Ozzie's Trattoria

1651 E. Passyunk Avenue
(215) 755-1981

"I'll have de salmon and roasted putatiz wit basil," she exclaims from behind her menu, sitting hunched forward anticipating a glance at the wine list. "Salmon" is pronounced as if it were the first portion of "Sal Mineo;" and "basil" comes forth as the first name of Mr. Rathbone. We're in the heart of South Philadelphia at Ozzie's Trattoria where Passyunk Avenue crosses through every main artery. The sounds of patrons here are deliciously voweled and consummately consonanted.

This restaurant was designed by someone seeing purple. The tablecloths are deeply that shade. The parlor chairs are a shinier, purplinkish hue. Wainscoting and diamond engravings are lavender, with splashes of mauve gladiolae on ledges between Palladian arches. Golden dripping chandeliers and matching sconces add glitter onto the bright white dishware, all of whose circumferences are outlined by two circular stripes of gray and violet.

A basket of bread arrives via the left hand of a tuxedoed, bouffanted waitress. In her right hand is a plate with four long, oiled, charred green peppers. The shades of them portend the degree of incineration each might cause thereafter. The emerald green (the two mildest) I leave for others. One of the army green, I pull by its stem toward my mouth, and crunch it in half, just below its seedy protuberance. I hear Caruso hit a high E sharp in a tenor's thunderous voice. This is odd, as there's no recording or music playing. I next remember groping for the Italian loaf.

"Ya fromoutatown?", the kind waitress wisely queries, as she pats the back of my neck and orders me a beer. "In Philadelphia, never bite what'll bite ya back!"

Complimentary Escarole Soup appears in a steaming cup. It is filled to brim with brilliantly orange carrots, eighth-of-an-inch penne cubes and blessedly dark chicken chunks. Atop the melange is a pompadour of verdant escarole bathing its leaves to a final wilt. Ground Parmesan cheese is offered and accepted to add froth and a dairy perfume. Soup spoons tremble from the weight of the ingredients. However, when delivered to one's lips, the lightest ethereal flavors merge into every oral crevice. For fear of groaning too loudly, you hold your broth and breath. You exhale after swallowing to a sigh of seasonings.

Never hesitate to choose the Eggplant Parmesan ($5.50 appetizer). Nowhere else is it tastier (although Harry's Bar in Venice comes a close second). Two three-inch round eggplant slices are sauteed in the most delicate virgin olive oil so that the slices are just opaque. Topped with cheeses in the infancy of melting, then covered in breading and baked to a crisp. A coulis of tomatoes surrounds the mounds. There is no more perfect preamble to one's entree. Subtle aromas arouse every tastebud within fifteen feet.

Entrees are of glamorous proportions and flamboyant presentation. They are served with free sides of al dente vegetables or pasta. After the gratuitous donations of bread and peppers and soup, and postprandial disposition of eggplant, a simple chicken dish seems nomological.

Chicken Sicilian ($14.95) is loaded with mild pepper slices, memorably massive mushroom parts, sweet onions and olive slivers. The white breast chicken chunks burst with jaunty juiciness. The oval plate upon which all is served is simmering in heat. Your nose is drawn to its surface, where, as if it were typing the WHEREAS clauses of an Agreement, it moves from left to right boldly beginning an explanation of the reasons for swooning heartily.

Every piece of chicken finds its way to your jaw, where your tongue positions it for teeth to tap, then trample. All that is sybaritic, sylphlike and redolent of Sicily comes to mind. Your speech patterns, with Ozzie's Chicken Sicilian in your cheeks, emulates Brando in the "Godfather" movies.

Even though a platter of deserts is brought to table, pompously paraded and exposed, I can merely muster a lisping, "Tira Misu," as if requiring the pastry chef to "tear at tissue." Only after passing South Street, heading home, does that portion of the brain controlling speech return to normal. The stomach still heads south on "Pashunk".


Copyright 2004 Richard Max Bockol, Esq. Back