Sunday, May 6, 2012

Slobblog: Alla Spina - Dining with the Stars

Lots of good beers on tap at Vetri's new gastropub Alla Spina.

Although Slobfest has been around for a relatively short amount of time, it has managed to become an event steeped in tradition. The tenants of Slobfest are more or less guidelines to work by. Like most things there are exceptions to the rule, and for Slobfest in April, an exception took place. The first Friday night Slobfest.

Oysters capped off an extensive app sampling.
Normally, us Slobs like to avoid compromising any weekend plans and dodging the typical hustle and bustle that comes along with a Friday night in Philly. Reservations are tougher to come by, squeezing all 8 of us in a restaurant can be a pain. Just normal stuff like that. But when you do go out to a place like Marc Vetri's newest establishment Alla Spina on a busy night, sometimes you come across sites you may not see on a Thursday. In this instance we Slobs were not nearly as disruptive as we normally were. We shared tales of women, drinking, and embarrassing stories drowned out by the probably not as loathsome but much more dull stories of other, lesser people around us. We were able to stare and make inappropriate comments about a lovely lady out to dinner with her parents sitting right next to us. Even trying to place a wager for one Slob to just go over and introduce himself to the girl's father under the guise of "mistaking the father for his professor at Wharton." We thought it may have worked out well.

Also, we were able to share tales of stealing scratch-offs and selling liquor at marked up prices to fellow underage students back in our youth. Pretty much the standard behavior we always exhibit. I'm not sure if our ability to camouflage our deviant ways was a relief or kind of disappointing.

As we rubbed shoulders with families on dinner, dates between couples, and in our most famous person sighting to date, owner and uber-famous chef Marc Vetri was working the line and chitchatting with fellow restauranteur and buddy Stephen Starr.

Vetri is probably the most well respected chef in Philly. Jose Garces has a bit more fame from his TV appearances, but it's Vetri that has his self-named restaurant Vetri, which is one of the best restaurants not just in Philly but in the entire US. It's prix fixe only menu is pricey, but for anyone willing to shell out the dollars, it's presumably well worth it, as I don't know a single person that has been there.  He's created a string of successful restaurants off of that and this is the first establishment of his to host Slobfest.

Pork Shoulder
Starr, of course, is no stranger to Slobfest. You can hardly turn your head in Philly without seeing one of his restaurants. His El Vez hosted one of the best Slobfests ever. There were several shout outs, literally, to Starr from the Slobfest table, but alas he didn't send over a bottle of the finest wine on the menu. He's gotten enough pub from Slobblog, so let's move on.

When you look at the gastropub menu at Alla Spina it's easy to look it over and feel like it's not enough. I think that stems from the simplicity in which the menu describes it's dishes. Most of the dishes are rather well known comfort foods, but the taste and the execution of these dishes are far greater than mom can make. The involitini, which is basically the best mozzarella stick you've ever had is just an example of the kind of hidden delights that are shadowed by the simple menu.

Everything that we had exhibited oohs and ahs from the Slobs, and in spite of some small samplings - which damned Tinto - the heartier food kept everyone filled up even though at times there was not enough to go around.

Hey now, you're an all-star.
Overall there were a lot of apps ordered, as exhibited in the tab below. The main entree for us was the pork shoulder. This was roasted to a crispy perfection, as if Vetri himself put it together. Much like the suckling pig, the layers of flavor really made this dish a simple, but flavorful finish to all the food we ordered.

If there was an all-star selection of the menu, it was without a doubt the fried chicken. There has been a bit of a fried chicken renaissance in Philly with many new restaurants popping up touting the readily available dish. While it's nothing exotic or fancy, great fried chicken is just great fried chicken. And the fried chicken at Alla Spina is great stuff. Initially, it was just an app order that not everyone got to enjoy. After the Slobs that did have it raved about it so much, we had no choice but to order a second go round so everyone could enjoy the greasy, honey-fried goodness. I'm no fried chicken expert, but this was certainly some of the best I'd ever had. Very flavorful and crispy on the outside, while the chicken was still juicy and flavorful on the inside. This was also one of the dishes we did see Starr biting into after Vetri dropped it at his table. Wins all around!

No Slobfest would be complete without dessert. The menu options are not great. I mean how there is no pie at this place, I have no idea. Some Slobs just picked at will for their sweet fix, but where the menu was slacking, the dessert special really made some Slobs swoon. The special was a bacon ice cream soft serve with chocolate covered bacon. One Slob already loves bacon enough that this was a done deal, and for other Slobs it was just too slobby to pass on. I would post a picture of it, but out of fear of Slobs reading this trying to devour their computer at the sight of this over the top dessert, I would have had to censor the pictures like this was Nine Inch Nails "Closer" video. Ok, after making that reference, I literally could not find the edited version of the video. So, whatever.

Overall, Alla Spina was a great time. The bar scene was jumping and the food was well worth a return visit if you were so inclined. A little star power doesn't hurt the ambiance either.

-Slobs Out

That's a long list.

Drunkenly counting money.
 Alla Spina
1410 Mt. Vernon St.
Philadelphia, PA

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