4799 West Chester Pike
Tucked away behind a Giant Food Market, Trattoria Giuseppe isn’t all that easy to find – but, in my opinion, it’s worth the effort. The restaurant’s utilitarian exterior does little to impress, but the main dining areas exude the rustic charm of a Sicilian piazza, replete with Italian clay tile, wrought iron, marble, and wood fashioned together in stone and stucco. You may also opt for alfresco dining in warmer weather.
The cuisine, however, rife with southern Italian flair, continues to be the restaurant’s chief drawing card… Couple this with its plenteous portions, reasonable prices, and the fact that you may tote along a vintage of your own choosing, and you have an extremely attractive dining option for either lunch or dinner.
The menu is extensive, sporting a slew of appetizers, salads, pizzas, and 40 pastas. These are supplemented by a select number of veal and chicken dishes, a fresh fish of the day, several sandwich possibilities, and a few daily specials. The menu is the same at both lunch and dinner (and priced accordingly), with pizza and sandwiches served at lunch only. No matter when you dine, however, you’re not likely to leave hungry. As noted above, portions are quite generous and doggie bags are very much in evidence.
Appetizers have a familiar ring – bruschetta, mussels in marinara, squid grilled and fried, prosciutto & melon, etc., etc.; and salads – Caesar, mixed, and variations on the arugula theme – also round up the usual suspects. All are recommended… but there are infinitely more exciting possibilities here – pizza, for instance. There are some 21 items listed on the printed menu, so the terror of “choice overload” looms rather large on the horizon. On a positive note, however, there are quite a few tempting items you’re not likely to encounter at your local pizza joint. The Sicilia combines tomato sauce & mozzarella with chunks of ham & pineapple; the Como adds onion and tuna fish to the festivities; the San Remo goat cheese & smoked salmon; and the Giuseppe piles on shrimp & crabmeat.
Recently sampled, though, was the more traditional Bologna, which partners tomato sauce & mozzarella with crumbled sausage & spinach. Very good, indeed. The pizzas here are thick crusted and, although I’m partial to a thin crust, Giuseppe’s representatives are delightfully crisp and not at all doughy (the Achilles’ heel of thick crust pizzas). And, as you may observe from the photo, the kitchen doesn’t scrimp on ingredients.
Pasta dishes are equally up to the mark, with the 40 selections running the gamut from simple to complex. Whatever your peculiar pasta predilection, you’re sure to find it here. When it comes to seafood, for example, you may opt for the Linguini ai Frutti di Mare, awash with mussels, squid, and crabmeat, or zero in on a particular solo piscatorial possibility, including shrimp scampi.
Bolognese also appears in numerous incarnations – including spaghetti, tagliatelle, penne, ravioli, and tortellini. But if you really want a treat, be sure to pair this rich ground meat sauce with the gnocchi, diminutive potato dumplings, whose ethereal countenance appears just the right target for this lusciously visceral assault.
The Filetto di Pomodoro is an old favorite that incorporates fresh chopped tomatoes, onions, & prosciutto into a delectable web of capellini. A benchmark effort. But even better, in my opinion, is the Spaghetti alla Norma, which combines eggplant with a fresh tomato sauce. The major problem with adding eggplant to pasta is that this vegetable tends to be undercooked and chewy. Here, however, the eggplant is lightly breaded, then fried and cut into bite-size portions before being tossed with the pasta and sauce. The result is a perfectly prepared delicious amalgam. But the crowning touch – literally – is a tiara of ricotta salata, which brings an eye-catching, delightfully creamy counterpoint to the proceedings.
The chicken and veal dishes are also highly recommended. The Veal Piccata, scallops of veal sautéed with a lemon, caper butter sauce, an Italian menu mainstay, is a relatively simple dish but easily mucked up. Giuseppe’s version, however, is spot-on. The sauce is light but assertive and not too viscous… and the veal exhibits that beautiful, slightly chewy texture that tells you it’s the real McCoy not the impostor processed garbage you find in lesser establishments.
The Petto di Pollo alla Melazana, chicken breast topped with eggplant, provolone cheese & tomato sauce, is an exceedingly rich presentation, as the provolone melts into the sauce imparting a luscious velvety consistency. And the chicken breast itself is marvelously moist, juicy and tender. Yet another winner.
Desserts, though not house-made, are sourced from Bindi, a dessert service that began in Milan, Italy, and now has wholesale and retail outlets in the U.S., supplying Italian-style ultra-premium products to upscale restaurants – and they are very, very good.
Despite the fact that Trattoria Giuseppe appears to have everything going for it, online reviews engender decidedly mixed emotions. Seems you either love it or hate it. One of the major bones of contention is the supposed rudeness on the part of the owner and hostess… I, personally, have never experienced this. During my visits, both parties have always been perfectly polite and professional – but it is such a recurrent theme that one can’t help but wonder.
Other causes for online complaint with which I am more familiar are the excessive noise level & the constant seething masses of humanity packed in like sardines… and it is not too far from the truth to say that the interminable wait for tables – even with benefit of reservation – has become the stuff of urban legend. But, without doubt, it was Yogi Berra, the undisputed master of the mixed metaphor, who said it best: “Nobody goes there anymore… It’s too crowded.”
And so, a few parting words of wisdom, if I may… Should you be contemplating dining here – and the food is certainly worth a visit(s) – plan accordingly. Your best bet for a pleasant experience is a late Saturday lunch or early (no later than 6:00 p.m.) dinner – the earlier in the week the better. But, whatever you do, avoid, at all costs, a feeding-time-at-the-zoo Saturday night… as your worst gastronomic nightmare could very easily come true.
The Artful Diner
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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