There has been more than a name change in the Navy Yard for Lo Spiedo, which was recently rebranded as Bar Amis. A stronger emphasis on the bar scene is evident as the downstairs dining room was opened up to make way for the frosé-sipping happy-hour crowds. The upstairs has been stripped down and brightened, too, with a battleship gray on the walls that catches the light and echoes the view of all those Navy boats bobbing just beyond this brick building’s windows. The biggest change, though, is the restaurant’s refocused menu, which leaves behind some of the Southern food influences that I always found distracting and muddled at Lo Spiedo, in favor of a more enthusiastic embrace of the Italian DNA you’d expect from a Vetri-family creation overseen by Brad Spence.
Many of the favorite bites from Spence’s original Amis on 13th Street are here, including one of the creamiest cacio e pepe pastas in town, a bucatini tossed with almond pesto and spicy hot peppers, and a juicy roasted chicken with lemon and bitter greens and a crackling heat-crisped skin. Our standout entrée, though, was a slightly downsize version of Amis’ gargantuan pork chop Parmesan — a still-healthy 9 ounces here — pounded thin and breaded, served beneath pulpy San Marzano tomato gravy and huge fresh chunks of Neapolitan buffalo mozzarella that weep a cool milk tang into each crispy slice of the hot and tender meat.
In many ways, the changes in this restaurant’s transformation are subtle — you can still get the excellent smoked chicken wings that were among Lo Spiedo’s best assets. But sometimes, small changes can have a broad impact. And as this unusually located restaurant strives to draw crowds beyond the captive audience of its gated campus at night — perhaps for a perfect pregame or concert nibble? — its more-confident new Italian personality fits it well, and bodes for smoother sailing ahead.
— Craig LaBan
Pork chop Parmesan, $24, Bar Amis, 4503 S. Broad St., Phila., 19112, 215-282-3184; amistrattoria.com.