Monday, October 10, 2011

Dante and Luigi's

I recently had the pleasure of eating at Dante and Luigi's. It is a phenomenal restaurant known both for its Italian food and its history with the Italian mob (it was the site of an attempted murder in the late 80s). It's a little off the beaten path in the residential area of Bella Vista in South Philly. It's near South Street but far enough away to have a distinctly neighborhood sort of feel to it. Don't be fooled by its location, though; this place is not your average local eatery.

The first thing that lets you know this is the decor. When you walk in you're met with a fairly formal looking dining room. The restaurant has an upscale feel, making it a great place to try to impress a date but at the same time the customers make you feel like you just stepped into an Italian family's Sunday dinner.

Another more upscale element to the restaurant is the prices. Going in, my friends and I weren't exactly sure what to expect because the prices were not listed on their online menu. The prices were a little high, especially for poor college students, but we weren't going to let them get us down since we had already decided we were going to splurge. So we ignored the prices and just ordered whatever we felt like eating. While the prices were a bit high, they certainly seemed worth it once we saw the portion sizes. They were huge and most of us ended up walking away with enough leftovers to make another meal. If you go make sure to order appetizers, entrees and desserts. Every course is delicious here and it will still only cost you about $40 per person. It's a little steep, but worth it. Also make sure to bring cash because they charge a fee for credit cards; do yourself a favor and take money out of an ATM.

Now for the important part: the food. First we shared some appetizers. If you want to save some money you could forgo this part, but I would suggest getting some for everyone to share so you can try some. You won't need a lot because you'll need to save room for the main course. We got the eggplant parmagiana. It was really tasty with good-quality mozzarella cheese melted on top. The real star of the dish, though, was the marinara sauce. It was literally one of the best sauces I have had in my life, second only to that of my Italian grandma. The other appetizer we had was the stuffed whole calamari. While there was only one stuffed calamari on the dish, it was really big and stuffed to the brim with tasty crab meat. Additionally, there were plenty of tasty calamari rings on the dish that amounted to a very decent amount of squid. This was then placed in a bowl with more of their delicious sauce. My friends and I ate forkfuls of the sauce by itself and sopped it up with our bread because it was just that good.

Next came our main courses. We were all extremely happy with the food we chose and were intrigued by so many dishes on the menu that we actually had a hard time choosing just one each. We had rigatoni carbonara, ziti with broccoli rabe and sausage, and the gnocchi romano. Each dish exceeded our already high expectations. This place would beat any other Italian restaurant easily. The carbonara was creamy, cheesy and delicious with peas, bacon, and fresh tomatoes. My friend liked it so much that he ate the whole thing. The ziti with sausage was so flavorful and garlicky. They had also managed to cook the bitterness out of the broccoli rabe, which is not an easy thing to do. For my main dish I had the gnocchi. I am not overstating this at all when I say that these were literally the best gnocchi I have had in my life. They were tender and light, almost to the point of melting in your mouth. They were in a really nice rosetta sauce, which topped off the perfect gnocchi in the best possible way. Like I said before, the portions were so huge that I came away with enough gnocchi to eat for dinner a couple of nights later. Who could ask for more?

My friends and I were extremely full, but there was no way we could pass on desserts: I am very glad we didn't! One of my friends got the vanilla gelato, which I didn't try but heard was good. My other friend got the Italian cream cake with rum, which was as excellent as the rest of the meal had been. My favorite dessert though was the tiramisu. The ladyfingers were delicate and not overpowered by the amaretto; the layers of custard in between were creamy yet light. This portion was huge too and I gladly took home leftovers.

The only downside to the whole experience was our waiter. He was both attentive and inattentive, giving us a sort of weird impression of the service. At times he was coming over to ask us how we were doing and grating cheese for us on our pasta, but other times we felt like we were waiting forever for him to even pass by our table. He also seemed to be a bit sexist, choosing to only be attentive towards me as a woman and somewhat ignoring my male friend. However, since the service was the only downside to an overall fantastic meal, I would hardly hesitate to go back to Dante and Luigi's.

Dante and Luigi's
762 South 10th Street

1 comment:

  1. This old Penn grad (C'79) had his first date with wife of 30 years (she's Nu '80) at D and L's. We have been here perhaps 50 times, and it just keeps getting better. For a while, we had regular dinner with friends here as a post-Alumni Day event. History of the place is touching, as they sheltered Italian immigrants upon arrival in the US. D and L's is soooo much better than Ralph's, which has all the attitude and reputation. The welcoming feel and consistently excellent cuisine continue to draw us back.



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