Philadelphia: D’Angelo’s Ristorante Italiano

Another highly-recommended restaurant in Philadelphia was D’Angelo’s Ristorante Italiano on 20th street. A traditional Italian restaurant in an updated town house near Rittenhouse Square, D’Angelo’s food was excellent but the staff and environment left something to be desired.

Typically for an Italian place, there were quite a few vegetarian options to be had, including capellini and linguine, ravioli and tortellini, but I had to go for the gnocchi. I always get gnocchi if it’s offered – it’s one of those dishes that is very easy to screw up and very hard to get right!

We started off with an unusual bruschetta that had been baked with the tomatoes on it, yielding a tasty but not hand-held appetizer. The bleu cheese salad was just OK – they used a strong vinaigrette that overwhelmed the piles of cheese bits.

Although the only sauce options were marinara or “tomato” (a sweeter, calmer marinara), the gnocchi were excellent! Extremely tender, not at all pasty or mealy. And the subtle marinara was a good match, though I would have liked something with a little more variety…

The traditional interior (on three levels) was brightly lit but not very fancy. And the brusque ladies waiting on the tables did not set a new standard for welcoming… But the place filled up before our eyes, so Philadelphians must love it!

D’Angelo’s Ristorante Italiano, 256 S 20th St., Philadelphia, PA (http://www.dangeloristorante.com)

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Philadelphia review: Alma de Cuba

While on business in Philadelphia last week, I happened to visit a few restaurants. Although I didn’t get out to Govinda’s or Horizons (too far, maybe next time), I did get to a few other decent spots.

Kicking things off, let’s talk dinner at Alma de Cuba on Walnut Street. This is a “Starr Restaurant“, meaning it’s owned by Stephen Starr, and came highly recommended.

Cuban cuisine isn’t normally too heavy on the vegetarian options, but there are often a few gourmet surprises that make the visit worthwhile. Alma de Cuba was no exception. Happily, the friendly staff was well trained, and immediately responded with a list of vegetarian options.

My choice was a vegetarian pastelon which, although not on the regular menu, was apparently a regular offering. It was delicious – layers of plantains, potato, black beans, and other tasty bits with a sweet sauce. Served with those delicious bread balls filled with cheese, I was in happy tasty town.

Of course, I had to try a mojito – this time a “suave” made with Bacardi Limon, which was truly subtle and (yes) suave. Also suave was the plantation-esque decor and clever projected photos on the wall. I did spot a beautiful pressed tin ceiling remaining from a previous occupant, too. The lighting was beyond dim, so it’s a good thing I trusted the staff or I would have had no idea what I was eating!

All in all, a very enjoyable (if expensive) dinner.

Alma de Cuba, 1623 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA (http://www.almadecubarestaurant.com)

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