Hand-tossed pizza, broccoli rabe, stuffed long hots, sausage and peppers, veal chop parmigiano and, of course, pasta with gravy. On a recent visit, LaScala’s delivered the over-indulgent Italian dinner experience I’ve always dreamed of.
Growing up in a meat-starch-vegetable family — no seconds! — I envied my Italian friend whose grandparents spoke with heavy accents and didn’t understand colloquial phrases like “I’m full.”
Now thanks to LaScala’s, I know where to go to live out this fantasy.
The food — bread, appetizers, small plates, pizzas, entrees and desserts — is plentiful and homey, while also exploring new twists on traditional recipes.
Robert LaScala opened his eponymous restaurant five years ago to honor his grandfathers, and judging from the delicious food and the warm atmosphere, the LaScala family grew up happy, loved, and maybe a little plump.
Along with three hungry friends, I stepped into the brick-walled restaurant, complete with outdoor seating, hanging family photos and a large, Prosecco-slinging bar. (They had me at Prosecco.)
First, we sampled the crispy pizzas, which come with toppings such as clams and bacon, sausage and meatball, and sirloin and gruyere — not exactly your typical takeout pie. The size and variety make them perfect for lunch or for a festive pizza-sharing dinner with family or friends.
Speaking of, the appetizers and small plates could serve as a meal too (but that’s not what South Philly Italian meals are all about). The refreshing octopus salad and grilled lamb spiedini won the day as my faves, with the eggplant meatballs coming in as a close runner-up in the small plate category.
Next came family-style pasta. Take note: If you do one thing this fall, try the short rib agnolotti. This is Chef Joseph Nocella’s prize-winner, as well as my new favorite pasta dish. I’m sure he’ll be adding my recommendation to his accolade list soon enough.
I had trouble deciding between the grilled lamb chop and jumbo crab cake entrees — plus I was a little nervous about my pants splitting at the seam. I’m glad I went with the lamb, which came with wild mushroom polenta cake, but the latter now tops my to-eat list.
Others at the table enjoyed the seafood fradiavlo, an overflowing bowl of lobster, shrimp, scallops, calamari, mussels, clams, crabmeat and linguine with a spicy red sauce; the veal chop parmigiano, a well executed version of the classic dish; and the veal and lobster tail with sauteed wild mushrooms, plum tomatoes and a brandy cream sauce.
I assured our server that there was absolutely no way I could eat anything else, and then she spoke the magic words. Homemade cannolis. I’m only human. My friend gave her cannoli to our cab driver, who I’m guessing considers it the best tip he’s ever received.
LaScala’s sits at the corner of 7th and Chestnut Streets, in close proximity to Old City and Independence Mall, making it a super convenient lunch or dinner choice for anyone visiting Historic Philadelphia.
And overall, while LaScala’s is probably under-the-radar for many foodies, Chef Joseph Nocella’s kitchen is consistently producing accessible and delicious Italian food right here in Center City.
Dishes range from $5 to $31, so there’s something for everyone, even if you just donated your paycheck to some Old City boutiques.
LaScala’s [Visit Philly]