You're going to hear much in the coming weeks about Apollinare, the Umbrian restaurant that's in a soft-opening phase in the Piazza at Schmidts in Northern Liberties (1001 N. Second St., 215-923-2014).
In only his first weeks in town, chef Andrea Scotacci won a prize the other night at the Philly Cooks event for his crescionda, a chocolate cakey spoon bread that sent the masses swooning.
Scotacci and co-owner Fabio Auguadro, boyhood friends from Spoleto, have taken over the former Vino. They upgraded the kitchen, imported a pasta maker and baker, and are now awaiting the new tableware from Italy and a few decorative touches. The official grand opening is a few weeks away.
Until then, you need to know three words: liquid nitrogen gelato.
Made tableside (see photos below), it's one of the refreshing touches at Apollinare, whose owners are espousing what they call true contemporary Italian cookery. Auguadro says that with the exception of Marc Vetri's operation, he has seen very little of what he would deem authentic in Philly.
Hence, they have a pastaia at work doing all the pasta (using 00 flour) and they are importing as many ingredients as they can.
The menu is a work in progress. They're offering chateaubriand tableside and assorted meats and pastas, under $20.
Besides the liquid nitrogen gelato, you simply must try an app called la caramella soffiata al tartufo nero di norcia ($10), which gets its name from the caramel candy it resembles. It's fontina cheese wrapped in a puff pastry, served with a heavenly pool of Reggiano fondue topped with black truffle.
Why Philly? Since 1990, the men have owned another Apollinare, in their hometown. Auguadro's wife is a transatlantic flight attendant, so they looked to the U.S. for a second spot and fell in love with the Piazza.