il Pittore

By Phyllis Stein-Novack
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 13 | Posted Feb. 9, 2012

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The culinary question of the day is “Does Philadelphia need another Italian restaurant?”

There are dozens throughout the city’s neighborhoods. Vetri is unique and upscale. There are family-style stalwarts throughout South Philly and new arrivals such as the delightful Monsu.

Stephen Starr decided to go upscale Italian (read: expensive) yet casual with the opening of il Pittore on a block that boasts Melograno and Porcini. I admire Starr for his brilliant business mind and his diverse restaurants, which are magnates for those of us who enjoy fine food.

I dined alone at il Pittore. The woman next to me was entertaining two clients while a gentleman ate alone with a book for company.

il Pittore is under the direction of chef Chris Painter, who has been with the Starr group for a number of years. He has put together a four-part menu of Northern Italian dishes: appetizers, pasta, entrées and desserts. My waiter explained the menu system to me as I sipped a Rob Roy ($13.50) that was cloyingly sweet and had to be sent back to the bartender for a remix.

Salt cod ($15) is a staple of Italian fare and Painter hit the mark with my starter. It consisted of a juicy chunk of fresh smoked cod served on a bed of creamy saffron-scented potatoes blended with poached calamari with a hint of garlic. This dish could have been overpowering but it was not. I cleaned my plate. My server brought me a pretty basket filled with pencil-slim crisp breadsticks, olive oil-laced focaccia and warm rolls, which I slathered with soft butter.

The sommelier came over to the long community table and helped patrons select a glass of wine. This is a fine one-on-one touch that made my evening at il Pittore so enjoyable. The gentleman makes his choices and offers a sip to see if diners like it or not. He paired my appetizer and pasta with a glass of Verdicchio di Metalica ($10), a rich white wine I have not sipped in many years. He suggested a Negro Amaro ($12) for my hearty lamb shank.

At this point, I was not sure whether or not someone recognized me. I left my place to answer my phone and when I returned, the waiter placed a complimentary bowl of risotto with wild mushrooms before me.

“Sorry it took so long for your baccala,” he said.

I thanked him thinking this is exactly what a Starr restaurant would do for any waiting patron.

The homemade pappardelle with wild boar ragu ($16) was the finest version I have eaten anywhere. The glistening long strands of freshly-made ribbon pasta were topped with bits of moist boar simmered gently in a Bolognese sauce of perfect flavor and texture. Painter has the seasoning down to a science. The ragu had a slightly spicy flavor, perhaps a pinch of cayenne was added to the mix. I initially had ordered an elbow-shaped pasta with duck ragu ($15) but it was so salty, I could not take a second bite.

Lamb shank ($28) has been a menu favorite in many area restaurants. This one did not disappoint. I received a large bone with lamb so tender, it fell off of it. It was beautifully braised and imparted a rich flavor, which became more heavenly each time I took a sip of wine. The lamb was served on a pool of creamy whipped potatoes.

It is possible to select a wrong dish even in the finest of restaurants. For dessert, I ordered a concoction of overly sweet custard, which had the texture of library paste, layered in between several pistachio nut tuilles with a small scoop of blood orange sorbet on the side of the plate. The sorbet was a winner, the cookies were as well, but my waiter watched me as I picked my way through the dessert avoiding the custard. I left most of it.

“I see you did not enjoy the dessert, so I removed it from your bill,” my server said.

In my mind, il Pittore is a place to celebrate a special occasion, not a place one would go when the thought of entering one’s home kitchen is too much.

Two tips of the toque to il Pittore. SPR

il Pittore

2025 Sansom St.


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Comments 1 - 13 of 13
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1. Neighbor said... on Feb 9, 2012 at 02:00PM

“Good review. The adjectives ans metaphors are lively and helped me enjoy the evening vicariously. And (gasp!) the rating was below two toques. That's more like it. Also like the honesty about possibly being recognized.

I'll let others speculate on why Edward and Sandy were absent (gotta love those comments here). I often dine alone, and I'm glad this reviewer has the self-assurance and spirit to enjoy a solo meal with a cocktail and well-chosen wines.

Edward, you married well!

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2. Neighbor said... on Feb 9, 2012 at 02:03PM

“I meant below THREE toques. Pass the wine...”

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3. Anonymous said... on Feb 9, 2012 at 03:07PM

“Can never have enough Italian:)”

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4. Phyllis Stein-Novack said... on Feb 9, 2012 at 03:30PM

“Dear neighbor:

Thank you for your note.

I have always enjoyed dining alone with a book or magazine for company. I am a voracious reader and during my dinner I savored an article on Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo. I wish I could say they were related to me.

I also enjoy dining alone because I am a naturally curious person. My senses absorb the sights, sounds, flavors and aromas like a sponge. I love to watch people and I enjoy listening to their stories.

Journalists are gypsy story tellers. We travel from place to place telling stories.”

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5. Marty Medals said... on Feb 9, 2012 at 04:18PM

“I just looked at the menu on their website,
Twelve bucks for arugla?
For 31 bucks there is a small suckling pig. Do they give you the whole pig or just the oink?
No gravy, no macarini, no way!
I'll take the chicken parm at the Broad Street Diner!”

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6. Anonymous said... on Feb 9, 2012 at 07:34PM


Write this down now: p-a-p-p-a-r-d-e-l-l-e. It's not going to cost you $31, and the Bolognese sauce is going to knock your socks off! Beats the veal parmesan at the BSD by a mile.

You've got a choice now. Walk the six blocks to 21st & Sansom and get a taste of heaven, or languish on Broad Street with your canned tomato sauce.”

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7. Anonymous said... on Feb 10, 2012 at 08:56AM

“Here's an idea 'Marty'... go to your diner and order your s*** on a shingle, since that seems to be right up your alley in terms of your culinary experiences. Or maybe a footlong hotdog at the stadiums.”

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8. Marty Medals said... on Feb 10, 2012 at 10:57AM

“Dear Anon,
Whooo, look at all that anger. I guess I just like getting value for my hard earned money. A small plate of oink for 31 bucks is not what I seek when hungry. Oh, yes, eating to satisfy hunger is still what most people in South Philly do.
Chicken parm with macoroni at the Broad Street Diner is not "S*** on a shingle" as you put it. It is good solid food.
And the cold coke goes real nice with it.

When I want to spend more money for the best itialian food in the city I go to Villa D'Roma. ThereIi get Veal Bella Buco. The best dish in the city!

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9. Edward said... on Feb 10, 2012 at 11:57AM

“Cold Coke? Is that shaken or stirred?”

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10. Marty Medals said... on Feb 10, 2012 at 08:36PM

“Hey Edward,
With my veal Bella buca I first have a negroni .
Then a fine glass of house Red with the meal.
After dinner I enjoy a Rocky Patel java cigar with a glass of Black Bush on the rocks.
How about you Ed?”

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11. Edward said... on Feb 11, 2012 at 10:06PM


Anything made with Vermouth for me! Rob Roy, Martini, Manhattan, Gibson, Edward!

Edward!? Yeah, that's what the wife yells when she catches me drinking Vermouth straight out of the bottle.

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12. Professor said... on Feb 12, 2012 at 02:52PM

“Phyllis, it's nice to have you open our eyes to new places in the city.

Allow me to comment on this sentence of yours:
"I admire Starr for his brilliant business mind and his diverse restaurants, which are magnates for those of us who enjoy fine food."

Substance: A restaurant from businessman Starr is guaranteed to be expensive and a bad value. I avoid them. I'll go, for example, to Taste of Portugal on Adams Avenue, for as fine a Paella as you'll get in the city, and for a reasonable price. Yes, you get great decór with Starr, but you're paying for it.

Form: Starr's diverse restaurants are "magnets", not "magnates" for those of you who enjoy "fine" food. I'm sure you were thinking of Starr the man himself when you chose the word "magnate". Indeed, he is a business magnate: he values most his profits and his empire.”

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13. Anonymous said... on Feb 12, 2012 at 03:19PM

“Professor, you're confusing the full experience of fine dining with the taste of the food you put in your mouth. You too, Mr. Smarty, er, Marty.”


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