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Bistro Romano – Philadelphia, PA

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Bistro Romano – Philadelphia, PA
120 Lombard Street, Society Hill
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 925-8880
Meal: Weekend / 830p

Bistro Romano, a trendy-yet-historical (trendstorical?) hideaway on the end of Lombard street, could probably charge an admission fee even if they didn’t serve food. After all, they’ve got a swanky location (a short walk to the waterfront), an amazing history (the last stop of an underground railroad), and some neat artifacts (the upstairs bar made from the remains of a 1912 steamer) tucked inside an upscale but not stuffy brick and wooden interior. Still, as impressive as the building is, they’ve still got to wow us with the food or everything else will quickly be less interesting.

Reservations are recommended if you’re looking for a weekend spot, and absolutely essential if you’re going to try the dinner theatre (which we haven’t). Good parking can be found in a metered lot right on the waterfront that isn’t too expensive for a few hours. As soon as you walk in, you’ll likely be greeted by a friendly but often frazzled hostess, and be welcomed with the sounds of piano in the bar. Most likely, they’ll ask you to take a seat until your table is ready. The bar itself is absolutely gorgeous, with a smallish LCD TV if you want to sneak a peek at the game. Mostly, though, you’ll enjoy the sounds of the piano with your favorite alcoholic beverage. I wasn’t blown away with the long island iced teas, but Autumn enjoyed her usual malibu and diet coke. We dug up the receipt for the bar, and it was a significant $24 for three mixed drinks.

Once your table is ready, you’ll be escorted into the wine cellar. You can see abundant photos on the Bistro Romano site, but expect candlelit wooden tables with simple tablecloths against a brick wall. Some center tables seem way too busy for my tastes, but if you can get a spot in a corner you’ll have a terrific amount of privacy. The service is above average, with the wait staff friendly across the board and fairly knowledgeable about the menu. As typical, I asked a lot of portion-related questions and left with mostly a good idea about the size of what I was about to order. The complimentary bread was pretty good but probably not the best we’ve ever had, though they will bring you more if you want it.

For an appetizer, I tried the calamari fritti (see photo). It was sensational. Definitely too big for one (I ended up taking half home since Autumn doesn’t like little squids), but a very good value for the $10.95 charged. For our main entrees, I kept the seafood route going with their grouper aspargi ($22.95), and Autumn tried the broccoli and sausage siena ($19.95). Both dishes were excellent. I can’t recall having grouper before, but if all grouper is as good as their grouper then I’ll be ordering a lot more of it. Pan seared and served with spring mix, white beans, and asparagus, it was pretty much one of the best fish dinners I’ve had in recent memory. The side of oven-baked potato wedges and seasonal veggies (mostly zucchini) was also very good. Autumn’s broccoli, sausage, and rigatoni selection was also met with great enthusiasm. “A bargain at twice the price”, she ended up eating her remaining half for lunch the following day. It was absolutely a complete portion, bursting with sweet sausage, tender rigatoni, and crisp broccoli. We both compared the meals to our favorites at the Melange Cafe, which says an awful lot about the quality at Bistro Romano.

We didn’t have room for the dessert, but their menu had 9 or 10 options for further indulgence. We absolutely recommend visiting Bistro Romano the next time you’re in the city. We would also love to hear about the mystery theatre, which is a $42.95/pp evening getting you a hors d’oeuvre reception, a who-dun-it production (‘Murder at the Irish Wake’), and a four-course meal. Our only criticism of the package seems to be its selections. You are locked into the minestrone soup, house salad, and a cheesecake dessert; the only choice is of the three main entrees (chicken marsala, salmon, or rigatoni). It’d be nice to have at least an alternative soup, salad, and dessert choice as well.

You can find discount coupons (buy one, get one) in the 2010 Entertainment Books.

– Interesting, Unique Atmosphere
– Polite service
– Terrific food
– Great place for a date, anniversary, etc

– Mixed drinks are pricey
– Mystery Theatre dining options limited

Guru’s Score: 4.6


Subjective rating: A top pick.

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