From 1990 to 2004, Girasole occupied 1305 Locust St. as a moderately stylish Italian restaurant that was both a great neighborhood drop-in and a theater-crowd fave. But for years after that, the space housed a series of sketchy nightspots that simply took advantage of the liquor license.
Now with the neighborhood on the upswing - Fish on the opposite corner, Green Eggs Cafe and the Nest gym next door, and a strip of hot restaurants around the corner (Sampan, Barbuzzo, Jamonera, Zavino, etc.) - you can almost smell the legitimacy.
Coming May 5 to 1305 Locust St. is called Spiga - "ear" - and it'll be the casual cousin of the polished Le Castagne across town near Rittenhouse Square. All the partners have a tie to Le Castagne.
"Simple but good" is how one of the partners, the lawyer Skip Di Massa, describes the concept.
His partners - Giuseppe Sena, chef Brian Wilson, and Anthony Masapollo - removed the odd "notch" from the facade that forced patrons up a few steps into the dining room. There's a sleek, tiled vestibule now.
They kept Girasole's wood-burning oven. Wilson, who is moving over from Le Castagne, can toss in dough and get a tasty pizza 90 seconds later. Wilson also has a wood-burning grill for whole fish, meats and vegetables. Sample items: Fennel flan with house-cured bacon and vincotto – a reduced wine condiment from Apulia ($14), Artichoke, arugula and lardo pizza ($14), Homemade cotechino with lentils, tomato and fried egg ($18) and a variety of trademark Panini sliders on homemade bread ranging from the Philadelphian – grilled skirt steak, parmesan cream and balsamic onions to the Spiga BLT – house-cured bacon, tomato and herbed goat cheese ($8).
The bar will offer a small list of inexpensive ($50 and under) wines, plus Italian beers (bottles and drafts).