after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Melograno, Radicchio Cafe, La Locanda del Ghiottone, oh my!

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v & a say: Three very different Philly restaurants that fall under the same category – small/Italian/byob. Before continuing, we must reveal our bias with a disclaimer: La Locanda is our neighborhood go-to spot which is as inviting and quirky as the food is delicious. Everyone is welcomed with a poster of the late proprietor, Giuseppe’s, Green Card, which reads “I waited three years for my green card, you can wait an hour for your food.” In any event, the staff (read: the Italian-stallion from South Philly serving you), takes pride in the menu and directs you without hesitation or forced pleasantries. This no-frills, entertaining experience, always leaves you satisfied and is well worth the trip. And, if you can’t find anything on the rustic-Italian menu that strikes your fancy, then tell them what you want and they shall deliver. To start, try the antipasto sampler served with cheese, olives, and grilled veggies. Word to the wise, don’t even think about putting cheese on fish at this devout establishment. Oh, and in response to the many less-than-glowing online reviews of this restaurant: We can see how many may think the service is coarse – personally, we appreciate anyone who enables people to enjoy delicious food, byo libations, healthy portions, and, above all, do so with friends and family – but try to take it all in stride. Also, if you only have time for lunch and desire a little of what La Locanda (only open for dinner) has to offer, try its sister restaurant, Il Cantuccio, for a taste.

Radicchio Cafe and Melograno also provide environments where groups can meet and share Italian cuisine, though we would label Melograno’s as more ambitious. Whereas La Locanda can accommodate a more boisterous crowd, these two restaurants are for more “mature” groups. In terms of food, Melograno takes the cake. a and I both ordered fish specials at Radicchio Cafe and weren’t blown away by either. a was steered away from ordering the soup du jour by the waiter – you know it misses the mark if the waiter specifically tells you not to order something. We followed his recommendations and were still left unsatisfied. Of course, we can’t make judgments off of one visit and so, we’ll have to return and let you know what transpires. What a pity.

At Melograno we had a much different experience. d took us to dinner to celebrate one of the year’s many notable events. He ordered the Pappardelle Tartufate which, let’s just say, is the dish he keeps returning for, over and over and over. We both ordered dishes that left us satisfied, to the point where we didn’t have room for dessert. As with La Locanda, the Antipasto Rustico is a great dish to share. Melograno and La Locanda do not differ in terms of quality of food and ambiance; where distinctions can be made is in the overall experience and approach to the cuisine. Melograno is a modern, comfortable, sleek byo with a menu to match, whereas La Locanda is like eating at your Italian grandmother’s house, crucifix and all.

It’s impossible to fairly rank these restaurants without knowing who we would be sharing the meal with. What we can say is that Melograno and La Locanda are at the top. With a loud, boisterous crew, we would choose La Locanda. With a more subdued group and fussier palates, Melograno.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

10 August 2010 at 11:33pm

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