Neighborhood Italian Cooks it Your Way.
“It’s my way or the highway” certainly isn’t the motto at the improperly named Modo Mio, where the service ensures everything is your way. However, Modo Tuo (“your way”), a more apt name, just doesn’t have the same ring.
The zealous and loquacious staff ensures water glasses never reach empty and diners feel at home. From the moment the napkin hits your lap, your waiter–patron conversation is in full swing. By the first of three courses ($33) you’re on a first name basis, and by the second, you feel like old friends.
The meal truly begins as you hear the knife cutting the crusty bread, which you can’t wait to dip into the olive oil and homemade ricotta placed on your table moments before. The thick but not too thick, crispy but not too crispy, salty but not too salty crust marries perfectly with the contrasting moist, dense and squishy center. As you polish off some of Philly’s best bread, smearing it with sweet ricotta now infused with the rosemary essence from the oil, the Modo Mio hype seems to make sense.
The first course, a take on a traditional Baccala (salt cod) and potato dish with jumbo lump crab in place of cod, came served atop a soggy toast — surprising after the rave–worthy bread. The roasted pepper garnish added a necessary acidity, rounding out the pleasing crab potato mix.
A more traditional arrabiata pasta lived up to its devilish name, packing in real spice in each bite. While a few noodles seemed unevenly cooked, the majority took on a perfect al dente, lending to that “bite” only Italian chefs seem to master.
In keeping with the homey ambiance and attentive service, the secondi arrived with a large serving fork and spoon to make our choice to dine family style a bit easier. The Melanzana Ripiena ($15), a tomato braised eggplant cooked in the style of the Molise region, added a welcomed dimension to a typically basic dish. The eggplant, first baked, then scooped out and mixed with “secret” ingredients, topped with bread crumbs and baked again, tasted slightly and surprisingly sweet from the addition of carrots. The addition of some fresh mint made this vegetarian dish a must order.
Moving away from Italian comfort food, the final dishes of the evening featured a more refined subset of the menu. While the skin on the cornmeal crusted trout could have used a little more crisp, the combination of lentil and trout was seamless. The pairing of hearty legume and mild fish worked well in the caper, white wine and butter sauce, but unfortunately, a few bites revealed an inconsistent hand with the salt.
The truffle “candies,” three filled pastas that resembled vintage wrapped hard candies, tasted anything but sweet. The rich dish, not for the faint of heart, added a real truffle pow that few taste buds can resist. The creamy filling lend the dish to sharing, for a few bites proves to be quite filling.
When the mood strikes for Italian, and the classic Rittenhouse BYOs seem too familiar, hail a cab to Northern Liberties. While the taxi fare can be steep, the $33 three course menu cooked modo tuo would be double anywhere else.
161 West Girard Ave.
Don’t Miss: Melanzana Ripiena