Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

Ave Maria Pass the Diarrhea

October 23, 2007

This is my first restaurant review ever by a guy who knows next to nothing about food which means he name drops like a Tyrone Jackson trying resuscitate his career. Hell, I can’t even spel restaurant right without a spell checker so take this review with a Dead Sea sized floe of salt. In other words, though I am being as honest as I know how, please don’t sue me nice Italian people.

Since the good people of this blog wanted to have a Really Nice Meal TM, we arranged to meet some fellow conspirators at a local restaurant. The exact name escapes me because 1) I didn’t plan this, my partner die, 2) we didn’t go there. I want to say the place is Palm Tree, but that place is for attorneys and corrupt government officials who are spinning their next plot to separate the homeless in North Philly from their daily panhandlings. I thought it was called Orange, but that’s a silly name for a place to eat. Extensive research
(first hit on google) only brings up Lolita which despite its name was a nice place to drink at with a friend of a friend who is a chef there. I didn’t yet get the privilege of eating there, but I’m sure it’s good.

Since we couldn’t get a reservation at the eatery of our choice, we decided upon “something Italian” which to me is always sketchy as it could mean anything between a spaghetti and pizza join in Ocean City (NJ not MD) to the other extreme of Coda di Rospo.

My partner was more daring (and hopeful than thou) so we looked up a great BYOB. Due to the archaic and draconian liquor laws, BYOBs are popular in Philly, and strangely enough, the BYOB byline seems to ensure a minimal level of quality. Note, like Brittney’s career all this is in the past due to our latest culinary ordeal.

The place sounded harmless enough. A long running Italian restaurant right outside the Italian market named after someone’s materfamilias using the good virgin’s name along with redundant descriptor in case the first two words don’t tell us what nation this establishment hails from.

Sitting outside, we watched limos try to pull down the tiny streets of South Philly forcing Humvees and SUVs (why do all the hulking big vehicles–save for the bus–have a big V sound in them?) out of the way. Out jumps a whole brood each holding a bottle of their own wine. With people pouring in, we are hopeful that this is going to be well worth it.

Once inside, we await a table for four while other couples brush past us.  For entertainment there is the soothing sound of the accordion and the taste of what my more worldly companion dubs “fine watered down wine”. The wine was a nice touch, and the wait for the table understandable as we have a group of four who reserved the table of a popular restaurant at the last minute. What is not understood is why a BYOB is serving wine. It turns out that they are a BYOB that serves alcohol a “Bring Your Own, Or We’ll Have Alcohol”, a BYOOWHA so to speak. Don’t believe the hype. Multitasking is not all that BYOB is much greater than BYOOWHA any Saturday of the week.

After a reasonably short wait, “people don’t like to leave,” explains a staff member who also entertains us with a quaint history of the restaurant scene in the area, we get a table.

The table is all ready set with day old bread, yellow (not green!) olive oil, more watered down wine (red and white in nice unlabeled wine jugs) and antipasto. The antipasto is quite nice. It featured eggplant, garbanzo (chick peas, channa, whatever), and more steeped in a cool, tasty sauce.

If they stopped there we feel we could have almost broke even. We chose to not drink the wine we brought and have broke even. Alas, the meal was seven courses, though in this restaurant worlds the word “course” must include ice water.

We got the menu which was not even handed to us, but stuck in a stack on the table. There were no prices on the menu. I thought that I was in on this. I had a guest menu; I had recently read about this. Alas, this, too was wrong like everything else I thought that night. None of the menus had prices. My more brave friend asked the price. Fifty dollars each. All four of us must have looked like tires on a pinto speeding out of a parking garage backwards without paying. Still we plunged on, hoping things would end well. “If we had to pay for wine, and we were huge alcoholics, and we ordered a few entrees from any
other restaurant, the bill would be the same,” insisted my ever optimistic friend.

Next came the chicken soup with a lovely pasta roll stuffed with cheese soaking in it. I enjoyed it so much, I ate two bowls: mine and my friend who said that the chicken smelled old. It seems that everyone who is not American can determine the age of meat with a single sniff. Blissfully ignorant, I enjoyed both bowls and the soggy pasta especially.

Next came the actual pasta which looked quite attractive with its green and orange coloring. It was covered with cheese. I added more from the table, and I enjoyed it, though I realized I could have done as well at home. My partner demurred, “I could have done better than this if I were half dead from the flu.”

My main dish, assorted seafood, was nice. I was so full from the other courses, watery wine and bread that I barely noticed the small portion. My dish consisted of headed shrimp, scallops, and calamari body (I assumed they took the tentacles–my favorite part–in order to please their regular audience).
My partner’s dish of tilapia, tasted OK to me, but she described it as “goopy, slimy overcooked, and covered with a disgusting sauce.” My friend got the chicken which he enjoyed. His date explained that this was not so old as the soup. The white sauce looked nice, but I did not taste this as there was only enough for him.

At the end, they brought so shots. There were three mysterious bottles: cloudy white, an orange, and red. There was something fine which came in a fancy bottle and was dark amber in color this I thought was too sweet. There was also a clear bottle which held Roma Something that tasted like Ouzo and was also described fondly as Turkish Vodka. The latter was the best bet. The cloudy white tasted of pineapple, I think. The orange definitely tasted of oranges and vodka. The red tasted like cherry Kool Aid TM and vodka. The waitress mixed the white and orange and told me to “take it all in one shot.” Since my liver is lazy and it had been overworked all ready, I explained how this would make me
puke. She gave up after a few more tourist friendly urges for me to swallow the mysterious mix.

Dessert consisted of cheesecake which was OK, but did not taste as good as my partners. Nor did it look like cheesecake with its alternating bands of frosting and a moist cake. The Rum cake was also OK. There were two chocolate cakes that were also OK. After sampling them all, I concluded that it didn’t matter what cake you got, save for the rum which tasted strongly of rum. I thought that the chocolate were the slightly better than the others.

Finally, we were offered caffeinated drinks. I took an espresso which was nice. The tea was a middle of the road brand which put it ahead of many of the actual dishes.

If this restaurant was the only one in Wildwood, NJ, and you were hungry after a long day of swimming, then this would be a great deal at twenty dollars per person. At fifty dollars, we expected a bit more class.

I speculated that the point of this restaurant was to serve suburbanites who knew nothing of the Philly restaurant scene. It advertised by word of mouth over Starbuck’s Blended Mocha Frappucino, Ventis in the local strip mall of the local Levittown’s.

“Monica’s getting married and she wants to try a real Italian place.”

“Hey, I know an authentic place that’s in the heart of the Italian Market.”

“Is it safe? Is there parking? What if I get lost? Don’t they disembowel people in Philadelphia and drag them through the streets hanging from bicycle chains?”