Midtown Village is a hub for foodies. Specifically walking down the area of 13th and Sansom, it seems like everywhere you look there is a new venue popping up offering decadent cuisine, a bevy of spirited drinks and plenty of cultural atmosphere. And yet, in a melting pot of hospitality the area’s newest addition, Prunella, certainly stands out.
Michael Schulson’s new spot centers its cuisine on Italian fare with some American twists—specifically pizza, pasta and some unique starters with fresh ingredients.
The venue itself however, starts off the meal with a visual appetizer. It’s light, bright and airy with soft wood fixtures, a gorgeous white marble-topped bar area, open windows and even a decent amount of outside tables that seem all seem to blend together in this small, but mighty space. And even though it opened in the spring, Prunella feels oddly (and satisfyingly) like summer.
Sitting in Philadelphia, patrons who dine at this new hotspot can’t help but feel like they’re somewhere, well, a bit more tropical. The venue is not a tiki bar, and doesn’t have a beach theme, but, it feels like it should be situated somewhere on the Amalfi Coast or in the South of France. While sitting inside, it seems likely that you would peer out and see a beautiful body of water while the breeze floats in—however, the City of Brotherly Love isn’t exactly a bad backdrop either.
Food-wise at Prunella, Culinary Director Ed Pinellowill offers an American-style pizza and fresh pasta menu. The pizza specifically has been the focal for many who have already dined here, and it’s earned that title rightfully so. Using their own type of styling (crispy on the bottom to hold thick and fresh ingredient combos on top) it’s a nice surprise to find a spot in the city that can rival even mom and pop shops in terms of taste, but have the added factor of interesting toppings to make it a bit more gourmet.
A few standouts include the Spring Fling (made with asparagus, egg and black truffle), Octo-Pie (octopus, pistachio pesto and mozzarella), The Big Nick (porcini crema, mushroom and burrata), and Made to Speck (speck, potato and leeks.) However, you don’t need to go overboard with venturing out, those who like more classic combos will also be able to dive headfirst into the menu with options like the Cheesy Parisi (garlic, mozzarella and tomato), Plain Jane (tomato, mozzarella and basil) and The Process (pepperoni, pickled peppers and provolone.)
On the pasta side of the menu, Prunella also offers three selections: the Ricotta Gnundi, Fettucini Carbonera and Safron Cavatelli. It’s a little bit of a Sophie’s Choice when it comes to this category, but luckily, you can’t go wrong here. The Ricotta Gnundi (made with tomato and pecorino) however is definitely packed with a lot of flavor. Think little pillows of cheese and sauce resting on a bed of sausage, or as one server described it: “Italian dumplings.” The Fettuccini on the other hand is made with pancetta, English peas and parmesan, while the Cavatelli boasts lamb ragu, mint and pecorino.
Also on the menu are a series of small plates that have as much punch in their bites as the main dishes do. There’s the Spicy Cesar Salad (made with little gems, Calabrian chili and breadcrumbs), the Burrata (radicchio jam, olive oil and pizza fritta), Scallop Crudo (apple, radish and green chili), and the Pork Milanese (lemon asparagus and spring vegetables.) But some standouts come in the form of fresh meats and vegetables.
The Veal Meatballs for one are a show-stopping addition to the menu. Made with tomato, ricotta and parmesan, these stand out in flavor and melt in your mouth, but come served in a bowl of sauce with cooked pizza dough (for dipping of course) on the side. Another hard-hitter comes in the form of the Octopus. It comes out crispy, and adds a level of familiarity for even those who aren’t adventurous eaters. It’s then served with spring onions, potatoes and grilled lemon.
Drinks-wise, the establishment also offers a bevy of different choices. On the bar menu is an assortment of cocktails with some standouts including the Farewell Daiquiri (coconut-washed rum and campari) and the Honey Fitzgerald (gin, grappa and lemon). But the establishment also offers up different wines seemingly straight from the rainbow as white, red, rose, sparkling and even orange are on the list.
Beer lovers will also be able to sift through some draft and can options, and those who opt out of the spirits also have a few unique options, such as a “spa water,” spicy cola, and a “Pi N/A Colada.”
The experience is all tied up in a bow with the staff, who are as passionate and informative about the menu as you probably are in eating it. From start to finish, Prunella is a welcoming experience, and will likely become a neighborhood favorite—even for those who don’t live in the zip code.
For more information on Prunella (112 S. 13th St.,) visit prunellaphl.com
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