What do an Irish, a Moroccan and a Mexican have in common? Popolino! Peter McAndrews the owner of Popolino- the Irish, our server- Moroccan, and the manager- Mexican! You wouldn’t be able to tell walking into the restaurant which feels as Italian as you can get. You may even feel like you are walking into an episode of the Sopranos waiting for the director to call “cut”.
As a fan of Peter McAndrew’s Modo Mio and Paesano’s we wanted to try his other restaurants starting with Popolino (meaning ‘commoner’ in Roman dialect). The experience at Modo Mio was so amazing that we went in with really high expectations for our meal. And while the two restaurants have many things in common including the menu tourista, it ends there. Even though many of the items on the menu closely reflect those offered at Modo Mio- the quality of the food and service was definitely not the same.
At the center of this BYOB restaurant was the Tavola Calda, a ‘hot table’ selection of room temperature antipasti Roman Style ($10). As one of the starter options, diners could walk around and choose from all the different dishes.
We tried the hot table, Mozzarella in Carozza, Arugula Salad and complimentary bruschetta. Amongst it all the mozzarella in carozza dish stood out as the most delicious: a large stuffed Italian bread, egg dipped, pan friend and served in a creamy anchovy caper butter.
The starters were the best part of the night since the pasta left us all unsatisfied. The Bucatini all’Amatriciani was overcooked, slightly cold and lacking the amazing flavors we tasted at Modo Mio. The Gnocchi di Castagne was my least favorite. The gnocchi itself was doughy and chewy. The best part of the dish was the chestnut and ricotta sauce mixed with mushrooms, white wine and tomatoes. It was again a disappointment especially when compared to the gnocchi served at Modo Mio. The Cannelloni with oxtail and Gorgonzola cheese was the best of the three dishes. Although, I found it to be too oily and greasy.
Only one person from our party tried the menu tourista as it really is an abundance of food. For the mail meat dish, our friend ordered the Porchetta. A crispy roasted suckling pig served with coriander, goccia, porcini and provolone gauzetto. He seemed to thoroughly enjoy every bite, ranting and raving about the experience. As for the rest of us, we looked forward to our dessert.
The desserts at Popolino are standard desserts available at most Italian restaurants. Amongst our orders were the Panna Cotta, tiramisu and chocolate cake. While they were all good, none stood out as being outstanding and memorable.
Our friends, being Philly natives did not seem overly impressed by Popolino and I had to reassure them that Modo Mio was quite a different experience. This restaurant has a lot of potential given that it is a McAndrews establishment, the menu looks good and the decor is brilliant. I only hope that in time the food becomes as good as McAndrew’s other restaurants.
Tavole Calde (or “Hot Table”)
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday,
Saturday & Sunday
Lunch – 11.00am – 2.30pm
Dinner – 5.00pm – 10.00pm
Tuesday – Closed