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Pennsylvania Italian

Delightfully good Italian food

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Delightfully good Italian food

Barb Cohan-Saavedra | Sep 4, 2002 08:48 PM

Our restaurant was closed for two weeks while my husband went to Mexico to visit his folks and recharge his batteries, so I had the rare opportunity of going to a restaurant for DINNER! (My day job is in Center City, so lunches are usually the best I can do.)
My parents, grateful that their daughter had a rare free evening to spend with them, took me to their favorite Italian restaurant, the improbably named Macaroni's at 9315 Old Bustleton Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia (215-464-3040). I hadn't eaten there in years and remembered it being good. It was utterly FABULOUS.
While we pondered the menu, our server brought good, fresh, dense, crusty bread and plates of roasted peppers that tasted like MORE. The peppers had their skins intact and just a bit of hot pepper in the olive oil that made them sing! I could have made a meal of them.
My parents shared a huge plate of calamari that were oh-so-lightly battered and fried just enough to make them crunchy, while leaving the calamari rings as tender as could be. I'm not very fond of calamari but these were really good. Not a rubber band in sight. And the red sauce was lovely and tasted homemade -- not at all like the right-out-of-a-jar acidy mess some restaurants use.
I started with an appetizer of enormous tender scallops that were wrapped in crisped prosciutto and served in basil cream sauce. The sauce perfectly complemented the prosciutto and was so well made that we all dug in with bread so as not to leave a drop once the scallops were gone.
For my entrée I had the Linguini Umberto, a large portion of perfectly al dente pasta tossed with tomatoes, shrimp, more of the giant scallops and clams in a white wine sauce. The dish was far more refined and well-prepared than I would have expected in a small neighborhood restaurant.
I'd love to tell you about the dishes my parents had, but -- to tell you the truth -- I was so busy enjoying my own food that I paid little attention to theirs. Suffice it to say that they are serious foodies who will drive 100 miles for a great meal, and this is one of their favorite places.
Macaroni's is a real find and I look forward to going back to try other things on their menu. Its dining room is very small and comfortable and we loved listening to CDs of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday during the meal. There is a small but full-service bar. Service is good and very friendly. The food is not cheap for a neighborhood place, but it's not expensive either -- particularly when you factor in the huge portions (I always finish my food, but ended up taking home a substantial doggie bag that was enjoyed the next day) and the superb quality of the ingredients. Although I didn't order the specials this time, they sounded creative and ambitious and not at all what you'd expect in a neighborhood restaurant. This chef's food is worthy of a center city spot. Definitely worth a visit. Just ignore the typos on the menu. (Sorry, I'm a nut about spelling...)

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