Welcome readers to a Bellini filled rendition of the Pot & Pan Handler’s nomadic food & travel blog. Today we get a surprise text and find ourselves in an upscale Italian restaurant in Philadelphia, where they’re making their own pasta, we’re on board, and so we ring that Bellini. Fuggedaboudit.
We’re on the streets of Philly, Downtown near the Gayborhood, when the Pan Handler’s phone buzzes. A colleague, wants to know, will we join them, for dinner at Bellini? Bellini, eh, never heard of it, but he assures us that, they’re making their own pasta. As we are known pastafarians, this restaurant demands to be investigated. Ten short minutes later, we are greeted, like family; by the Maîtres’ De with an Italian accent so thick it almost seems stereotypical. As do the cheesy murals. http://www.bellinigrill.com/
“Well-coma, well-coma, my-a good-a friends-a take-a da seat-a, anywhere-a’ you like-a.” “Whatta can-a I get-a for-a my-a new-a friends-a to-a drink-a?” We order Laff & Hoegarden on tap, and settle in to make pressing dinner decisions. Soon the waiter descends on us cloaked in an accent if anything, thicker than the maître’ De. Again, like the maître’ De, the server treats us more like beloved family, than four strangers from the Philadelphia streets.
Flex those mussels
We started with a mixed green salad, garnished with grated carrots, topped with shrimp all lightly dressed in vinaigrette. Simple and refreshing, typical, exactly what you expect when ordering a mixed greens salad, outside the Midwest… Not enough freakin’ cheese but otherwise a worthy start, and after that, things got better, real quick.
Comforted by the more than friendly staff, I let my guard down and order mussels in wine sauce. Though I’m well aware in many restaurants, if you order mussels, you might as well say: “I’ll take the petri dish for one, please.” However, the staff at Bellini is so professional they put me at ease, and for this I’m thankful. The mussels are divine. The wine sauce is buttery, creamy and just a little bit acidic, that acidity takes a bite out of the otherwise too rich sauce and reins it in, resulting in sauce perfection. Encouraged, we look forward to the next course.
As I’ve mentioned the service at Bellini was exceptional, I rarely mention such things, but they treated us like royalty. It made me want to demand they change their unit of measure to the length of my foot. Maybe next time. Nevertheless, the real reason to check Bellini out is the pasta. Rustic, house made, real deal, light and airy pasta that would be, an absolute pain in the ass, if not an impossibility to replicate at home. That’s the reason to check out Bellini, or any Italian joint for that matter. If they’re not making their own pasta, they’re serving you the same dried, sad, factory pasta, you already got at home, plus a 100% surcharge for boiling it for you. That doesn’t happen at Bellini. Don’t let that happen to you.
Bellini’s fresh pasta courses arrive. Crab stuffed raviolis distended, with crab meat; four ravioli stretched at the seams that threaten to burst. Liberally smothered in vodka, tomato, cream sauce, these ballooned raviolis, are decadent with crab, though delicate, the crab pairs naturally with the sauce, a willing partner that’s never overshadowed.
Bellini’s other pasta course we ordered is a simultaneous play on surf & turf, and chicken piccata. Lightly fried chicken breast with crab meat, enveloped in caper, wine sauce, that’s liberal with butter. Served with artfully prepared zucchini and carrots, that somehow doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. A comforting dish, like the ravioli, it is decadent, without overwhelming you with cream. The subtle crab is a surprising and welcome addition to this play on chicken piccata.
No, thank you, as staring at these cheesy murals has left me quite full. Instead, we went to some trendy hipster bar that cards everyone who looks like they maybe under the age of 160. Then, they poke our junk with a wand, presumably to make sure we’re not smuggling in a beard trimmer, as it would appear they make the staff and clientele equally uncomfortable. All of that, just to sit in a leather chair and pay twenty dollars for a cocktail from a giant mustachioed dude, who clearly hates our guts. But that, dear readers, is a different post.
Coming soon; we find a slice of Wisconsin cheese, in a Philadelphia food truck, until then may your glass be ever full and the wind be at your back. – The Pot & Pan Handler.