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Plenty of Pasta to Love at A Mano; Clarkville Nails the Neighborhood Vibe

There are some Italian goodies in Fairmount and Spruce Hill

A Mano
A Mano
Photo by Hillary Petrozziello

A Mano, Tod Wentz's new Fairmount restaurant, won thee bells from Craig LaBan, who, unlike the Yelpers, had no problem with the no credit card, no reservation system in place at the Italian BYOB. Really, the complaints on A Mano's Yelp page seem rather misguided, especially in Philadelphia, so chock-full of cash-only eateries that don't reserve seats. LaBan's only complaints? Too many anchovies on his escarole salad and a short rib too-French for the context of the restaurant. Besides those, chef Michael Millon's menu was, from beginning to end, a delight for the Inky critic:

My only complaint is there were not more. But there were so many other pastas to sample. There were lumachelle, a toothy house-extruded semolina pasta shaped like billowy elbow tubes that cradled zesty all'Amatriciana sauce inside, giving little bursts of red sauce scented with bacony guanciale, marjoram, and chili-flake heat. There were little puffs of potato gnocchi basking in wild boar ragu, whose gamy meat was tempered by sweet cubes of cast-iron-blistered apples.

And when a nightly special of tortellini-shaped cappellacci arrived stuffed with slow-braised osso buco veal, I saw fresh green favas and dimpled morel mushrooms cradled atop their folds and knew spring had come. So good.

Out west, Philly Mag critic Jason Sheehan threw Clarkville some stars (two - come if you're in the 'hood), relishing in the simple pleasures chef Justin Bennett's kitchen provides. A solid menu of pizza and family-friendly bites, complemented by a great beer program, seemed to hit the mark for Sheehan who basked in a window seat overlooking Clark Park during his visit:

What I remember is sitting there in a corner booth, leaning back into a sunbeam with chicken grease on my fingers and an Allagash White close at hand. I remember smiling because it was just a good moment. What I liked most about Clarkville was the stupid joy of simple things. Eating fried chicken on a spring afternoon. Running the crust of a slice through the thick ragu in the bottom of the bowl and licking a smear of it off my knuckles while Lou Reed sang and the servers moved through a crowd of just-arrived families from the park. I liked the boy at the table next to mine trying to share his Cheerios and raisins with me while his mom breathed out a happy sigh and decided that yeah, she would have a beer with her lunch after all. The hand-pulled mozzarella was squeaky-stiff, chewy and cold from the lowboy, without any of the creaminess that a house-made mozzarella should have, but I was happy anyway, tearing off pieces of charred bread and dabbing up the olive oil and sea salt on the plate as the afternoon bled away into evening and having another beer seemed like the smartest idea I'd ever had.

A Mano

2244 Fairmount Avenue, , PA 19130 (215) 236-1114 Visit Website

Clarkville

4301 Baltimore Avenue, , PA 19104 (215) 387-4992 Visit Website

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