Philly’s pasta scene keeps expanding, along with my waistline. Two latest assaults on the New Year’s resolution: Peter McAndrews is reopening his long-shuttered gem Modo Mio as Marc Vetri rolls out Fiorella, his 14-seat pasta kitchen. I’ll run it down for you while I also point out the deliciousness of a Turkish BYOB and a new Vietnamese BYOB that also offers 54 flavors of gelato.
Philly’s pasta scene has been exploding lately. Cicala at the Divine Lorraine, Via Locusta near Rittenhouse Square, DaMo Pasta Lab in Washington Square West, Res Ipsa Cafe in Center City.
Let’s add two more.
In Queen Village — which in recent years has picked up an enviable collection including Gigi, Emmy Squared, Fiore, Ambra, Gnocchi, and Cry Baby — we now have the revival of Modo Mio, chef Peter McAndrews’ earthy tribute to his studies in southern Italy. It opens Thursday at Fifth and Monroe, in the former Plenty Cafe space.
“Soon,” as Marc Vetri says firmly, the city’s best-known Italian chef will open Fiorella, a tiny converted Bella Vista butcher shop of the same name (817 Christian St.), which will have only 14 seats at which to eat and run. Two wines, two beers, and a cocktail all on tap. Small menu, hand-printed on a roll of butcher paper. (Psst. I snapped a pic of it last night.) Open four nights a week — Thursday to Sunday. No reservations. Stay tuned.
Fiorella | Bella Vista
Modo Mio | Queen Village
See above. And here’s the menu and more details.
P.J. Whelihan’s | Horsham
Syndicated sports bar has opened at 101 Easton Rd., on a site at the corner of Blair Mill Road that locals may remember as Williamson’s.
Townsend Wine Bar | South Philadelphia
Chef Townsend “Tod” Wentz is reviving his restaurant space at 1623 E. Passyunk Ave., dormant since he moved Townsend to 2121 Walnut St. five months ago. Similar French focus. The opening will catch Valentine’s weekend Friday through Sunday with a four-course tasting menu for $65 (samples: open-faced foie gras sandwich; potato gnocchi with wild mushrooms; roasted branzino with butternut squash), and an optional wine pairing. Reserve through Resy. Bar will be open for drinks from 4:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. The restaurant will reopen with a $35 fixed-price dinner for East Passyunk Restaurant Week (Feb. 24-March 6). Starting March 11, it moves to full-time operation, Wednesdays to Monday.
Boxers | Washington Square West
Gay bar at 1330 Walnut St. has closed after 4½ years. The reasons are being debated.
Green Papaya Asian Bistro | Ardmore
Jimmy Tran’s Malaysian/Thai yearling in a tough location on Lancaster Avenue is buttoned up. Voicemail says a new owner is on the way.
Lipkin’s Bakery | South Philadelphia location
Sunday, Feb. 16 is the last day of the Pennsport outpost of the Northeast Philly bakery.
M Restaurant | Washington Square West
Reminder that Sunday, Feb. 16 is the finale after 15 years at the Morris House Hotel. Catering will remain, as off-premises specialist Feast Your Eyes moves in.
Roast + Chop | Radnor
Sandwich-and-bowl-focused fast-casual spot in Saint Davids Square, which opened in 2014 as Shredwich, has that “gone” look.
Sync | Exton
Gastropub at Exton Square Mall posted a sign indicating it closed because of a liquor license issue.
El Techo, 1830 Ludlow St., 11th floor; 5-9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 4-7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
On the ground floor of the Pod Philly hotel off 19th and Ludlow, you have the new Mexican hotspot Condesa and its coffee shop, El Cafe. But shoot up the elevator to 11, and you’re at El Techo, a roomy, buzzy barroom that offers city views through a retractable roof and fling-open windows. This time of year, there’s not much roof-retracting and window-flinging going on, hence the truncated winter happy hour offered Wednesday to Saturday.
You get four food specials — totopos (tortilla chips) and salsa ($3), chicharrón ($3), guacamole ($6), and queso fundido ($7) — plus a draft beer of the day ($4), a 32-ounce Corona Familiar ($6), and margaritas made of tequila or mezcal ($7 glass, $30 pitcher). There’s a $6 house red or white wine, plus a $9 cocktail, such as the frozen concoction called Dos, which has Altos Reposado, Oaxacan rum, chipotle meco, coconut, pineapple, grapefruit, and mole bitters; it normally sells for $13.
Isot, 622 S. Sixth St., 267-457-3622
The window sign at Fatih Kekec’s charming, tastefully appointed BYOB on Sixth Street near Bainbridge, across from Bistrot La Minette, reads “Mediterranean.” But it’s Turkish all the way, a worthy member of the area’s Turkish contingent along with Paprica on Jewelers Row, On the Grill in Delran, Sofra in Levittown, and Little Istanbul in Northeast Philadelphia.
Lunch specials (mostly $12) include a cup of lentil or chicken soup, an entree such as grilled chicken kebabs with bulgur pilaf, and a few salads and sides, such as acili ezme, the zingy dip of tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, and parsley that you’ll use pita for dipping.
Even at lunchtime, you can also dip into the dinner menu, as I did, coming up with the rich stew called beyran ($9), which is lamb cooked with rice, garlic, and butter for 12 hours. Also a hit: The tiny, handmade lamb-and-beef manti ($14). Kekac steams them and tops with his own yogurt, red pepper oil, and mint to add a bitter, spicy bite. Lovely service. Kekac himself makes the rounds of the dining room.
Dinnertime deal: A feast for four hungry carnivores of lamb chop, beef kebab, lamb kebab, grilled chicken thighs, kasap kofte (meatballs), and adana kebab, all for $95.
Hours: noon-10:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; noon-11 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Sunday.
Pho Tau Bay, 2650 S. 15th St., 215-454-6152
Pho + gelato = whoa! You get a phone-book-size recitation of the Vietnamese staples (pho, all the vermicelli and rice dishes, banh mi) and 54 flavors of ice cream (coconut castaway and purple panda!) at this snug, polished newcomer at 15th and Oregon, an easy stop before an event at the Sports Complex.
Prices are outstanding. The grilled chicken and rice platter shown here? $10. An order of two plump summer rolls? $4. The chicken banh mi, generously filled and built on a crispy roll? $6. Cheery, solicitous service, too, though I’m guessing delivery and takeout will be the main form of business.
Two caveats: Seating in the dining room with the ice cream cases is limited to parties of two. To attempt a party of, say, four, you’ll need the other, only slightly more spacious dining room. Also: there’s just one vegan dish on the menu; the pho with tofu and mixed vegetables ($6).
Hours: 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily (9 a.m.-9 p.m. for ice cream).
Date night with the restaurant pros: With challenging schedules and late-hours, restaurant-industry couples don’t always have time to dine on Valentine’s Day. We have a list of favorite restaurants from chefs including Camille Cogswell and Drew DiTomo.
Speaking of Valentine’s, just in time for the holiday, Mom-Mom’s Kitchen is offering chocolate pierogi as a special menu item. The confections are filled with molten chocolate and are served withraspberry sauce, brûléed swirls of homemade marshmallow fluff.