WineO's chefs harvest the fruits of the Mediterranean and fuse them with American sensibilities to forge a menu of Mediterranean-inspired finery. The steamy bouillabaisse joins mussels, calamari, and bay scallops in a sumptuous broth ($20), showcasing just a smidgen of the selection of fresh sea meats culled from Philly's Italian Market. A savory mushroom-onion sauce keeps the new york strip decently dressed with piquant flavor even after its fetching dressing of potatoes and veggies has disappeared ($22), and pasta quattro formaggi melts gorgonzola, fontina, mozzarella, and parmesano into a creamy, rich sauce ($13) that makes noodles taste divine and forks twirl like a ballet dancer covered in crème fraiche. All desserts and breads are crafted fresh each day on-site, and all other ingredients are sourced from nearby Italian markets whenever possible.
Cichetteria 19, one of the first Venetian eateries and osterie (pubs) to unfurl its tasty sails in Philadelphia, allows diners to imbibe their minds and mouths with a medley of meal options, a list of authentic, regional wines, and an atmosphere akin to homeland camaraderie. The menu consists of cichetti (small dishes), which are designed to contrast one another while complementing a grapey quaff. Available individually ($5), in a trio ($12), or as a family of five ($19), cichetti options include roasted shrimp with caper berries, flash-fried calamari in tomato sauce, house-made toasted bread, prosciutto and melon, and more. The remainder of the menu is occupied with fresh pizza selections such as the white Bassano, topped with gorgonzola, fig, prosciutto, and arugula ($15), and a range of prearranged plates, including lemon risotto ($21). To top off any meal, gracious guests can slide forks through rich tiramisu infused with sweet satiability and Italian grandmother hugs ($7).
The penchant for modernity at o-toro recently caught the eye and taste buds of County Lines magazine’s staff, which named it one of Philly’s Best New Ventures of 2013. The restaurant’s track lighting illuminates a contemporary scene marked by wooden fixtures, vibrant splotches of red and orange, and plates of Japanese cuisine with Mexican, Korean, and American influences. Sushi, sashimi, and specialty rolls—such as the signature o-toro roll with fatty tuna tartar, spicy mayo, and jalapeño—are served alongside tapas-style plates of filet mignon dumplings, duck tacos, and skewers of Korean-style fried chicken. At the polished wooden bar, bartenders pour wine, sake, and craft beer.
Trenton Social's convivial environment sprawls from its indoor lounge to its cozy outdoor patio, where dining and drinking often melds with special events. Its menu fuels guests with eats ranging from seafood and pastas to hot sandwiches and parmesan fries. Between drinks on Sundays, guests can learn to shimmy as salsa dancers teach free lessons, and monthly bike trips explore historic Trenton as tour guides expound upon relevant historical morsels, such as stories of the brutal penny-farthing gangs of old.
At Bar Majestic, live music can often be heard bouncing off the backdrop of darkly lit wood, shimmery walls, and wine racks so well stocked the place resembles a chateau wine cellar in the heart of Spain's countryside. Small, sharable portions of fresh tapas dance across tables and decorate the menu. Nibble decadent meats and cheeses, or bite bruschette such as spinach pesto, prosciutto, or mushroom tapenade ($3 each, $7 for three, $12 for five). Piping hot paninis pummel stubborn stomachs with comestibles including turkey breast, brie, romaine, and aioli ($8) or eggplant, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and balsamic ($9).
Palo Cortado––reviewed in Grub Street New York and New York Press––sates palates with an authentic Spanish meal of four tapas and one order of pinchos. Elegantly plated on square white dishes, Palo Cortado's culinary masterpieces include the boquerones en vinagre, a vibrant congregation of marinated white anchovies, capers, garlic, and parsley ($10) that cha-chas across the tongue while high-fiving the taste buds. Poached shrimp blanketed with green sauce and accented with avo and crispy chorizo comprise the gambas en salsa verde ($9), and the pulpo a la gallega graces gums with a savory share of Spanish octopus clenching onto fingerling potatoes ($13). Meanwhile, the lemon-infused albondigas de cordero sports spiced lamb meatballs surrounded by a moat of mint-cucumber yogurt ($10), great for fueling whispered adorations or plans of building a castle out of meat. Finally, an order of pinchos ensures tapas tidbits safely journey through the tonsils with friends such as the fried chickpeas of the garbanzos fritos dish ($4).