Saturday, September 10, 2011

Review: La Locanda, Rt. 3 and Providence Rd, Newtown Square, PA

I've been to La Locanda perhaps four or five times. Consistently, every meal was well-executed Italian fare with attentive service. They are not wildly inventive, but nor are they stuck in an old-world red sauce tradition. Their strong points are execution of well-conceived and inspired dishes. My perception has been that there is skill and training evident in both the kitchen and the waitstaff.


Photo from LaLocandapa.com (view from Route 3)

Prompted by a generous $50 for $25 Groupon, I returned last week with five FREECs (fellow roustabouts eating exceptional cuisine). On this particular Wednesday evening, the place was quiet as three of us arrived early to have a drink at the inviting bar. The bar is small but has a warm and sophisticated ambiance. When the other FREECs arrived, we moved to the dining room. The dining area looks similar to other upscale Italian restaurants, and there's nothing wrong with that familiar and comfortable look.

We ordered three appetizers for the table: bruschetta (which other FREECs loved but which I found to have too much seasoning --capers? -- in relation to the tomato); fried calamari (superb); and a very nice antipasto with quality salumi (cured meats).

My entree was Timballo, which was a bargain at $18. Timballo is a light crepe pasta, layered with a creamed spinach omelette & tiny meatballs on a bed of marinara sauce, topped with besciamella. Molto bene! It came with a side of summer squash cooked gently with red sauce, and I scarfed it all down gladly.

I can't give a full report on what the others had, but I'm assuming they enjoyed it because plates were cleaned. One FREEC wanted seafood (mussels and clams) over linguine with red sauce, an Italian staple somehow not on the menu. He asked the waiter if he could do it, he specified the shellfish he wanted, and he got exactly what he desired. As with my previous experiences, the service was superb. I don't mind the breezy and ill-informed yourg servers (as long as they are pleasant and engaging) but it's a treat to be served by a trained pro. I'm generally annoyed when a restaurant tacks on the automatic 18% tip for parties of six or larger; that happened here but we gladly tossed in more for the tip.

La Locanda's website notes "Where Old World Traditional Abruzzi Cuisine Meets New World Style. Enjoy delicacies from the Province of Teramo, Italy." They DO have pizza on the menu, and because the Philly Main Line (wealthy suburbs to the west) is essentially devoid of useful pizza, I may have to try it on my next visit.

How does it all stack up? Ambiance is a 9. Service is a 10! Appetizers get an 8. And my entree a 9. Overall, 9 out of 10. I'm very gratified to have a place that is this consistently good. And it's 5 minutes from my office in Malvern (where we affectionately call it "Lilac Honda" even though our memory is fuzzy as to who coined that Norm Crosby chestnut).

Norm would enjoy Lilac Honda

La Locanda Ristorante on Urbanspoon

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