Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Comfort Food in Rittenhouse Square

When I was growing up, my mother’s Italian food was the bedrock of my culinary experience. It was the first cuisine I learned to eat, love and cook. My mother’s sauce (Italian by way of New Orleans) is still my go-to recipe when I want to eat something that just tastes good.

As a freshman at Penn, I missed my home kitchen and the food that came from it. That year, I was walking with friends in Rittenhouse Square. We were hungry and stopped for dinner at Pietro’s on 17th and Walnut. After a perusing the menu, I picked the rigatoni alla vodka. When the food arrived, the aroma of the warm dish full of pasta and savory pancetta gave me the experience I had been craving: Italian-American home cooking. The portions are large enough to share family style, though not knowing that on my first visit, I happily got two meals out of one dish of the rigatoni.

Over the last two years, I have been back to Pietro’s countless times. I’ve gone with my friends, on dates, with my parents. The large portions and array of delicious items make the more the merrier (although the volume in the restaurant can make it difficult to hear conversations in parties of more than five or six).

There are several dishes that I recommend: the rigatoni alla vodka (this dish is the reigning favorite among all of the people whom I’ve taken to Pietro’s; I always order it with pancetta); the pollo villaggio, my favorite (chicken, peppers, onions and sausage with tomato sauce; I like to order it with spinach fettuccine for more color). My friends and I also enjoy the gemelli arugula and pollo (the only caveat is that its texture and color are one note; better for picky friends) and the insalata Florentine (spinach, golden raisins, pine nuts and gorgonzola with a citrus vinaigrette; this is a wonderful salad, but I have a difficult time forgoing a pasta dish in favor of this one).

For those craving Italian-American comfort food, I heartily recommend Pietro’s.

Pietro's Pizza
1714 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

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