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LaBan Loves Ulivo's Simplicity; Phyllis Doesn't Like Chatty Non-Jewish Servers

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Photo: Drink Philly

The Craig loves the triumphant return of Joe Scarpone to Queen Village with Ulivo, an Italian BYOB. Lots of high marks all over the review, as Scarpone shines with simple Italian plates and some 40-year-old chef swagger we can get behind.

" 'I will still out-cook a 20-year-old any day,' says Scarpone. And that, of course, is his salvation - a concise menu of strikingly vivid Italian plates that, at mostly less than $20 a dish, represents one of the best new dining values in the city. The ethereal ricotta gnocchi he serves at Ulivo - glowing bright in a halo of truffle butter - are as powerful a beacon as any. They're so delicate, these soft puffs of milky sweetness just dissolve like a reverie, melting away into a truffled hum that warms contentment to the core."

We're sold, Craig. He gushes some more, then doles out two bells. It probably deserved three, but the servers were spacy and the place was loud. If not, then we really don't get this bell thing.

Phyllis Stein-Novack is in rare form this week, where she spends more time at La Calaca Feliz asking her non-Jewish servers to shut it, than she does feeding dining partner Sandy exciting and ultimately sloppy tacos.

"Every Mexican restaurant in the city offers complimentary chips and salsa. When none appeared, I asked our server “do you offer complimentary chips and salsa?” She asked if we would like to place an order. Here comes the stream again. She’s answering a question with a question and she’s not even Jewish."

She drank martinis and Rob Roys as only Phyllis can, and found both the octopus and the enchiladas "more than disappointing." One lousy, disgusted tip of the toque for La Calaca Feliz from the Mouth of the South.

David Snyder made a triumphant return to the City Paper in mop-up review duty while regular critic Adam Erace was on vacation. Snyder visited the buzzy Stateside on East Passyunk and found that chef George Sabatino is having fun in the kitchen.

"What I like most about Sabatino's cooking, though, is his playful ideas. Creamy kohlrabi adds a bass note to seared Maine day-boat scallops, but it's the unexpected acid from red seedless grapes that elevates the dish. Cranberry mustard lends a spark to housemade duck sausage that's crisped to order."

Welcome back, David. Hope you'll stick around awhile.

THE BLOGS: As usual, we catch up with Bridges, Burgers, and Beer eating a burger, this time from Iron Hill, which doesn't hit the spot, but the beer seems to work; 22nd and Philly heads to Delicias, a Venezuelan Food Truck in UCity, and inhales a Chorpian sandwich; The lovely Mac and Cheese Review goes bananas for the Seitan Tamarind Coconut Wings at Hot Diggity.