Before attending my son's graduation at Lehigh, Amy and I spent two lovely days wandering the streets of Philadelphia, eating grandly, enjoying the fine weather, and even pausing at some of the many historical landmarks. The first full day, we walked around historical Philly, saw the "back" of the Liberty Bell (which ironically lacks the crack) and Independence Hall and cobbled streets and many fine old buildings adorned with plaques emblazoned with notes on events and people in American history. We didn't go to a Phillies game. We didn't eat a cheesesteak sandwich. We wandered happily and half-oblivious. Blackberry people came suited appropriately out of the Chemical Heritage Foundation on Chestnut near Trotter's Alley, Elbow Lane, Black Horse Alley; they had Homeland Security badges on and talked animatedly about the chemicals they looked forward to consuming on our dollar. We didn't follow them. A horse pulling tourists in a carriage filled the gutter with a huge rush of piss. Our legs ached. We looked and walked. We smelled garlic. We talked and smelled. Garlic. Crowded and lively. We went in.
We went into La Locanda del Ghiottone on 3rd and sat and had a wonderful meal. The antipasto plate was fine, not extraordinary. Amy had chicken, nicely done and wine-sauced and capered with a side of roast potatoes. I had a revelatory saffron seafood risotto in a tomato sauce that, amazingly, didn't overwhelm the saffron. The seafood (clams, mussels, shrimp, calamare) was tender and the generous portion they served me evaporated. Purists might complain that the rice wasn't al dente enough, but the flavors were so wonderful and balanced, it was a good time not to be a puritan (though Puritans would be happy we didn't drink wine, because it's byob and we were unprepared). The restaurant is apparently controversial, because, looking through reviews, mostly outstanding, it appears that if you don't quite get it, they're happy to chase you out. It's Philly don't-fuck-around elegant. The room is crowded and a little loud, but it is romantic and the staff has personality. And I can still taste that saffron. Next time, I'll show up early with a nice Barolo.