Oct 18, 2010

Cicchetteria 19: Warm Mixed Olives and a Negroni

You will recall that last year the Dream Kitchen family tried something new on my birthday, going out to eat as a family at an interesting city restaurant with great food instead of getting a sitter. We had a great time at Distrito, sitting in a pink car. Everyone loved it. It didn't hurt that a Phillies game was showing on a huge screen, either.

It's such a satisfying moment, when you realize that the kids are big enough to behave themselves and enjoy real food. No coloring books needed! And a restaurant with small plates is perfect for tasting new dishes. This year I had bought a Groupon for a new restaurant called Cicchetteria 19, on 19th St. just south of Rittenhouse Square, right across from Metropolitan Bakery. No pink car, here. Just a small neighborhood restaurant, exactly the right size. We were led to a bar-height table with stools. We had a good view of--yes--the Phillies game. I love when the Phils are still playing when my birthday rolls around.

Cicchetteria 19 is Venetian, so I ordered an Italian cocktail called a Negroni, which is gin, vermouth, and Campari. I tried Campari in Rome once, which I thought too bitter for human consumption. So much for my dream to be the kind of person who can order a Campari and soda in a breezy, confident way. In this case, the sweetness of the vermouth and juniper of the gin counteracted the bitterness nicely, the aftertaste reminding me a little of liquorice. The first sip went down nice and warm. Mr. Dream Kitchen got a decent mojito, another traditional Italian drink, no doubt. Mojitio? Mojitonio? It wasn't as strong as the Negroni, sorry dear.

We decided to get one appetizer, one pizza, and five small plates.

Appetizer: Calamari, thinly sliced and quickly sauteed, a delicate texture.

Pizza Alice (ALL-EECH-AY): Pizza with French fries on top. Really. Very thin-crusted with meltingly perfect cheese. I've looked it up, and the name doesn't seem to be used anywhere else as far as I can tell.

Five small plates:

Artichoke/tuna pate on toast (will explain the Artichoke-Tuna Incident shortly)
Meatballs made w/ aged beef
Warm mixed olives in olive oil and lemon juice
Carpacchio of the day: Octopus, sliced super thin, with peppery greens
Crocque Monsieur

Also, they brought us two baskets of warm toasted bread brushed with olive oil.

We were all in a happy place, for sure. The boys have a new understanding of what a meatball can be, and I've resolved to make some soon. For some reason I never have. The olives were heavenly. Eating warm mixed olives and drinking a Negroni, with my family, in Philly with a postseason game on the tube, created quite a frisson, the perfect union between local and cosmopolitan, coziness and adventure, old and new.

And like any perfect evening, it wan't perfect. We ordered artichoke pate on toast. "This tastes like tunafish!" each of us said upon the first bite. The server looked highly skeptical and after a very long time, long after we had consumed the tunafish, she offhandedly explained, "It was just a kitchen error." No apology or assurance that the correct dish was forthcoming. After another eternity, the artichoke pate arrived, again without apology. It's not in good form for a server to blame the kitchen. But oh, well. More food for us!

Plates clean, it was time to make a decision. I also had a Groupon for Scoop DeVille, and the boys wanted to go there instead of ordering a Nutella Pizza with Strawberries.


Ice cream has evolved way past Scoop DeVille since I last went there (which was probably in the 1980s), and with Capogiro in the neighborhood, it's criminal to go anywhere else, let alone to a place that serves just okay ice cream blended with a bunch of stuff, in a styrofoam cup. Then again, Capogiro is not offering Groupons.

We got to walk through Rittenhouse Square on the way to and from Cicchetteria. The usual collection of pampered small dogs were walking their well-dressed owners. A young man held a big pet rabbit like a baby, garnering a guaranteed "aw-w-w" from passersby.

And as a special bonus, we got a free ride in on the train. Our conductor was terribly confused by our family pass arrangement, which I now suspect SEPTA has abolished in their recent misconceived fare adjustments. Mr. Dream Kitchen's Trailpass is (was?) supposed to give the rest of our family half off train fare on the weekends. The conductor turned pink trying to do the math, said he'd come back and never did. Disembarking at Suburban Station, we could hear him explaining our situation to another conductor. We just kept walking, therefore getting a free ride. If you ever see our pictures on a WANTED poster put out by the SEPTA Police, just give me a shout-out, okay?

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