramped, unlike some of the other commentators. But of course we sat at the kitchen counter (which is not reservable, and available on a first-come, first-served basis). However, you can look at the photo below, and judge for yourself. I gather they also have an ~40 seat patio, but I'm not sure if that was open yet.

$126 (not counting tip), which I think was reasonable for the quality and quantity of food we enjoyed (considering we left stuffed to the gills!). Service was excellent, although there was not a great deal of interaction with the 4 chefs in the kitchen. All the plates stacked in front of us tended to inhibit any possibility of conversation. I think making that counter a bit more open would be desirable (3 of the 5 high-top seats were unoccupied the entire time we were there).

Easy parking at an open-air lot a block away on the corner of Locust & 13th.

This is actually only the second time I've been to a Val-Mar restaurant (the other being, Lolita before it closed for remodeling). I have to say I was very impressed. Whether this really is a genuine ode to red sauce South Philly, I can't say for sure. I don't really go to those types of places, since none of them ever seem to be sufficiently praised by anyone who isn't already biased by having grown up with them.

But I did find Little Nonna's plenty good enough to stand on it's own, irrespective of whatever historical influences it may have been influenced by.

Tickets Needed For Volver

Well it's open now. Who's going to take one for the team? Not me...

Apr 20, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Philadelphia

Laurel, new BYOB on EPx from Top Chef contestant Nicholas Elmi

Ha, RocketJSquirrel and his Kistlers!

Apr 20, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Philadelphia

Meh-rigold kitchen & Brauhaus Schmitz

Really? I don't know anyone who uses TA for restaurants. Hotels yes, restaurants no.

It's clear to me that lingua/butter have completely different tastes in food than I do. But that's fine...

Apr 20, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Philadelphia

Blue Belly BBQ

Sorry I missed it.

Apr 20, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Philadelphia

Tickets Needed For Volver

More on the cost of Volver:

http://philly.eater.com/archives/2014...

Apr 20, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Philadelphia

Blue Belly BBQ

Apparently Blue Belly has closed for good:

http://www.passyunkpost.com/2014/04/1...

Apr 20, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Philadelphia

Trip to Pittsburgh: Where to eat?

EaterNational has updated their Pittsburgh "Heatmap":

http://eater.com/archives/2014/04/18/...

Apr 20, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Pennsylvania

Dinner in Downtown Philadelphia

Sbraga (Top Chef winner)
The Treemont (new)
Estia (whole fish is the thing)
Petruce et al. (new)
The Bar at Avance (lamb burger is supposed to be great)

Apr 20, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Philadelphia

Why Yelp is useless (Boston discussion on their "Top 100 places to eat!" article

They don't actually do that. People have alleged that they do, but as we all know, we shouldn't believe everything we read on the Internet.

What actually happens is:

A new restaurant opens, and a Yelp page is created by someone (I go to a lot of restaurant opening nights, so I've created quite a few). People start to post reviews. A Yelp salesman calls the new restaurant, but the restaurant turns them down. Eventually the Yelp filter kicks in (new restaurants are ignored by the filter for a while), and it relegates questionable reviews to the "you have to click one more button to see them" category. These are often one-off 5-star reviews from friends of the restaurant who have never posted on Yelp before, and never will again. Restaurant owner correlates turning down Yelp salesperson with all his 5-star reviews disappearing, even though these are unrelated events. Owner complains to everyone, and eventually anecdote is repeated by professional blogger who never learned what real journalism is about. Repeat ad infinitum...

[However, I don't doubt that there are Yelp salespeople who say or imply things that are not true in order to improve their chances of making a sale. This is a real problem in any industry where salespeople are incentivized based on how much they sell. The temptation to break the rules is considerable. I actually work for a company that had such a problem with this, that we've recently removed all sales-based incentives for salespeople. Of course, how do you then reward performance? There is a reason why the proverbial "car salesman" is a cliche.]

The Pass, new BYOB in Rosemont

If this cool "A Day in the Life" video doesn't make you want to go to The Pass, I don't know what will...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBaMK...

Apr 20, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Philadelphia

Asparagus season

The Pass is Matt Ridgway's (of PorcSalt) new byob. It's very very good. A few minutes outside of Lambertville. There's a considerable thread on the NJ board.

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9673...

http://www.atthepass.com

Apr 20, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Philadelphia

Asian Legend in Lansdale

Dining Partner

Personally I prefer FF (Fellow Foodie), but I guess that wouldn't work in the General Tso's context.

Asparagus season

The Pass in Rosemont NJ has white asparagus flown in from France.

Any soft shell sightings in Philly?

Sbraga:

https://twitter.com/BenFileccia/statu...

With cranberry beans, chili de arbol, and salsa roja.

Apr 19, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Philadelphia

Trip to Pittsburgh: Where to eat?

Thanks everyone!

Apr 17, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Pennsylvania

Trip to Pittsburgh: Where to eat?

I'll be in Pittsburgh for a few days in early May for a medical conference. I've never been there before, so I would like to know what are your top 5 places I MUST EAT?

Price, cuisine, breakfast, lunch, dinner...doesn't matter, just as long as it is great. I'm looking for places that when I get back to Philly I'll be telling everyone about!

Staying at the Omni William Penn, but will have a car.

Also, which is the original location of Primanti Bros, and is that the best one to go to?

Thanks!

Apr 16, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Pennsylvania

Linguafood and buttertart and a weekend in Philadelphia...

I think you mean Marigold Kitchen, not Cafe. The chestnut raviolo is my fav too.

Apr 14, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Philadelphia

Runaround Sous

I forgot to mention Anthony also worked with George Sabatino at Stateside.

I wish I had got the names of all his helpers (I remember at least one was from Morimoto). They did a fantastic job and were very professional.

Apr 12, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Philadelphia

50 States in 50 Weeks: SALO Filipino restaurant coming to Philly April 27th

No connection to me, but this sounds like a cool project to raise money for victims of the Philippines typhoon:

"The SALO Project is a series of Traveling Underground Pop-up Dinners featuring Regional Filipino Cuisine touring to the 50 States of America over the course of 50 weeks.

www.thesaloproject.com

30% of the proceeds will be donated to Nafcon National Alliance for Filipino Concerns for the vistims of the typhoon in the Philippines."

http://youtu.be/M994jWy7Pd0

https://www.eatfeastly.com/meals/m/sa...

"Deep fried pork mesentery" sounds right up my alley!

Apr 12, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Philadelphia

Runaround Sous

Apparently, semi-professional underground restaurants (supper clubs, whatever you want to call them...) are all the rage these days. I get the emails every week from Wolfsmouth, but who can fly off to LA on a moments notice to dine in someone's condo? Assuming you can even get an invite.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013...

But Philly is also participating in this trend. Many of us know "the restaurant we are not supposed to tweet about", which I personally think may be the best food to be had at any price in Philly, but there are plenty of others. And last night I had a chance to attend the inaugural dinner of the newest of the bunch: Runaround Sous.

The brain-child Anthony Sica (an ex-opera singer, who was accepted to CIA and worked at Le Bec Fin, but has decided to go awol and do something completely different), RS's mission is to feature the unsung heroes of Philly's food scene, the sous chefs from our best restaurants, doing one-off dinners in an attractive Logan Square townhouse for groups of ~15-20. And they got off to a great start last night with guest chef Doug Allen of Lacroix.

Arriving at 7 for a 7:30 dinner, we took a tour of the condo (a nice rooftop deck will be great when the weather gets a bit warmer in the evening), hung out in the kitchen watching the chefs do practice plates and explain things to the servers (including a som, who provided BYOB suggestions for each course), and then jumped into a drink or three before dinner.

A young, diverse crowd of foodies, mixed together in two different seating areas (the 3 kitchen counter seats are definitely the ones to ask for), it's a great way to meet people who share your interest in fine dining and having a good time. Chef Allen's cooking, as you can see from the pictures, was beautifully plated, and tasted as good as it looked. Perhaps a little slow on the service side, but that is understandable when a chef is using a nice but not professional kitchen for the first time (he was also assisted by Trevor Crum from Lacroix and Sam Henzy from Talula's Garden). But with all the wines and conversation, I think everyone was perfectly happy with the pace.

$50 by PayPal (don't forget to leave a tip!) was a good deal. Easy parking at an open-air lot a block away. They also had a special $10 discount from Uber (not sure if this will be a regular thing or not).

If you are interested, they have a Facebook page to announce future events (also @RunaroundSous on Twitter). The next dinner will feature a well-known Philly chef, who is not actually a sous. But since it hasn't been announced, I won't spill the beans...

Photos:
https://www.facebook.com/philly.bestb...

Apr 11, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Philadelphia

We're Number 4!!!!

Funny that they list Boston as #5. Complete pizza wasteland. Philly is definitely better than Boston for pizza.

We're Number 4!!!!

A man of sophisticated taste!

Apr 11, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Philadelphia

Eli Kulp: "People in New York just don't go to Philadelphia"

Only been to the Bar Room. Would like to try it for dinner sometime.

Apr 11, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Philadelphia

Eli Kulp: "People in New York just don't go to Philadelphia"

Philadephians are such wimps about driving to NYC (I'm looking at you DK)!

It's fairly consistently 1 hour 50 min drive from my place to Midtown, and I have to drive south to Philly first before driving back North.

All you need is a good GPS with traffic.

Going up tomorrow. Brunch at The Modern (there is great food in Midtown if you know where to look).

Apr 11, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Philadelphia

Toronto Hound in Philly

It changes on a daily basis.

Apr 09, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Philadelphia

Toronto Hound in Philly

Better make your reservation for July for Laurel ASAP. We've heard they are sold out through June, and that was a couple of weeks ago.

It's very good, although personally not in my top 10 in Philly.

Apr 09, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Philadelphia

Two Bells for Avance

At least LaBan liked his cocktail:

http://www.philly.com/philly/food/201...

Apr 09, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Philadelphia

End of an era at The Farm & Fisherman

The actual menu:

Apr 08, 2014
PhillyBestBYOB in Philadelphia