Philadelphia foodie culture is elite, and Spasso is a hidden gem within its broad array of offerings. Though the city is home to a variety of dining options, it can be difficult to find the time to venture off Penn’s campus and explore. More than that, as college students, it’s difficult to find a restaurant that’s both high quality and won’t break the bank. Paying for transportation, the meal, and the tip can quickly add up. At Spasso, this isn’t a concern. You get top restaurant quality without the anxiety or guilt about the idea of checking your bank account after you’ve finished enjoying the meal. 

Located at 34 South Front Street in Old City, Spasso is easily accessible by public transportation. Almost immediately after walking in, a chalk sign above the kitchen reads "Andiamo a Spasso!" Translating to “Let’s go to Spasso!”, it sets a cheerful tone for the upcoming dining experience. The main room has a distinct homely atmosphere, with slightly worn wood floors and distressed brick walls with red accents throughout. There's a mix of tables and booths, as well as  shelves with small decorations such as potted plants in unique containers, an elephant sculpture, and glass blowing projects.

Spasso started us off with the standard pre–meal serving of bread, but with a little extra oomph. Their bread is topped with a mix of roasted vegetables doused in oil that kept me going back for seconds, even after promising that the next piece really was the last one. I was almost worried that I would’ve spoiled my appetite, but after taking the first bite of the main course, that fear immediately dissipated. 

Spasso serves homestyle Italian food with a unique twist—although there are classics on the menu, such as Chicken Parmesan or a NY Strip Steak (which was only $34, opposed to the average $50), they also have a variety of specials and house dishes. Their menu features seafood risotto and scallops positano, as well as veal saltimbocca and pappardelle porcini. These plates aren't offered as frequently at other restaurants.

I ordered the gnocchi with asparagus, topped with asiago cheese and dressed with truffle oil. Gnocchi is difficult to cook, but it was done to perfection that night. It wasn’t too al dente and chewy, but it wasn't mushy, either. The flavors of this meal were exquisite; each bite provided a different blend of the seasonings. It cost only $18, very rare for a dish with truffles. 

Additionally, Spasso’s portion sizes are enormous; many of my friends and I took leftovers home and enjoyed this meal for the next few days to come. The food reheated well, not becoming soggy or losing its flavor, as leftovers are infamous for. Many sophisticated restaurants also charge exorbitant prices for portion sizes barely bigger than an apple—thankfully, Spasso deviates from this trend. Spasso's prices become even more reasonable when considering that these meals will last for multiple days. 

The dessert menu includes chocolate mousse cake, cheesecake, and then more traditional Italian offerings, such as profiterole (cream–filled pastry covered with chocolate), tartufo (chocolate–covered ice cream), and spumoni (layered ice cream with fruit and nuts)—all for $10 or less. The mix of contemporary and traditional makes sure all patrons will have something to enjoy. 

The atmosphere inside Spasso is also warm and welcoming. At the time my friends and I were dining, there was a birthday celebration for one of the families next to us. The entire restaurant joined in for a thunderous rendition of “Happy Birthday,” followed by a round of applause. The guest of honor, who seemed around the age of a young teenager, looked overjoyed to have those around her join in the celebration. The waiters were kind and attentive, with a quick service speed and friendly demeanor. They're able to accommodate larger parties as well, making it the perfect place to catch up with a group of friends after a busy week. 

If you’re looking for a budget–friendly evening in Center City at a homestyle Italian restaurant (and hoping for leftovers), consider Spasso as your next destination.