LaBan chat: Syrian flavors and fresh dates; Italian BYOs

Here is an excerpt from Craig LaBan's online chat:

Craig LaBan: After writing my fall dining preview for last Sunday's paper, I am seriously excited for what's about to land in the coming months, from glatt kosher in the burbs by the Zahav crew to three promising barbecue projects, more South Philly contenders, and a potential South Street revival thanks to Stephen Starr and his latest New York import: Peter Serpico of Momofuko Ko fame.  Another great Syrian cookbook is Aromas of Aleppo by Poopa Dweck.


Reader: I constantly see tons of people standing outside Giorgio on Pine . . . any good?

C.L.: Not bad, pleasant, decent food. Giorgio was one of the former Monte Carlo Living Room partners, and he's a gracious host. It's convenient to the theater and affordable, but would not rank in my top Italian BYOs. . . .

Reader: What are your favorite simple, off-the-radar Italian BYOBs?

C.L.: Radicchio, Ulivo, Roberto's Cafe, L'Angolo, Cucina Forte, to name a few. I doubt these are off your radar, just places that don't get talked about enough. There are others, those came to mind first.

Reader: Italian BYO: Il Cantuccio in N Libs.

C.L.: The last time I walked into Il Cantuccio (last year), we walked out, as the smell of lemon detergent was overwhelming the dining room. I was lukewarm on Il Cantuccio to begin with, was not enticed to return.

Reader: Scannicchio's and Pesto are two great red-gravy Italian BYOBs as well. Pesto now has a liquor license but will still let you BYOB wine (maybe beer too)

C.L.: I was at Pesto recently, considering it for a large event, and we were pretty disappointed with the food, a bit sloppy. I liked it better when it first opened.

Reader: Speaking of Italian BYOs, I haven't heard much about Popolino. Thoughts?

C.L.: You will hear my thoughts soon enough - Popolino gets reviewed Sunday, Sept. 30. Not only did you hear that first here - so did Popolino!

Reader: An Italian BYO you reviewed a bit back is still on my to get-to list . . . Fiorino in East Falls. Have you revisited?

C.L.: Thanks for reminding me of Fiorino - I really enjoyed that East Falls hidden gem . . . but no, I haven't had a chance to go back. Too many new places to get to!

Reader: Just moved in at 15th and South, whats your favorite place around there?

C.L.: I've written a lot lately about the blocks around 15th and South, which are really hopping. I haven't been to the Cambridge yet, but it looks promising. Meanwhile, I've put Rex, Jet, and Pumpkin (of course) on my "go" list . . . plus Magpie.