Vitarelli's Restaurant, in business since 1976, slings a stunning selection of time-tested Italian delicacies. The Vitarelli sampler beckons visiting taste buds to board a vessel of crispy mozzarella sticks, chicken wings, and fried zucchini served alongside a marinara sea ($9.95). Twirl a forkful of pasta and meatballs ($9.95) or probe the cheesy pastascape of baked ziti ($10.95) with the same acuity that allowed Christopher Columbus to find India. Peer through the crusty bread bars of an extensive sandwich zoo, which houses sausage parmigiana ($5 for a small) and the Cherry Hill cheesesteak, with swiss and provolone cheeses co-existing peacefully beneath a warm blanket of fried onions ($6.50 for a small). Vitarelli's sociable staff also rolls out an array of pizzas ($6.95 for a 9"), whose doughy canvasses sport paint-by-number classics as well as avant garde mexican and BLT specialty pies.
Lorenzo's pizza purveyors stack disks of fresh dough with a panoply of gourmet ingredients before sliding them into brick ovens to seal in a smoky redolence. Classic pies such as the sweet Hawaiian and the basil-infused margherita send taste buds back in time more quickly than wormhole-flavored toothpaste, and innovative recipes set palates ablaze with creations such as the spicy buffalo-chicken pizza adorned with wing sauce and blue cheese. Chefs saddle up the Ranchero with bacon, spinach, and tomatoes in melty mozzarella and cool ranch dressing. Greener eats include the eggplant-parmesan pizza and the Mediterranean, which flaunts its sauceless façade with roasted peppers, spinach, olives, and garlic. A savory side of garlic knots and a two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, or Sprite accompany pizzas shared inside the eatery or savored at home in front of shamed frozen pizzas.
Chef Nunzio bakes, fries, and sautés his Italian upbringing into every item on the classically influenced menu. A thick ragu simmers atop braised and shredded rabbit in the pappardelle al coniglio ($14.25), while the gamberoni al limone e capperi ($14.25) commingles lemon-sautéed shrimp, capers, diced tomatoes, and linguine into a dish as daringly tasty as a Go-Gurt consumed on a motorcycle. Dive into the deep flavors of the insalata di polipo alla griglia ($12.50), a bed of baby arugula and veggies blanketed with marinated and grilled Spanish octopus. Chefs also pepper the menu with classic favorites such as parmigianas, homemade meatballs, and clues to da Vinci's secret mustard recipe.
Growing up in South Philadelphia, Angelo Lutz spent hours looking on as his Italian grandmother handcrafted meals for their family. Now, as the head chef at The Kitchen Consigliere Café, Lutz tries to stay true to both Philadelphia and Italy by sourcing ingredients from local merchants and markets to craft time-tested Italian dishes. He molds gnocchi and meatballs in the kitchen and presses panini sandwiches, all the while remembering family recipes and the dangers of getting a chef hat tangled in a ceiling fan.