Alla Spina is Marc Vetri’s latest venture in Philly, boasting a pork-centric menu and more approachable pricing than his other Philly locales. In the lull of hurricane Sandy, we decided that it would be a good night to try it out sans-crowds.
Holly had a flight of sour beers which helped her find the one beer she wanted to drink for the rest of the night. I tried their unique Alla Spina Weiss (brewed by Victory) which I instantly loved.
Alla Spina is definitely beer-drinker’s restaurant, with over 20 beers on tap and an extensive bottle list. This was Vetri’s goal with this place, since the rest of the Vetri family is pretty heavily geared toward wine drinkers.
Current Tap List on PhillyTapFinder
We both hadn’t really eaten much that day and driving around looking for a place to go/making up our minds only increased our hunger. So, we went to town.
Both: House-made Pretzels with Spicy Beer Cheese
This was one appetizer we both seriously underrated in our minds before actually getting. For 5 dollars you get at least 10 giant soft pretzel balls and super tasty hot cheese dip. The best pretzel flavor-wise that I’ve ever had was the classic german-style bretzels at Brauhaus Schmidtz, but Vetri’s pretzels take the cake for texture and just-out-of-the-oven warmth. The cherry on this sundae was that the pretzels were served in a wooden bowl carved in the shape of a pig. INSTANT LOVE.
Josh: Beer Cheese Toast with Fried Egg and Bacon
This was both more and better than I expected it to be. I usually don’t go for over-easy eggs, but this was kinda the perfect storm for it. The sourdough toast was covered in a cheese sauce very similar to that we had for the pretzels (only better), and the bacon came wonderfully smoked and perfectly chewy. This was one of the best examples of breakfast food made for dinner I’ve had in awhile.
Holly: Pig Tails with Fennel Agrodolce
This was definitely a dish Holly was interested in, but I wanted no part of it. The pig tails were perfectly crisp and were presented almost like buffalo wings (although far tastier and of course porkier). These were a super delicious appetizer that was messy in the best possible way. It sounded gross and weird, and it tasted like perfect bar food. Foodie heaven.
Both: Slow-Roasted Glazed Pork Shoulder
Did I mention we were crazy hungry? For the main course we went above and beyond and ordered the pork shoulder off the specials menu, and it was possibly one of the best foodie experiences I have ever had in a restaurant (major props to Vetri and whoever was in the kitchen that night). The wait was long (though aided by the aforementioned delicious appetizers) but well worth it, and as the dish hit the serving window the chef excitedly called out “this is for you!” to our table. The pork glaze on top was perfectly caramelized and crisp, giving way to a layer of fat underneath and incredibly juicy and tender pork. The glaze was salty, sweet, and acidic: complementing the meat perfectly. To help cut through the fat, the roast pork was served on a bed of mustard greens, sliced carrots, and thinly sliced apples. This dish was meant for two, and truthfully we could not finish it after the appetizers, but it did make for some of the best leftovers I’ve ever had. If you are interested in giving it a go yourself, try out the recipe.
Like any good restaurant design, the interior of Alla Spina enhances and mimics the philosophy behind the food. Alla Spina falls somewhere between industrial and rustic, with a fun atmosphere aided by bright colors, warm lighting, and custom street art created by a local graffiti artist. The restaurant is literally a converted car repair shop, and the designers from Gruber Design Associates intended to keep that feel. The interior distinctly urban with an underscoring of Italian elements.
Why do we know about some of the design developement for Alla Spina? Holly was contracted by Gruber Design Associates to create concept art for the space. Check it out:
Design by Gruber Design Associates
Despite not having a hostess in any real way, we were acknowledged as soon as we walked in the door and seated right away. Our service was prompt and basically everyone in the place was very on the ball. Part of the reason we go out weeknights if for the smaller crowd and faster service in general – this apparently was doubly true during the approach of a Hurricane Sandy.
Drinks range from 9-11 each and prices on the beer list were harder to nail down, but all seemed appropriate for the bottles. The food is good value, they offer a solid menu with variety of charcuterie, cheese, desserts and a daily mac and cheese that change up and could be anything when you arrive. We spent around $100, but as we have already mentioned, we went to town on this meal. You could easily stop by for a drink and appetizer and spend under $30.
Overall Experience: 5/5
Will We Visit Again:
We already have :-) Pro-tip: You HAVE to go there for brunch. Hearty food, great atmosphere, and friendly prompt wait-staff are the best. We went there on New Year’s day and watched the Mummers Parade on the big screen while we nursed our growing hangovers – it was the perfect cure.