Big things are doing in Washington Square West these days. Also this week, I dropped by a rustic Neapolitan pizzeria in Bucks, a cozy French BYOB in South Philly, and a chic Mediterranean bar above it all. Critic Craig LaBan also drops in to share his favorite charcuterie options.
Rittenhouse, Fishtown, South Philly. All hot restaurant areas.
Let’s turn our attention to Washington Square West, the slice of Center City between Seventh and Broad Streets south of Market.
Last weekend brought the soft opening of DaMò Pasta Lab (105 S. 12th St., at Sansom), which specializes in made-from-scratch pasta dishes using imported ingredients kept in a climate-controlled room. DaMò is a portmanteau of owners Danilo D’Eugenio and Monica Fenocchio. While living in Rome, they visited Philly, fell in love with the city, and thought they’d get good reception for a casual concept that allows online and kiosk ordering; it’s intended as takeout, but there’s seating for about 20 people. The pasta-making (fresh and dried) goes on behind a glassed-in room. Opening hours are 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Also brand new is Winkel (1119 Locust St.), a BYOB bruncherie from chef Joncarl Lachman (Noord) and his husband, Bob Moysan, in the former More Than Just Ice Cream. Like Noord, the American menu celebrates Lachman’s Dutch heritage and Northern European leanings. Winkel’s weekday breakfasts feature Benedicts and pancakes as well as such dishes as an Uitsmijter ham-and-cheese sandwich; a house-smoked fish of the day; a rabbit, white bean, and chive frittata; and shakshuka (a popular dish from their shuttered Neuf). Weekday lunch features sandwiches and salads, including huzaren salade, a traditional Dutch potato salad. Weekend brunches are a fixed-price $25. A side space, ready in several weeks, will be used for Rival Bros. coffee and grab-and-go. The dining room’s signature piece is Moysan’s print of an old Citroen on a street in Amsterdam. Hours are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekends.
Friday will be Day One at Picanha Churrascaria, the Center City outpost of the popular Northeast Philadelphia Brazilian steakhouse. It's classic churrascaria. At dinner, meat-skewer-bearing waiters work the room, which was Garces Trading Co. at 1111 Locust St. Owner Amabilis Silva and her family are opening as a BYOB while expecting a liquor license in two months. It will be open daily for lunch and dinner. Lunch service will be based on the extensive salad bar, sold by weight, and dinner will be a fixed price. Prices were not set before deadline, but figure on about $11.95 a pound at lunch and about $50 a person at dinner.
But wait. There's more.
Scott Hockfield of the Wrap Shack locations is going next door to his 11th Street spot with an yet-unnamed all-day restaurant that, after dinnertime, will segue into a lounge and nightlife destination. It’s the former Devon & Blakely at 108-110 S. 11th St.
Croatian-based Cogito Coffee plans to open next to DaMò on 12th Street in July or August. And on the subject of coffee, the Starbucks location at 12th and Walnut will perk up and move across the intersection to the former Cosi.
Also on the way is Farmer’s Bicycle, which will occupy the former Hummusology at 1112 Locust St. in a month or so. Chef-owner Ian Natowsky, who left Farmer’s Keep crosstown two years ago, said he plans affordable, vegetable-forward cooking. Invoking a cycling pun, he said Farmer’s Bicycle also will do bespoke catering. A bike-themed BYOB, I must say, is a great option for people who can’t handle bars.
DaMo | Washington Square West
Dessertcrazy | Francisville
Low-carb desserts are the specialty at this shop, opening June 1 at 1925 Fairmount Ave.
Naya Mezze & Grill | Center City
NYC-based wholesome Middle Eastern fast-casual opens May 29 at 1601 Market St.
Picanha Churrascaria | Washington Square West
Stina | South Philadelphia
Chef Bobby Saritsoglou and wife Christina Kallas-Saritsoglou open their Mediterranean BYOB at 1705 Snyder Ave. on May 31.
Winkel | Washington Square West
Devon & Blakely | Washington Square West
Casual breakfast-luncher gave up the ghost on 11th Street near Sansom.
Guppy's | Bella Vista
The South Philly outpost of the Conshohocken bar has closed.
Paradiso | Passyunk Crossing
Last day is June 1, as a sale is in the works for the long-running Italian destination.
Will BYOB | Passyunk Crossing
June 2 is the finale, as chef Christopher Kearse readies Forsythia, a French bistro, in Old City.
A look ahead: Dino’s Backstage & The Celebrity Room in Glenside has announced that its last night will be June 22.
Irwin’s, 8th floor of the Bok Building, 800 Mifflin St.; 5-7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday
You get terrific views from the top of the Bok Building, the converted high school that soars eight stories above the Great Rowhouse Plain of South Philadelphia.
From the seasonal Bok Bar, Center City and points north jut skyward. On the south side of the roof is Irwin's, chef Paul Garberson's fine Mediterranean restaurant fashioned out of a former classroom; inside, the dining room is energetic (thanks to the tile and other hard surfaces), while out on the roof deck, life is more peaceful as you gaze south at the stadium complex while airliners glide in on final approach to PHL.
Irwin's soapstone bar is home to a solid happy hour, with discounted mezze ($5). Don't miss the fried, sweet Castelvetrano olives with garlic sauce; the ezme (a red pepper and walnut salsa in pomegranate molasses); the baba ghanouj; and the hummus. Three wines (sauvignon blanc, rose, and cabaret sauvignon, $7), four $5 beers, and three cocktails round out the list. HH is offered at the bar and in the lounge only.
Tip: Free parking is available in a lot across the street; set your GPS to 801 Mifflin St.
Bistro La Bête, 1703 S. Ninth St.
Back around the turn of the 21st century, folks started talking up a find in Old City: a just-stylish French-ish BYOB bistro whose tabs wouldn't break the bank. That was Bistro 7, the home for more than a dozen years of chef Michael O'Halloran before he converted it briefly into a taqueria.
Now he's back with Bistro La Bête, a cozy, quaint BYO set up in a South Philly storefront just far enough from the East Passyunk hubbub. It's date-night-lit. O'Halloran keeps things simple with a seasonal menu of seven apps, six entrées (including a cheeseburger), and two shares: a 20-ounce rib-eye with Bordelaise, blue cheese butter, and fries with mornay ($55) and whole roasted duck ($64) made with five-spice and raspberry gastrique that requires three days' notice.
Our picks: lamb tagine ($27), braised with honey, apricots, and ginger and served over saffron risotto with a pistachio pesto, and pork steak ($25) with gruyere grits and 'nduja butter that played well with the peppery arugula and pickled blackberry salad.
Tip: Do make a res, but note that you can be seated as late as 10:30 p.m.
N.B. Weekend brunch just hit (10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.), with an assortment of plates, including a $5 kids menu.
Itri Wood-Fired, 310 Mill St, Bristol
The best things in life are free, right? Some of my favorite pizza in Bucks County happens to be free on Mondays at Itri Wood Fired, a comfy, rustic bar-restaurant in downtown Bristol.
Yes, you just stop in and get a free margherita, classic, or white, usually priced at $12.
Greg Pezza and crew do them wonderfully crispy and thin, with cornmeal dusting the bottom crust.
Also recommended are the wood-fired wings with hot sauce (they're 50 cents each on Tuesday); housemade pastas; Brussels sprouts, deeply roasted with thick-cut bacon and finished with a splash of balsamic.
Full bar, and — get this, city kids — most drinks are $10 and under.
Tip: You’re in Bristol, so stomp down to the pier after dinner and take a stroll along the Delaware River.
Philly’s Black Restaurant Week returns in June. This year, it's a two-week event.
Reader: Hello, Mr. LaBan. Who makes the best charcuterie plate in town?
Craig LaBan: I love a good spread of cured meats! And I’ve had some excellent boards lately, which are perfect for warm-weather grazing. There are plenty of places that do a fine job of collecting excellent charcuterie from expert outside sources. Parc, Teresa’s Next Door, Martha, Bar Hygge, and Barcelona are just a few. But I’ve always been most impressed by kitchens that take on the time-consuming and technically challenging task of curing and potting their own.
Eli Collins at a.kitchen (135 S. 18th St.) reliably makes some of the best charcuterie in the city, and the selection constantly changes. Recently, it included a selection of livery-soft pâté de campagne and sheer pink rounds of tender veal head terrine. Chefs Steve Forte and Nicholas Elmi flex their French charcuterie chops nightly at Royal Boucherie (52 S. 2nd St.), where, aside from the often spectacular terrines made with game meats and foie gras, my recent platter showcased pistachio-studded mortadella, air-cured bresaola beef, fat-marbled coppa garnished with 24-hour roasted apple sauce and seasonal pawpaw jam. RB also has been known to make impressive prosciutto, which take up to 21 months to cure — but they ran out last year. Elmi says more prosciutto, and some faster-curing culatellos, should be ready again in a few months.
Speaking of Italian meats, Le Virtù (1927 E. Passyunk Ave.) remains a primo destination under chef Damon Menapace for classic Abruzzese salumi slow-aged in its cellar — treasures like guanciale, capocollo, lonza, duck prosciutto, and a spalleta they’ve dubbed “prosciutto di Philly.” (I fully expect Le Virtù alum Joe Cicala to dig just as deep into the salumi canon when he and wife Angela Ranalli-Cicala finally open their self-named restaurant on North Broad Street, Cicala at the Divine Lorraine). Barbuzzo (110 S. 13th St.) anchors Midtown Village with its own excellent array of housemade charcuterie; mortadella, saucisson sec and a rabbit terrine with foie gras and fermented turnips are on the current menu.
But good charcuterie skills are hardly limited to restaurants that are themed to strictly European menus. The Twisted Tail (509 S. Second St.) offers a treasure trove of aged country hams curated from America’s best producers (Benton’s, Burger’s, Col. Bill Newsome’s, and La Quercia) to savor on a brunch trip to the Sunday Head House farmer’s market. A little farther south in Pennsport, I loved the bacon-scented pâté with punchy house mustard at Musi (100 Morris St.) so much, I ordered it twice at the same meal.
The house pork belly pâté, chicken liver mousse, and porchetta di testa were among the more impressive offerings on Chef Mike “Pate Bae” Jenkins’ menu at Keep (417 York Rd.) in Jenkintown. An ever-changing selection of house charcuterie is also a good way to start the meal at Hungry Pigeon, where a fall meal last year brought turkey pâté and cured lonza.
The whole animal-driven kitchen at Kensington Quarters (1310 Frankford Ave.) in Fishtown has always charcuterie ambitions, and current chef Matt Harper is no exception. KQ’s current board offers curried lamb “cotto,” dry-cured pepperoni, pork salami, lonza, kielbasa, and rosemary bacon. Philly’s original gastropub, Standard Tap (901 N. Second St.), has another place with a charcuterie-minded chef in Joel Mazigian, who turns out a surprisingly gamey variety, currently featuring a jerk-spiced goat sausage, venison summer sausage, lamb liver pate, and a bratwurst rarebit that, with its smoked Gouda cheese sauce, is a stand-alone indulgence that isn’t technically a charcuterie platter item. But once I’m this deep in happy charcuterie grazing mode, I doubt I’d be able to resist.