Monday, March 26, 2012

Slobblog: Varalli - We Got Served

The bar for serving just got raised.
March Slobfest took place at Varalli Restaurant in Center City. This modern design yet traditional Italian joint is in a prime spot on Broad St. down the street from former Slobfest locale Captial Grille.

We all met at the bar of the restaurant having a drink while all the Slobs showed up. We poured one out for a fellow Slobfest member as professional duties has put him on the 90-day DL until those responsibilities are completed. Sure, some may ponder, "But won't he still eat food?" It's possible, but we'll just leave that as is.

The drink I had was my usual Kettle One Martini which just happened to have the saltiest olives I've ever had in my life. The actual martini was great, but with each olive I could not help but pucker up. The rest of the Slobs had some mixed drinks, including a berry cocktail which would make several appearances throughout the night.

Now, normally the food or we the Slobs are the star of Slobfest, but early on it became evident that the spotlight would be squarely on one person and one person only....our server Alicia.

Aside from being pleasing to the eye, Alicia came out of the gates firing with a carefully executed prank by one Slob on the other regarding one of his top clients. As we were ordering drinks, we went around a circle and when Alicia got to the prank'd Slob, without hesitation and with the confidence of a broadway star she says, "I'm not going to get you a drink until you give Covington their contract." Then she immediately walked away leaving one Slob's jaw wide open and no drink to be had.

Now, the only failure of the prank is that 6 out of 9 Slobs had no idea what was happening. The ones that did were stunned...stunned.  Everyone got filled in and we were off and running.

We ordered a bunch of apps that our girl Alicia directed us on her recommendations. Then the drinkless Slob was finally able to order, splitting a bottle of wine with me. Now, this was on the cheap end of wines, not high expectations by any means, but if Slobfest dinners were judged by the BCS Bowl System, then this wine would be Co-Champ with Alicia. The wine was dry and flavorful with a rich berry flavor. For a cheap wine, it was a winner to say the least.

Some of the apps we sampled were Wild Italian Mushrooms, Crisp Zucchini, Calimari, and Bruschetta. Everything was great, but the bruschetta was fantastic. It came with an assortment of toppings, all of which were great and a big favorite of the table.

Approximation of one Slob's phone.

Between app and main course we were brain storming about going to a nearby hangout, Mahogany. A cigar bar on Walnut, which we weren't sure if it had closed or not. See Mahogany is basically the most chill place in Philadelphia. However, Holt's which owns the building opted to not renew Mahogany's lease as Holt's is going to renovate and reopen as a cigar bar they own. As we asked Alicia if she was aware if Mahogany was open and nearby, she curtly responded to one Slob, "Oh, surely you have an iPhone?" Best part is that he certainly does not have an iPhone, and even better has a BlackBerry. This innocent comment set off some raucous laughter and Alicia continued her run as probably the best server of all time and Slobfest legend.

Back to Mahogany though, it was a great spot, and hopefully what Holt's has in mind can live up to what Mahogany was all about. Good booze, BYO cigars, cute waitresses, and just letting people relax and chill out in a sophisticated and comfy environment. RIP Mahogany. You may be replaced, but never forgotten.

The food came, and we were ready to dig in. Lamb shank, lobster ravioli, steak, and a whole assortment of hearty dishes. Across the board I'd say the Slobs were impressed with what Varalli had to offer. I had the lobster ravioli, which I'm usually not a huge fan of, but this was done well. As a side note, I will fight someone to the death who says lobster is better than crab. I would take crab 100 times out of 100 over lobster and it's not even close.

Thanks for the apps, Alicia.
For all that Varalli did have to offer us Slobs there were two big negatives. First, there was no bread served. Sure, we ordered 5 apps so maybe Alicia thought, no way these guys want bread and olive oil. But of course the answer to that query is yes. Yes, we expect bread and oil pre-food and yes, even though we ordered all of this food we still needed more. Alicia shouldn't try to make decisions for us, but give us the opportunity to sit there and stare at the bread if we want to. Now, Alicia did admit she is new to this serving thing as she usually tends bar. Makes sense based on her table side manner. Very personable, outgoing and put up with a lot of nonsense from guys including one Slob mentioning the untimely passing of his girlfriend via fiery car crash, thus leaving him "completely single." Alicia did not bite, but I'm sure she was entertained.

Remnants of lobster ravioli.
The second was no homemade limoncello! In an Italian restaurant! Unconscionable. There was some on the menu, but when Alicia admitted it was far from official, some eyes rolled at the table.

We polished off our desserts along with some after dinner drinks and non-homemade drinks.

As we settled up, we weren't quite done and sauntered over to the bar for a couple of more drinks. If you couldn't tell we were a fan of the cocktails, but we were satisfied with what we had and enjoyed the atmosphere enough that we wanted to hangout afterwards.

Now the descriptions of Varalli's atmosphere may be off-putting. Yes there's a waterfall. Yes, theres a giant squid hanging from the ceiling, but somehow it doesn't come of kitschy or tacky. Along with the sass of Alicia, we had a great time dining out. Definitely stop by Varalli for a drink and an app. Stay for the service.

-Slobs Out

We'll miss you, Alicia. May our paths cross again.

Varalli Restaurant
Avenue of the Arts
231 South Broad Street

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