They’re on a roll with Italian sandwiches
If you don’t like meatballs or chicken cutlet, you’re out of luck at the new Romano’s, an Italian sandwich specialist in Port Richmond. If you like them, read on. In fact, read on, anyway. This week, I also found a potentially life-changing hot dog at a new Old City taqueria, sublime square pizza at a hipster bar on Spring Garden Street near Union Transfer, a Mediterranean/Italian BYOB with a phone book-size menu in Montgomery County that does everything right, and a worthy date-night splurge in Mount Airy. In the drink department, I’ll tell you about a coffee shop in an old gas station that pumps out more than the same old grind. Critic Craig LaBan is still scouring suburban restaurants for his next mega-dining guide, so his Q&A won’t happen this week. If you need food news, click here and follow me here and also here. Email tips, suggestions, and questions here. If someone forwarded you this free newsletter and you like what you’re reading, sign up here and you’ll get it every week.
Romano’s: A taste of South Philly in Port Richmond
You’d better be darn sure of yourself if you’re opening a restaurant serving only one or two dishes — as Paul Reitenouer and his wife, Paula Romano Reitenouer, have done with Romano’s Meatballs & Co. in a former flower shop at 3136 Richmond St. (215-845-5117). Their specialties: all-beef meatballs and chicken cutlets, served on seeded Liscio’s rolls. The second twist is that they’re set up in Port Richmond, traditionally a Polish American enclave. “We’re trying to bring a little South Philly up here,” says Paul, who adds that Paula (yes, ha-ha, it’s Paul and Paula) does the cooking from family recipes, offering cannoli and pizzelles for dessert. (She melds a cannoli and a pizzelle to make a pizzoli.) Seating is at few patio-style tables gussied up with flower-filled tomato-sauce cans. The sliced-in-half meatball Parm shown above was stuffed with five meatballs, topped with mozzarella, drizzled with gravy, and sprinkled with Pecorino-Romano for a delicious, solid deal at $9. They’re open from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (or sellout) Tuesday to Saturday. Among my other local meatball faves are Marcie Turney’s beef/veal/pork beauties at Little Nonna’s in Washington Square West, and South Philly mainstay Villa Di Roma’s time-honored beef meatballs. (Villa’s secret is to mix Pecorino Romano, Parmesan, and mozzarella along with the egg, bread crumbs, and meat.) So tell me your favorite commercial meatball. Email me here, and I’ll do a full evaluation — soon as I get a-round to it.
What we’re drinking
Espresso tonics at Herman’s Coffee
Pennsport’s charming Herman’s Coffee sprang up a few weeks ago behind garage doors in a former gas station on Third Street behind Pennsport Beer Boutique. Boss Mat Falco, who also publishes Philly Beer Scene, has his own beans roasted in-house. Menu includes the usual espressos and pour-overs. Most intriguing are espresso tonics ($5): a double shot, topped off with Fever-Tree tonic water, and infused with flavor, e.g. bitter orange or grapefruit sage. The “original” has a healthy sprig of rosemary for an earthy/herbal twist.
Where we’re eating: Jansen, Dos Rosas Taqueria, W/N W/N, Arpeggio
Mount Airy has a low-lit, white-tablecloth, date-night-worthy destination, and that’s Jansen (7402 Germantown Ave.), where David Jansen, a former chef at the late Fountain at the Four Seasons, turns out worldly, slightly Asian-influenced American cuisine backed by a sharp wine and cocktail list in the 300-year-old stone building that formerly housed Cresheim Cottage Cafe and Avenida. There’s a twinkle-lit garden with tented dining out back, and old-school service from unflappable pros such as Kevin Keys. Since Jansen’s mid-2016 opening, he has picked up kitchen help from an old colleague, Francesco Martorella, and they’re now offering tasting menus (at $80 to $100) alongside the a la carte selections. You can also order a dish or two off the tasting menu, as well, such as the sauteed black bass above ($32), whose ginger lemongrass broth I wanted to finish with a drinking straw. Figure on $50-ish a person for app and entree; then add drinks, tax, and tip. It’s open Wednesday-Sunday.
Chef Michael O’Halloran has flipped Bistro 7 in Old City into the casual Dos Rosas Taqueria (7 N. Third St.). The Mexican/Southwestern menu includes a Sonoran hot dog ($8), a beer-braised beef dog wrapped in bacon, fried, and served on a roll filled with drunken beans, pickled cabbage and jalapeño, and queso fresco. It’s open for weekday lunch, and dinner Tuesday-Saturday.
Delco-bred pizza guy Daniel Gutter is making folks very happy with his square, crunchy-crusted Detroit-style pizza pop-ups four nights a week at W/N W/N, a bar/coffee shop at 931 Spring Garden St. (This week, he’s there only Sept. 20 and 22.) Follow @pizza_gutt on Instagram to reserve.
The menu runs on and on at the Ambler-area Arpeggio BYOB, now in new, more spacious digs at 1101 N. Bethlehem Pike, Spring House, but don’t let that fool you. Thin-crust, wood-fire pizzas and pastas are done right. Mediterranean dishes are the top-sellers, especially the combo platter; for $17, you get hummus, baba ghanouj, tabbouleh, falafel, stuffed grape leaves, and feta, plus two hot pitas. The outdoor deck, the last piece of its move across the parking lot, just opened. Serves lunch and dinner daily.
Saxbys will hand out free pumpkin-spice cold-brew coffee all day on Sept. 22.
Maison 208, beneficiary of a recent Craig LaBan two-beller, starts weekend brunch on Sept. 23. Saturday hours are noon to 3 p.m., while Sunday’s hours are noon to 7 p.m. (so if you’re rolling out of bed at 6 p.m…). Signature dish is called Season 14, Episode 10 — and you are not expected to know that it’s a salmon frittata and chef Sylva Senat’s final dish on Top Chef before he was sent packing.
Rock legend Sammy Hagar will sign prepurchased bottles of Santo Puro Mezquila at the Northern Liberties Fine Wine & Good Spirits store (180 W. Girard Ave.) at 2 p.m. Sept. 25. Starting at 9 a.m., the first 125 people in line can buy a bottle ($52.99) and get a wristband, which is not transferable.
This week’s openings
Boostin’ Bowls | Manayunk
The specialist in juices, smoothies, and acai bowls is new at 100 Levering St.
Lariele | Media
Square pizzas baked in a wood-fired oven, downtown, at 111 W. State St.
Manam Indian Cuisine | Malvern
Stylish, contemporary setting for South Indian cuisine on the western Main Line, at 124 Lancaster Ave. Get the fried anchovy app and fish curry.
10Below | Rittenhouse
More rolled ice cream. This shop, a branch of the New York City original, delayed its opening. It now rolls out at noon Saturday, Sept. 23, at 42 S. 17th St., across from Liberty Place, with everything 50 percent off.
This week’s closing. (Only one I know of.)
Mrs. K’s | Old City
Owners of the venerable diner, opened for 55 years on Chestnut Street near Fourth, chose not to renew their lease.
Craig LaBan is on assignment.
Pass along your burning restaurant questions to Craig here. His weekly Philly.com chats about restaurants, food, and drink will resume shortly.