Lo Spiedo (Italian for “the spit”), refers to the long metal skewers Marc Vetri’s newest restaurant uses to prepare Italian–meets–Southern barbeque. But it could just as well refer to the drool that pooled in my mouth when I first smelled the haunches of meat roasting in the 6–foot rotisserie.
Located in the Navy Yard, Lo Spiedo is a 15–minute (read: $20) cab ride from campus. If you don’t know how SEPTA works, now is the time to learn. As our waiter, John explained, “To have to travel, the food has to be sort of exceptional, so we have that down pat, I think.”
When the grilled chicken wings ($7) arrived, we knew he was right. Massaged with dry oregano, paprika, cayenne, black pepper, mustard powder and brown sugar, these juicy wings will have you nibbling at the bone. Don’t be afraid to get a little saucy with the Gorgonzola dip—Lo Spiedo is the kind of place where you can eat with your fingers.
Even on a packed Saturday evening, John served our first course in less than five minutes. Lo Spiedo specializes in wood–fired cuisine, so skip the beef tartare ($8); the accompanying grilled focaccia only emphasized its lack of flavor. Equally as disappointing was the mac and cheese ($8), which I had to eat muffin style: top only. The breadcrumbs on the surface added a fun crunch to the ridged–elbow pasta, but the rest was more watery than creamy. The spit–roasted vegetable medley ($12) will make you consider becoming a vegetarian, but only until the entrées.
Between courses, my date and I admired the décor of the two–floor, former Navy Guard house. High ceilings and well–spaced tables spare you from any need of earplugs for good conversation. Mosaic floors and high windows with a view of the river give off an upscale, Mediterranean vibe.
The food is also true to Lo Spiedo’s southern influences. I have close to no southern soul, but ah, those carrots ($5). Cooked in a tangy BBQ sauce and coated with Lo Spiedo’s homemade ranch, the carrots were just as wet as a Bobby Flay dream. Conversely, the signature brisket ($25) was too dry and too smoky. If the tentacles don’t freak you out too much, opt for the roasted octopus instead ($19). Cooked only with olive oil and lemon, this dish is a refreshing break from all the other heavy southern flavors. Bathed in mayo, the octopus roll “New England Style” ($15) is just as good.
By far, the most sexual non–sexual experience of the night was the cast iron apple pie ($10). Secret ingredient? “We use Vodka in the pie dough in place of water,” says Chef Scott Calhoun, “which allows for a crispier flakier crust.” Want to actually feel the alcohol? Calhoun suggests Penn students come for the bar, “featuring house made ginger beer, tonic water, and amazing cocktails.”
All in all, Lo Spiedo is neither cheap nor convenient, but at least you’ve got somewhere delicious to pregame a concert or a Flyers game that’s within spitting distance of the Wells Fargo Centre.