Restaurant Review: Florentine
Holding down the fort in the West Side area colloquially known as "The Bottoms," the much-beloved Florentine Restaurant has been serving loyal regulars since the year World War II ended. If your math and/or history skills are a little off today, that's a hefty 65 years. So the joint must be doing something right, huh?
Inside, I'm guessing not a whole heck of a lot has changed over the decades. The place is big and deceptively deep, with a sort of banquet hall in the back sporting loosey-goosey, caricaturistic and very amusing Italian villager murals. There's also a corridor dining area with cityscape paintings.
The busier front room has lots of floral accents, a modular section denoted as "Tony's Wine Bar," stucco-y walls and such stuff as a lightbox artwork with a colorful Venetian canal scene done in wacky bas-relief.
This is hardly the setting for daring food or a menu heavy with up-to-the-minute dishes filled with local ingredients. No, as I suggested earlier, here the school is old and the sauce is red.
Heck, red sauce even gets ladled onto tubers to make a pizza-tato appetizer called Italian Skins ($8). These were four partially cored-out,fried potato halves built up like a pizza, meaning they're anointed with the very good thick and tart house marinara, crownedwith sausage, pepperoni and provolone cheese and heated in the oven.
The red sauce came on the side with the Roman Bread appetizer ($8). About half a loaf of soft, retro-style Italian-American garlic bread was topped with a colorful confetti-like sprinkling of diced peppers, tomatoes, onions, olives and a lively mix of cheeses.
The Florentine actually makes some of its pastas, and among these the firmly textured spaghetti scored well. It's fine with, well, red sauce, but for a more involved house special, try the Pasta Antonio ($13). In that dish, the red-sauced spaghetti was made into a rich casserole tricked out with capicola, breaded pork tenderloin strips and melted provolone.
For a break on the tomato sauce, the Steak Romano ($17) was a pleasing preparation. It took unspectacular but fine-tasting sirloin slices and showered them with a chunky saute of onions, peppers, tomatoes, canned olives and lots of banana peppers. The flavor-forward entree came with a side (I opted for the nice and wide homemade fettuccini with a creamy alfredo sauce) and an iceberg salad with a winning, homey Italian dressing on it.
The zingy sauce on the Veal Picatta entree ($17) was bright, rich and briny from lemon, butter and capers. It served the tender-enough veal very well, though I'd have liked thinner floury jackets on the generously sized pan-fried cutlets.
But maybe critiques such as these are almost be beside the point for a time-tested and time-frozen classic joint like the Florentine.
907 W. Broad St., West Side
Price: $$ ($11-$20 per person)
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 4-10 p.m. Saturday