Watch Out, Josh Duhamel! Turista Menu at Modo Mio

Outside the ristorante lining the winding alleys of Florence, the grand avenues of Rome and pretty much everywhere else in Italy, you’ll find the turista menu. Judging from the name, you might decline. Even the Perillo Tour groups strolling the Via Veneto in PayLess kicks probably wouldn’t want to self-label themselves tourists. However, the turista menu isn’t something to snub; rather these pre-fixe dinners are a key to eating cheaply on Euro.

You’d have to be Stevie Wonder to mistake Girard Avenue for somewhere in Italy, but here the turista has taken hold. At Peter McAndrew’s snug trattoria Modo Mio, the four-course menu costs only $32 per person, as if the regular menu wasn’t inexpensive enough—antipasti $8, pastas $11, entrees $13-$18. Portions are European-sized, “like in Italy,” explained the waiter, “not in South Philly.” Harsh. But mostly true. (Try Le Virtu for an exception.)

Dark and noisy as a rave, with diners toasting with complimentary shots of Sambuca and singing happy birthday over moist, crusty-edged apple-walnut cake slathered with Nutella, Modo Mio has captured the spirit of dining in Italy, or as wine guy and blogalicious buddy Brian Freedman aptly pointed out as our antipasti started arriving around 10 pm, “I feel like were Spanish or something.”

Flavored with unusual ingredients and interesting flavor pairings, McAndrew’s menu is not what we’ve come to expect from the Italian restaurant in Philadelphia—and is all the better for it. Spiced with nutmeg and clove, the patty of cotechino (the sausage on the heavenly Lombarda pizza at Osteria) enticed with a bewitching aroma that was part butcher shop, part pumpkin pie. The pork was luscious and flavorful, heightened further by dabs of fried crema, pistachios, a drizzle of saba (a syrup made from concentrated grape must, the byproduct of the first stage of winemaking) and an egg poached in balsamic vinegar. This dish was explosive; sweet, sour, salty fireworks all rounded out by the richness of the pork and the liquid yolk.
Hard to top that, no?

There were also pan-seared scallops with green olives, roasted peppers and radicchio, as well as tender, almost creamy calve's tongue sliced into fine, frilly ribbons tangled with roasted beets, baby basil, goat cheese and poppy seeds. So, so nice, and that aint’s just the opium talking. The pasta course followed, bringing spicy bucatini Amatriciana; not-often-seen stradette (fettucine made with cornmeal) tossed with cauliflower, capers, cream and scallops; and dreamy gnocchi with haunting, James-ian ragu of boar ragu, black pepper and dark chocolate. If we’re nitpicking, the sauce was a touch too wet (sloppy joe-like, as one dining companion pointed out), but the flavors were on point, so hearty and wintry we sopped up the extra with Modo Mio’s awesome bread, doughy on the inside but unapologetically crusty outside. Talk about busting a cap.

Entrees: buttery, lemony whole-roasted striped bass crusted in a gremolata riff with breadcrumbs and anchovies; skirt steak with porcini and sugo finto (a meatless Tuscan ragu); tender tatters of slow-roasted suckling pig with braised cabbage and fennel; and the vitello, a balancing act that sharpened the richness of a crisp breaded veal cutlet, fried egg and walnuts with tangy pomegranate vinaigrette, bitter radicchio and sweet, creamy gorgonzola dolce.

By the time dessert arrived—had to get that apple-walnut cake—we had been at Modo Mio for three hours. It was a great time, enhanced by a great check: $41 per person with tax and tip. We almost felt guilty of stealing, so we’re paying it forward. Bring friends. Bring wine (and Champagne and beer). Emrbace the turista, baby.

Pics coming as soon as Flickr decides to start working.

Photo: ModoMio, blogalicious

No comments: