The high ceilings and tall windows of Pizzicato invite gazing in—and out. Whether the patrons or the passersby have the better view is hard to say, because life on both sides of the glass is trendy and sophisticated. The restaurant is set on a placid corner of the Promenade at Sagemore mall, a fashionable oasis serving the fast-growing suburbs facing Philadelphia. Diners glancing up will see shoppers toting bags from Promenade tenants such as Bose, Apple, Adrienne Vittadini, Smith & Hawken, Eastern Mountain Sports, and L.L. Bean. Pedestrians looking in will see stylish, casually dressed people ensconced in curvy banquettes under the golden glow of handsome neo-retro chandeliers.
Of course, it’s good to remember that Pizzicato is no more a real Italian bistro than the Promenade is a real village of indigenous shops. Something does get lost in translation. There are tasty dishes here, the ingredients are fresh, and the prices, while hardly bargains, don’t gouge, especially considering the ample portions. But when weighing certain details of conception and execution, Pizzicato winds up oddly run-of-the-mill.
A case in point: The menu lists pan-fried artichoke hearts with fresh tomatoes, olives, and capers, but the dish turns out to have none of these, suggesting some miscommunication between the kitchen and the front of the house. What it does have—unbilled but welcome—is a tangle of crisp, delicious shoestring fried zucchini laid over an excellent lemon-butter sauce among the fried artichoke hearts, as well as a touch of genius, though possibly inadvertent: long, thin, fresh chive stalks tossed on top, their faint bitterness clicking with and completing the trifecta of lemon and zucchini and cutting through the fried-ness. I don’t bother to cut the chives, but shovel them in along with the zucchini strips, enjoying the billy-goat sensation of green stalks wagging from the corners of my mouth as I chew. As for the main ingredient, the pan-fried artichoke hearts, they should have been peeled and plucked more carefully, because only a real billy goat would enjoy chomping on the inedible parts of the leaves.
And so it goes. Pizza, a house specialty, boasts a crisp thin crust as billed, but the four-cheese version we sample turns gloppy once the dense mozzarella starts to cool. A mountainous portion of fettuccine Bolognese is underwhelming in flavor. Quite fresh beef carpaccio, rather than reliably melting in the mouth, sometimes contains chewy little clumps that must be discreetly deposited on the bread plate behind a piece of crust.
Among the entrées, the sautéed free-range chicken breast and diver scallops over sautéed spinach with sliced shiitakes suggests a culinary round-up-the-usual-suspects, with nothing intrinsically pulling the ingredients together—certainly not the almost indiscernible Meyer lemon demi-glace described on the menu. A swordfish special with red-pepper sauce over crabmeat risotto also seems like the result of an ingredient popularity poll rather than an inspired combination, although the crabmeat itself is delicious and plentiful.
I’m in favor of a constitutional amendment banning dessert trays, whose specimens—often not that appetizing to begin with—tend to look increasingly haggard as the night goes on.
In the eating, the carrot cake proves soggy and too sweet, but the chocolate- banana spring rolls—fried to a crispy brown outside, melting and sensuous inside, and served with vanilla ice cream—are clever and fun.
Reviewed in: February, 2006Click here to leave a comment
- Cuisine Type:European - Italian
- Price Range:Moderate
- Ambience:Plush modern bistro
- Service:Pleasant and efficient
- Wine list:BYO