Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Restaurant for Starting Your Year off Right

January 2015                       Restaurants dread January- traditionally the slowest time of year. We defer going out while we recover from holiday spending and anticipate Valentine’s Day. The cold doesn’t help as frigid weather just leads us to hunker down in front of the fire rather than braving the elements. But Philadelphia’s Alla Spina, a Vetri restaurant,  (Mt. Vernon and Broad Street between Spring Garden and Fairmount),  has an answer for all that- Italian comfort food! Alla Spina, Italian for “from the tap” is part eatery, part pub but all neighborhood coziness.  The casual atmosphere, friendly service and large selection of  beers, put diners in a relaxed mood as they contemplate a seasonal menu that begs for big appetites. True to the Alla Spina name, the  bar features 20 taps on custom copper draft towers including hard-to-find Italian and Belgian brews as well as a variety of domestic offerings. A menu  of 75 bottled beers features exclusive seasonal house beers from local craft brewery Victory.

House specialties include rustic style Italian treats such as house-made sausages, braised meats and oysters. For “le Pezzi” the little pieces, our group shared the daily selection of oysters (James River); prosciutto cotto with honey crisp apples and black pepper maple glaze; house-made pretzels with spicy beer cheese- a salute to Philadelphia, and pig tails with fennel agrodolce. Signature entrée dishes enjoyed included  Maple Glazed Fried 

Chicken with mozzarella curd mashed potatoes- very popular with our group; an entree sized bitter greens salad with sweet date vinaigrette and crispy duck confit; a carbonara burger with fried egg, guanciale, and black pepper pecorino maionese; and a roasted pig’s head all accompanied by Talanonti’s Rosso del Politici, a luscious Italian red wine.

The combination of crispy skinned moist fried chicken combined with the flavor packed mashed potatoes was truly a dish for the coldest night on Broad Street. If that wasn’t enough comfort and joy, the desserts, including a chocolate taco,
 and a truly decadent Donut Bread Pudding, left us feeling happy we had braved the cold and made the trip. Whether you drive 45 minutes or walk 15, you will really enjoy the neighborhood coziness and yummy flavors of this Italian gastropub. 

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