Monday, September 15, 2014

Three Great Dining Discoveries in Philly/NJ

We love to discover new restaurants.
And recently we've had the good fortune to discover three of them that we instantly rate highly.
So, we'll talk about them in the order that we discovered them.
First off, it's Giorgio On Pine at 1328 Pine St. just off Broad in Philadelphia.
Here, in an intimate setting connecting two small walkups Giorgio Giuliani, formerly of the Monte Carlo Living Room and Primavera presides at his rustic BYOB trattoria.
At Giorgio you can savor authentic Italian cuisine in a casual atmosphere that offers you a delightful dining experience.
To start we enjoyed sauté of calamari and baby shrimp served with arugula, chopped tomatoes and garlic on a bed of cannelloni beans. The was not the usual fried calamari and we enjoyed the light, fresh departure from the typical dish.
Pasta at Giorgio is made daily. We chose the gnocchi in a 12-jour braised beef ragu and we loved it. The potato gnocchi were melt-in-your-mouth delicious. We also selected the rigatoni with bits of sweet Italian sausage and bell papers tossed in marinara sauce (photo above). Again, we were absolutely delighted with the al dente rigatoni, the sauce and the luscious enhancements.  
Everything at Giorgio is pretty much cooked right in front of you at a small kitchen. It's enchanting. 
For dessert we were treated to an absolutely divine tiramisu. It was so light and airy that we nearly took flight.
But, not to worry -- Giogio On Pine is remarkably well grounded and it's lively, cozy atmosphere (and friendly, helpful staff) enveloped us in a wonderful cocoon of comfort.
Bravo, bravo Giorgio! We shall return.

Next, we ventured to a delightful new South Jersey restaurant in the eclectic dining mecca of Collingswood.
El Sitio is a contemporary Ecuadorian restaurant right on Haddon Avenue in the center of town. The inside features an open, colorful, contemporary floor plan and there's also a nice patio for sunny days where friends and family can have a taste of South American cuisine. This is a place where the ambience seems just right. And, it's BYOB.
The menu, served daily at lunch and dinner, includes aromas and flavors from Ecuador, Peru, and Argentina, as well as beef from Uruguay and the United States. El Sitio stresses fresh, homemade dishes and distinctive tastes.
We started with the Argentinean style empanadas. We ordered two of these wheat flour empanadas stuffed with seasoned chicken and two stuffed with beef for our table. We were not disappointed and we quickly understood why these empanadas have been voted the best in the area. They were crisp and succulent but not the least bit heavy or greasy. 
Of course, beef is one of the stars here and we chose the grilled strips of beef topped with choice of Dijon, peppers, onions and balsamic sauce. But this came on a bed of fries with a side of rice as well (shown above). A hearty dish for what was a damp and unseasonably chilly evening. We also enjoyed the garlic marinated jumbo shrimp perfectly grilled with a mix of sauté vegetables. Simple -- and simply wonderful!

Then it was time for Sunday brunch.
So we headed to the Fairmount (Art Museum) neighborhood of Philadelphia to check out the new Hickory Lane American Bistro at 2025 Fairmount Ave. 
We have a vested interest in Hickory Lane as its interior was designed by our friend Carlo Fiammenghi.
Hickory Lane offers breakfast, lunch and dinner in a casually elegant space in a cosmopolitan  neighborhood. It's ideal for a quick bite, leisurely meal or an exceptional memory. 
Hickory Lane's menu changes constantly to capture seasonal and exceptional ingredients. Being a BYOB Hickory Lane allows you to bring your favorite beverage but the staff is always happy to assist with pairings.
For brunch, we chose a classic: eggs Benedict (shown above). 
On a thick slice of chive focaccia were two perfectly poached eggs, juicy country ham and hollandaise sauce with breakfast potatoes and a crisp arugula salad on the side. What a joy it was to savor the eggs on a thick base that didn't crumble or turn all soggy. Why didn't anyone think of this sooner?
The potatoes were fresh and savory and the salad added the perfect touch. Plus, the coffee was just strong enough and wonderfully aromatic.
Hickory Lane welcomes you with a woodsy environment and a fair share of whimsy.
You're gonna like it!

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