Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Have It Your Way

Seared sea scallop with a chickpea crepe, cherries,
ricotta salata and asparagus
Peter McAndrews is a culinary Roman emperor. With Italian BYOB Modo Mio Trattoria and Paesano's sandwich shop in Philadelphia's Northern Liberties, new Silician-influenced Monsù and a second Paesano's in the Italian Market, and a forthcoming brick-oven pizza place in Delaware County, McAndrews has garnered praise from foodies, even earning an appearance on Bobby Flay's Showdown! show on the Food Network.

Part of the essence of Italian cooking is famiglia, and McAndrews hasn't forgotten his. His children have celiac disease, and so the chef makes sure to have gluten-free options available at all of his restaurants.

Fusilli Amatriciana
On a recent Saturday, we were able to score a last-minute, early-evening opening at Modo Mio (161 W. Girard Ave., 215-203-8707), Italian for "my way." It's a small house, with about 40 seats plus some sidewalk tables. Diners can choose from the menu a la carte or can opt for the turista, a four-course meal that appealed to our older son.

Our son's eyes grew wide when our server brought us complimentary gluten-free crostini, drizzled with porcini-infused olive oil atop homemade ricotta cheese. Also on the house was a cheese plate topped with sun-dried tomatoes and chestnut-flavored honey. Our son wasn't left out of the bread brigade either; he fancied several slices of warm, crusty gluten-free dough in the run-up to his meal.

Flourless chocolate torte topped with whipped cream
and strawberries
For his antipasti course, our older one savored a seared jumbo scallop atop a chickpea crepe with asparagus. A plate of gluten-free fusilli came next, crowned with a superb spicy Amatriciana sauce. The flaky branzino (which we had the kitchen debone) followed, sprinkled with capers, basil and chopped tomatoes. Our son finished his tour of Italy with a flourless chocolate torte.

I readily acknowledge that most 10-year-olds are not eating this adventurously, and this restaurant probably isn't a place for younger children. The menu, which McAndrews changes every six to eight weeks, isn't your pedestrian Italian fare. However, adults - and their kids with bold palates - will no doubt enjoy McAndrews' reign over creative Italian cuisine in Philadelphia.

Modo Mio on Urbanspoon

Nominated for the Epikur Writer of the Year Award
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