Monsu in the Italian Market and his original, Modo Mio, just a few blocks away on Girard Avenue. The airy room is sparsely decorated, allowing the exposed brick walls, floor-to-ceiling windows and cloth-draped tables to stand on their own, with a few black and white photos from McAndrews’ own trips to Italy adding a personal touch.
The main focus in the 40-seat restaurant - one that immediately draws your eye and stimulates your palate - is the tavole calde (“hot table”). As is common in Rome, the centrally located stand is loaded with a daily changing assortment of antipasti platters, which range from roasted peppers and sauteed eggplant to olives and bean salads. Almost all are prepared with the best unfiltered extra virgin olive oil McAndrews could find, and everything on the table is vegetarian, save for a stand holding black label prosciutto di Parma, which awaits carving to order by hand. Diners can request a p late filled with a custom assortment of goods for $8 per person.
Additional antipasti and contorni fill out the small-plate side of the menu, which is designed to highlight the food of the “common people” for which the trattoria is named. All $10 and under, apps include nervetti (a crispy fried calves’ foot pâté that's like a Roman-style scrapple) served beneath a fried egg; sweet shrimp with artichoke cake; tomato-braised tripe and more. A dozen or so larger dishes include housemade pastas with simple but piquant sauces (most meatless), as well as entrees like veal saltimbocca, pork chops and oxtail, topping out at $23.
Long a friend and fan of McAndrews, Four Seasons front-of-the-house veteran Steve Flis will run the dining room, which will be slightly more upscale than Modo Mio, but “still fun.” Dinner is served nightly, Wednesday–Monday (opening night is March 14), and lunch will begin soon. So will brunch on the weekends, which will see slightly more traditional American fare served piatto unico (“single plate”) style – just like an “Americana” breakfast in Italy would be. Expertly pulled espressos (using Italian coffee) and housemade sweets will round out the offerings.
501 Fairmount Ave.; 215-928-0106
Check out a slideshow and the menu: