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100 Old Gulph Road
Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania
(610) 520-1200

If you're planning to dine at Savona, a word of warning: Be sure to bring your platinum card, checkbook, or lots of long green... Better still, best case scenario... have someone else pick up the tab. Yes, Savona is expensive.

Just how expensive...? Well, appetizers are all in the high teens, intruding into the low twenties, peaking at $24.00 for the lobster fettuccine with Hudson Valley Foie Gras ($45.00 for the entrée portion). Main courses are all in the high thirties with the rack of lamb rocking the culinary Richter scale at $40.00. True sticker shock, however, swims in with the Dover sole, available at Market Price. The market price the night we celebrated our anniversary was $50.00. How do I know...? My wife ordered it.

Well, you get the picture. Chowing down at Savona is certainly not a cheap date. In point of fact, the bottom line of our little anniversary excursion was $428.00, including a marvelous 2004 Louis Jadot Chassagne-Montrachet ($110.00).

But the big question remains: Is it worth it? And since there is, perhaps, no frustration greater than throwing good money after bad food, it is certainly germane. My response is a resounding Yes! In the western suburbs, for that special occasion, Savona is truly in a class by itself. The Italian-French cuisine is lovingly prepared and artistically presented, the service is impeccable, and the wine is list superb.

The aforementioned Dover sole, for example, which has been known to suffer the deleterious effects of jet lag, is here presented beautifully sautéed, filleted tableside, and finished with an incomparable lemon butter sauce. The texture of the fish is tender yet firm to the bite -- precisely as it should be -- and the natural flavorful attributes readily apparent.

The pan-seared herb-crusted halibut is yet another superlative effort. The pristinely white flesh is cooked through, not at all translucent at the core, yet it remains moist and succulent to the last bite. It is sided by an attractive vegetable medley and ramekins of tomato concasse & seductively salty olive tapenade.

The blue crab starter offered rich morsels of crab companioned by confit rhubarb, chorizo powder, strawberry rhubarb purée, and a provocative pickled lime vinaigrette. A rather odd combo, to be sure, but a marriage that worked superbly, as the crunchiness of the rhubarb provided a perfect counterpoint to the crab's inherent sweetness.

The warm heirloom potato salad also pushed all the right buttons. Comprised of fingerling, red bliss, and purple potatoes, accoutrements include a shallot confit, splash of whole grain mustard, and dashes of Parmesan and prosciutto.

The cuisine, as I noted above, is excellent on all counts... ditto the service. But there are a few unaccountable anomalies. The diminutive bar, for example, is located right at the restaurant's entrance and is not particularly conducive to a quiet preprandial libation or intimate conversation. On a previous visit, when we arrived early for a glass of wine before dinner, the bartender didn't make us feel particularly welcome.

Secondly, the young headwaiters dress in almost comical ill-fitting black suits, bearing uncanny resemblance to moonlighting funeral directors. You would think that a restaurant of this caliber could provide more appropriate sartorial finery.

Lastly, several sections of the restaurant proper are inordinately noisy. My advice is to specifically request the glass-enclosed porch, which exhibits a somewhat more reasonable decibel level.

The Artful Diner
July 2008

The Artful Diner is an independent, freelance food writer.  His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.

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