Continuing the theme of all things unlikely, we decided to send a seemingly unlikely pair on a blind date to the French–Sicilian fusion restaurant Monsu.
James Fangmeyer: the kind–hearted, Catholic–schooled sophomore of 1 in 4. Marlie Winslow: an avid photographer and sophomore of Hype dance crew who made quilts in Africa this summer. Bottle of wine in hand (did we mention Monsu is a BYO?), James and Marlie ventured to the Italian market to enjoy big portions and small talk.
901 Christian St.
James: Right away Marlie was fun to be with. It seemed like she was really excited about the night.
Marlie: James seemed like a really sweet, down–to–earth guy from the minute that I met him. Instead of going for an awkward handshake, he went right in for a hug. One of the first things that he said to me was, “Were you really excited for this?!” He just seemed like a really friendly guy.
JF: Monsu was fancier than I was expecting, and it wasn’t very big. It was also entirely full of middle–aged people. Marlie and I were the youngest people there by far.
MW: Situated on a cozy corner, the restaurant looked busy, warm and inviting as soon as we hopped out of the cab. I was really glad that I decided to wear black, because the restaurant seemed to be mainly occupied by an older crowd of professionals. The interior was formal, but quaint, with several paintings decorating the walls and cloth napkins on the tables.
JF: The head waiter took our menus from us and said he would bring us lots of different things to try. The food was delicious. There was only one dish we had that was average. I thought the presentation of the dishes was really well done. Each had great colors and flavors.
MW: Within minutes of receiving our menus, the owner of the restaurant approached us and asked whether we would prefer to let him decide. I had never done this before, but James and I both agreed. Let’s just say it was the best decision we could have made. First, they brought out an array of appetizers to share. Of the appetizers, my favorite was actually a snail dish (Lumache Ghiotta), which surprised me, since I had never dared to try it. Overall, the appetizers were all very unique and contained some really interesting flavors while also staying very true to traditional Sicilian food. Then, they brought out a selection of pastas, two of them being gnocchi. I absolutely love gnocchi. My favorite was the Gnocculli, even though it seemed to be the more traditional pasta dish out of the three, I noticed that the dish actually is made with chocolate, cinnamon and rosemary. Finally, they brought out two main entreés. I told the owner that I was a fan of salmon before he brought out the food, and it was awesome that he went out of his way to make sure that I tried some. The salmon was actually cooked in a puff pastry, so it reminded me almost of “chicken pot pie” when I first saw it. But after tasting it, I realized that it was much more flavorful than a pot pie. With the addition of almonds and dates, the dish also had a distinctly autumn feel to it.
JF: Service was fantastic. Several people checked in on us throughout the night. They seemed really excited to have us there and answered all of our questions about each dish.
MW: The service was basically impeccable. From the minute we walked in, we were greeted personally by the owner of the restaurant. For the remainder of the night, he personally brought us our food to the table, while our waitress continually checked on us. Even when we only had a few bites left of a dish, the owner offered to box it up for us (I’m guessing that’s a part of the Silician culture). Dessert
JF: Dessert was sweet, but not too rich. I liked it a lot. We had piece of tiramisu cake and another of chocolate raspberry cake.
MW: My favorite part of eating out is dessert, so obviously I was extremely excited to try some Sicilian desserts. As soon as I saw the flourless chocolate tart, I knew it was love at first sight. I’m a sucker for anything that is unnecessarily and overly chocolate–y, so I was a huge fan of it. It was very rich, but I didn’t care — it was perfect.
JF: Our conversation was delightful and bounced between casual topics and more personal ones.
MW: James and I were surprisingly comfortable with each other given that it was a blind date. We ended up talking a lot about our families, since we realized that we both come from big families. It was refreshing to have a full informal conversation with someone, since I feel like there’s not enough time at Penn to have those. James had a great sense of humor and seemed like he really cared about his family. Although he’s a successful student in Wharton, he was extremely humble, had a relaxed perspective on life and was comfortable in his own skin. He was also a great listener and seemed engaged in what I was saying, even when I felt like I was ranting about my undecided major. Our conversation ranged from Wharton, the quirks of Philly, funny travel stories and why we haven’t dated at Penn, to simply cracking up while people–watching in the restaurant. James nor I has ever dated anyone that goes to Penn, and we agreed that there’s no particular reason why this hasn’t happened yet — we just hadn’t stumbled upon anyone yet.
Would you go for seconds?
MW: I will definitely be going back to Monsu for seconds. It was my first time in Philly’s Italian district, and it will definitely not be my last.
We meant the date…
JF: Yes. I think we’ll make plans for dinner or dessert around campus soon.
MW: I would definitely hang out with James in the future. He’s an all–around sweetheart. To me, humility and a sense of humor about life are the most attractive features in a guy. In the least creepy way possible, James is going to be an amazing dad. Yeah, that’s totally creepy.