161 W. Girard Avenue (at N. Hancock)
It’s the large purple awning that will seem a fata morgana mirage, reading “Modo Mio” on its middle in blackened letters. Frankly, the location of the building upon which the sign hangs, at Girard Avenue and Hancock Street, is not an intersection known for fumes of grilled rustic bread, until now.
The dining room of this Cucina Italia has, on its left, a huge framed mirror which deftly replicates the tantalizing images of crusty, darkly hued breads being sliced on a long adjacent antique table just below it, for endless basketed distribution. The remaining crumbs are the same color as the light wooden-planked flooring throughout. They (both the crumbs and the floor) tremble among raucous patrons’ laughter, a swiftly swirling wait-staff and the scraping of wooden chair legs. Some noise is modestly muffled by high ceilings, red-leatherette seat-backs and a huge rutilant couch, whose cushions are thick and absorbent. A fuchsia-colored guard rail surrounds the boisterous room and seems to protect the fortunate forty (or so) patrons from outside disturbances.
If you’re a Thorstein Veblen fan of conspicuous consumption, you’re at the wrong economist’s party. This is hearty class-free fare, eaten with sidekicks of brought-from-home bottles of wine, and paid for in cash. It’s almost as if lira might be expected in lieu of dollars. Wealth is not a divider here; as the most completely fulfilling meal can be had, by everyone, for prix fixe $30. It’s this eatery’s simple “flat tax” on generous portions, and a wonderful warison to curtail rising restaurant costs. Economically speaking, it’s a Laffer.
“Menu Turista” allows a participant to choose four menu selections, one from each group: Antipasti, Pasta, Secondo and Dolce. But you’ll begin with gratuitous chunks of mealy Umbrian breads, a chef’s free taste of a mouthful of rolled meats dazzled by nearby clumps of ricotta cheese, in a tureen of olive oil, while you wait to order. Then look for these favorites.
Antipasti: “Insulata di Polpo” is a plate of salad greenery equipped with grilled octopus, warmed almonds and flurries of white beans. The ingredients are topped with a lemon wedge. Baby cephalopods are cut to the quick, grilled and drenched just south of sopping. The almonds’ crunch is cradled by the mellow softness of the corn-kernel-sized beans. Roasted red peppers add sweetness, and black olives garner depth. It’s as if all eight legs of the octopus had swum to Italy. Or try the “Rane,” specially spiced frog’s legs, displayed among sour apple chunks smeared in basil “maionese.” The legs are to be brought to mouth by hand. They almost jump through your teeth. Suck the thighs free of all crab-like pearly meat, until nothing is left but bare cartilage. The consistency is silken and redolent of basil. The apples and sauce confer upon your lips, mumbling with afterthoughts.
Pasta: “Gnocchi” must be ordered here. Modo Mio’s are potato dumplings in a sumptuously soulful porcini cream that will take your tongue and wrestle it into submission. Earthy and filling to a fault; you begin to wonder how you’ll be able to complete the four-course meal.
Secondo: Bistecca is an imbrocation of skirt steak, toppling over white beans, whose essence, this time, is flavored by a meaty broth. Skirt steak originates from the cow’s diaphragm, and is (especially “skirt steak No.1”) the thinnest, leanest, most tender of cuts. It’s no surprise that the steak causes you to stammer your praise while attempting to swallow in a swoon. Moreover, a drizzled deep green pesto meanders atop the beef, wallowing in its own sage. Tender-philes will also choose “Anatra,” a duck scallopini surrounded by and melded with sweet balsamic vinegar and duck juices, above a gorgonzola cheese mattress. The breast slices are surrounded by a small peeping crowd of adoring roasted cherries along side a roaring-hot green pepper with just as fierce fried onions. The duck is bountifully bracing to taste buds, and not thin-skinned. Its fattiness gives cantankerously warm coziness to calories.
Dolce: If I were a betting man, I’d wager that you’ll be bloated with blessings at this point. Take home rice pudding, immensely chocolate with raisins and orange zest; or ladyfingers in light and foaming zabaglione, infused with berries and pomegranate juice; and never lose sight of the perfectly creamy panna cotta custard. Cash in.
FELIX QUI NIHIL DEBET
|Copyright 2007 Richard Max Bockol, Esq.||Back|