Thursday, March 06, 2008
An old friend from the early days at the cafe recently scored a hostessing job at one of the most popular new restaurants in Philadelphia, Osteria. I'd seen great pictures on Philafoodie and read amazing reviews in all the local food sections, so I was very excited when my friend said she could get us a reservation on a slow Tuesday night.
The dinner menu is split up in various sections, and we attempted to sample something from each. Osteria has a number of traditional and non-traditional pizza varieties. On recommendation from our server (who was fantastic, knowledgeable, and funny) we ordered the pizza zucca ($18). I didn't think I was going to love this pizza, but I was completely wrong. Roasted squash, fresh mozzarella, golden raisins and toasted pine nuts were sprinkled over a chewy, crunchy crust and served piping hot. The slight sweetness of the squash and the raisins was in perfect contrast to the slightly salty cheese and nuts. I'd order this again and again.
Because Liz is a meat lover and we ordered one of the two vegetarian pizza's to start with, we also ordered the house cured salumi plate ($14). For the life of me I can't remember a single detail about the names of the meats that passed my lips that night, but they were all pretty tasty. I also thoroughly enjoyed the presentation of the meats on a pig shaped cutting board.
We were lucky enough to be seated a big round table, practically dead center of the restaurant and directly adjacent to the meat slicer and shelf full of cheese and honey. Whenever prosciutto di parma was ordered for the salumi plate or to accompany another dish, a server would go to the slicer and with a few quick pulls, have paper thin slices of prosciutto di parma ready for the customer.
Pictured here is the canederli with cabbage($16). Canederli is similar to gnocchi, but is made with rustic bread instead of potatoes. They were light and fluffy and melted in your mouth, but we all wished there was a little bit more of the delicious cabbage to go around.
Liz, ordered the casoeula, braised pork ribs with homemade black pepper sausage and cabbage($24). The black pepper sausage was the highlight of this second course, it was slightly spicy from the pepper and paired nicely with the cabbage.
Because I'd never had it before, I decided to go with the rabbit entree($26). I figured if I were going to eat rabbit in this city, it should be at one of the nicer dining establishments. The rabbit was roasted with pancetta and sage, served over soft polenta with a sauce of brown butter. The polenta was delicious and creamy, and I ate ever last bite, but rabbit is not something I'd order again. It's likely that my inexperience with eating game ruined this for me, it's not that I didn't enjoy the taste of rabbit, it has a lovely flavor, but I was unsure about how to go about eating it. I didn't recognize the pieces on my plate, and fumbled a bit trying to get the meat off of the very small bones. I probably only ended up eating half of the meat, because I couldn't negotiate my utensils well enough to finish the job.
My friend Brittany ordered the chicken, which was served with a salad of escarole, parmigiano and pomegranate seeds($24). While Brittany enjoyed her dinner, I couldn't help but think that both the presentation and taste were a little on the boring side.
For our party, what really stood out at Osteria were the desserts. Again, on recommendation from our excellent server, we ordered the chocolate flan with pistachio gelato($10). While called a flan, this was really more like a molten chocolate cake, gooey on the inside, cakey on the outside, and the gelato was incredible.
I ordered the goat cheese frittelle($10). These were very very delicious little goat cheese fritters, studded with chocolate and pistachio and served with tangerine curd for dipping. I could have eaten two plates worth.
Finally, we tried the polenta budino($8). Budino is Italian for pudding, and this one was smooth and creamy with a delicious caramel flavor topped with candied hazelnuts.
I'd definitely stop into Osteria again, but it's more likely I'd sit at the bar with a friend to split a pizza and sample different wines from their extensive list, rather than sit down at a table for a full dinner. If you haven't been to Osteria yet, it's definitely worth a try.
640 North Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130