Early March was no doubt a challenging time to start a new job as head chef. But Patrick Limanni, 34, who took over at Standard Tap just 10 days before the pandemic shut down the city’s restaurants, has made the most of the past six months. The veteran of Condesa, La Peg, Lacroix at the Rittenhouse, and Tavro 13 has maintained several of the bar’s standards, like the elegant chicken pot pie wrapped in a flaky swirl duck egg-enriched pastry that’s a can’t-touch-this holdover from longtime former chef Carolynn Angle. It’s a true deal at a reduced price of $12.
But Limanni has also put his own stamp on the menu, channeling the pioneering Northern Liberties gastropub’s steady devotion to locally-sourced ingredients and house preparations that, enjoyed at one of the well-spaced tables along Poplar Street fringed with flowering greenery, feels totally consistent with the excellence that has made Standard Tap one of the region’s best bars for two decades. Sweet ears of South Jersey corn come surprisingly country fried inside an intricately spiced buttermilk crust inspired by the Modernist Cuisine cookbook. Stryker Farm pork is ground with smoked paprika and wine into grilled chorizo skewers alongside a duck egg aioli.
One of Limanni’s most ambitious projects, though, has been his smoky revamp of the classic Philly hoagie. There’s been a citywide resurgence of serious hoagie updates lately, with numerous places upgrading the stuffings or baking their own rolls (Pizzeria Beddia, Angelo’s Pizzeria South Philly, Stina, Martha, Liberty Kitchen, among others). Standard Tap bakes its own bread, too, producing crusty sourdough baguettes.
Where Limanni takes the next step is in making all his own meats, curing and smoking a juniper-scented prosciutto cotto, a ground meat soppressata laced with sweet paprika, and a capicola of pork marbled with whole seeds of fennel, coriander, and peppercorns. The quick cure and hickory smoke — a faster production method versus the slower dry-aging process — deepens rather than overwhelms the flavors. Layered with sharp provolone, a piquant smear of olive salad, and sweet roasted peppers, plus the crunch of butter lettuce and onions beneath shaved Parmesan, the overall effect is complex, balanced, and unique. A sip of tart Referend beer on draft, or a glass of viognier from the sizable list of natural wines, are perfect matches.
The Tap, which waited more than a month beyond the city’s official green light date for outdoor dining, plans to wait before reopening for indoor dining, too. But with a renovation of its second-floor porch debuting this month, it already has a handsome setup for eating and drinking al fresco — and a skilled new chef worth checking out.
— Craig LaBan