Thursday, October 8, 2015

Big Apple, Philly, Cherry Hill: Three Dining Gems!

We always like to tell you about restaurant discoveries and we've got three Italian beauties to report on today: One a reliable standby; one a relative newcomer and one brand new.
Let's start with the newest one of the bunch: Fratelli's Italian Bistro at 1339 Chestnut St. (between Juniper and Broad) in Philadelphia. Fratelli's has taken over the space that once housed an outlet of the Marathon chain of eateries but you'd hardly recognize the place now.
At Fratelli's Italian Bistro, housemade marinara coats parmesan-crusted veal cutlets and garnishes piles of beer-battered mozzarella. This Italian haven, named a “must-try" restaurant, makes more than just sauce from scratch. Freshly baked bread supplies the foundation for bruschetta, and handcrafted meatballs line the buns of lunchtime sandwiches and the pockets of hamburglars looking to branch out.
Cooks also prepare lobster-and ricotta-stuffed ravioli soused in lobster cognac cream, as well as flatbreads crowned with wild mushrooms and sweet fennel sausages. Bartenders, meanwhile, complement these meals with domestic and imported wines by the glass or bottle.
We've dined twice at Fratelli's (once for lunch, once for dinner) and have thoroughly enjoyed it both times. The food is delicious, the service is prompt and efficient, the decor is pleasant and soothing and the whole atmosphere is very welcoming. We like it because it's not noisy, high-pressured or in the least bit rushed. Lunch entrees range from $7.50 to $15 and dinner from $14 to $25.50 including a house salad. They also have a $25 three-course dinner. This is a great place to meet old friends, conduct business or simply hang out. 
Below, find the wonderful pasta pomodoro and the amazing warm shrimp salad at Fratelli's Italian Bistro.

Next up, let's talk about another inviting venue with a taste of Bella Italia, Amici on Kresson Road near Brace Road in Cherry Hill, NJ.
At Amici (which means "friends" in Italian) they believe dining should be an experience that celebrates togetherness along with the culture of Italy. All of their recipes are prepared from scratch with fresh ingredients. They proclaim that their fish, meats, and pasta are of the finest quality. Their goal is authentic Italian food and a warm dining experience.
Amici is not brand new (it opened in 2012) but it is new enough that you may not know about it or may not have tried it. We've tried it twice and we can tell you that you owe it to yourself to experience Amici.
Through hard work and dedication over the years, Amici's Executive Chef Alex A. Daku has experienced all facets of life in the professional kitchen. His menus extend beyond the territories of traditional cuisine and incorporate continental influences to appeal to the tastes of a broader reception.
At age 17, Alex pursued a culinary education in Torino, in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, studying classic Italian and Mediterranean disciplines. He worked his way through various European kitchens, honing his craft and learning new techniques while carrying a full course load. Before opening Amici, he cooked at a number of fine dining establishments in New York City such as Il Molino, Aqua Blue, Tech Villa, Midtown West’s CPS,  and Brownstones in West Paterson before landing at Le Jardin, earning him a lot of awards.
Though Amici serves both lunch and dinner we've only been there for dinner and have enjoyed it both times, though we do wish the chairs were a bit more comfortable. The restaurant is cozy without being cramped and easily accommodates live music every Tuesday evening (a real treat!). Diners are welcomed most warmly and the service is excellent. Amici will alter dishes as you wish or even cook up a favorite of yours though it may not be on the menu. Dinner entrees range from $10.95 to $15.95 and lunch ranges from $8.95 to $12.95 with a $9.95 two course express lunch Monday through Friday.
Below from Amici find the minestrone soup, the fried calamari, the free range veal with spaghetti and the pesce del giorno.

Now let's move on to the perennial favorite - Trattoria Dell'Arte on 7th near 57th (opposite Carnegie Hall) in midtown Manhattan. 
There's no doubt about it, this place is a classic. Designed by renowned graphic designer Milton Glaser, the restaurant evokes an Italian artist's studio with oversized sculptures and drawings and a wall gallery of famous Italian noses. From the moment you enter, this culinary haven is absolutely enchanting. There are no pretenses here. Whether you are a regular (and there are many of those) or a newcomer to Dell'Arte, they are sincerely happy to have you and they will be most appreciative and do everything to make your dining experience extra special. Of course, reservations are recommended.
Trattoria Dell’Arte features the largest antipasto bar in New York with a sprawling selection of seafood and vegetable specialties. The menu focuses on northern Italian specialties such as the steak Florentine, double veal chop, seafood specialties of the Mediterranean, and unforgettable desserts.
It was here at Dell'Arte that we enjoyed the most wonderful lobster seafood risotto we've ever tasted. Often risotto is too creamy or too mushy. No here. This risotto was divine and loaded with a delightful medley of lobster, shrimp, clams and scallops, all out of the shell. The risotto is brought to you in a pan and served table side. It's magnifico!
But, truth to tell everything was wonderful here and well worth the decidedly New York tariff (dinner entrees range from $31 to $50 with a pre-fixe lunch available for $27.95). 
Below from Trattoria Dell'Arte (pictured) find the lobster seafood risotto, the seared salmon and the pesto ravioli grandi. We also enjoyed a wonderful pasta e fagioli and shared a bombe.

No comments: