South Philadelphia is home to everything Italian. From the famed Italian Market, to the numerous restaurants, South Philly has been bursting with Mediterranean flavor for years.
Gnocchi, a little gem of a restaurant, tucked away in a quiet block just off South Street, offers authentic Italian cuisine in a quaint atmosphere. With the hustle and bustle of the city’s most popular weekend hangout just a few steps away, it’s hard to believe that a restaurant like this can thrive.
Yet it has, attracting customers with its moderate prices, great service and most importantly, great food.
Passing by on the street, you probably wouldn’t even know it was there, but once you step inside, Gnocchi lives up to its Italian namesake with a warm and inviting atmosphere.
One side of the restaurant is a bare, brick wall with dimly-lit candles lighting it up like a narrow Venetian side street. On the other side, giant murals of Roman-era art adorn the walls, with wooden pillars adding a sense of an Italian villa-type feel.
The waitstaff is quick to seat you and take your drink order. But one thing to remember is that Gnocchi is a BYOB restaurant. This offers flexibility for many people, as they can bring their favorite wine to accompany their meal choice. If you’re under 21, though, expect to be limited to water, since soft drinks and the like are not offered.
The menu, although by no means exhaustive, includes a wonderful variety of appetizers, entrees and desserts.
The ability of the chef to prepare special dishes and incorporate unique ideas into the menu is one thing, but it does become somewhat difficult to listen to the specials being rambled off – you simply forget the first few as you near the end of the list.
Once you do decide on a meal, however, you are almost guaranteed a great dish. Of the short list of appetizers, some of the best are the simplest on the menu. There is a grilled mozzarella over tomato, with a topping of basil, and a tasty concoction of portabella mushrooms in a light sauce, sautéed with chicken. Other appetizers include a selection of cheeses, roasted peppers and anchovies, and even grilled octopus.
Entrees are divided into either meat or pasta categories, with pasta courses including Italian fare like fettuccine with fresh tomatoes and shitake mushrooms. The Pollo al Limone, a chicken breast sautéed with white wine, lemon and mushrooms, is particularly flavorful.
Another great chicken dish is the Pollo Gnocchi, a breast of chicken with portabella mushrooms.
But the most prominent dish is the namesake of the restaurant itself, gnocchi. The potato-filled or spinach-filled pasta dish, served with a variety of sauces, is available on its own in the form of several entrees. A smaller portion is also served on the side of meat and pasta dishes, and it truly is a treat.
After you’re full from the combination of appetizer, entrée and numerous glasses of wine, try one of Gnocchi’s desserts. The tiramisu is served with Italian gelato on the side, and is just the right complement to that after-dinner cup of espresso.
Gnocchi is not the type of place that will stand out when you’re walking down the street, but once you step inside and sample the atmosphere and great cuisine, you’ll be pleased. The price of the meal, as well, will be a source of much relief (entrees are mostly $10-$12).
If you want authentic Italian cuisine at moderate prices, in a comfortable atmosphere, try some of the South Philly flavor that is Gnocchi.
Gnocchi is located at 613 E. Passyunk Ave., just a few steps off South Street. For more information call (215) 592-8300.
Ross Bercik can be reached at email@example.com