If you’re looking to enjoy the old school Italian vibes of Philadelphia, we’d recommend you visit Bistro Romano. In 1988, Michael Granato opened up the restaurant in Headhouse Square, these home style dishes will remind you of what Nonna used to make. The atmosphere is also quite intriguing with a large bar upstairs salvaged from an old ship and candlelit dining room downstairs with exposed brick walls, this restaurant just has a charm you won’t find anywhere else.
The building housing the restaurant has a history all its own. Built in the early 1700′s, the structure was originally the residence of a wealthy shipping merchant. Subsequently, it was a terminus on the underground railroad, then converted to a seed warehouse in 1914, and since 1973, has been home to the restaurant. The open beam ceilings, hearth-brick walls and soft lighting make Bistro Romano’s bar and dining room a warm, informal setting for a friendly conversation, romantic rendezvous or business talk.
The bar in our upstairs lounge area has its own charm and is, quite literally, ship-shape. The bar was originally a fixture aboard the luxury liner City of Detroit III – a side wheel passenger steamer that was built in 1912 in Wyandotte, Michigan and operated by the Detroit and Cleveland Navigation Company. In its day considered the finest inland passenger steamer afloat, it featured grand salons, staterooms, and a Gothic Room finished in hand-carved oak. The flowing form and luminous, jade green color of the bar capture the feel and endless expanse of the open ocean.
Besides the bar, midway on the gently curving stairway to the dining room, hangs a picture of a sea nymph. The painting graced the Forward Salon of the ship. As you sip your drink, you can almost hear the ship’s orchestra playing elegant waltzes and see the couples dancing. The ship was dismantled in 1957 … but we’re happy to say that its remarkable bar and painting have survived, to grace Bistro Romano with its unusual beauty.
And for those looking for a bit of romance, the unique Wine Cellar, located under the street and part of the former network of underground tunnels in Society Hill, is the perfect place for that intimate dinner for 2- Conde Nast Traveler named the candlelit wine-cellar one of the most romantic tables in the country.
Have a seat upstairs and enjoy the Piano Bar, or dine downstairs in a more formal setting. Upstairs Craig Satchell plays every Friday and Saturday night for the past 16 years, the musical assortment features pop, rock, Motown, classic, Broadway show tunes, vocals and requests. No matter where you choose to dine, why not begin your meal with some wine- after all they were awarded Wine Spectator’s Best Award of Excellence in 2016.
Red, white, blush, or sparkling your server can inform you which will pair best with a selection of appetizers including Bruschetta, Breaded Artichokes, or Mozzarella Fritti stack with fried mozzarella, eggplant, and tomato. And guests can enjoy half-price bottles of your favorite wines here every Wednesday when dining with the purchase of two entrees.
By far the most popular dish served at the restaurant is their homemade Caesar Salad here that is made and tossed table-side. They started doing it in the early ‘90s, and now people come in just for that. Before any servers are allowed to go on the floor, they must receive a check of approval for their Caesar. On a Saturday night, they probably serve around 120 of them.
Some of our favorite dishes here are, of course, the homemade pastas. The menu offers a variety of ravioli, gnocchi, and linguine. For something hearty and full of meat, try the Paccheri with short rib ragout, wild mushrooms, and Parmigiano Reggiano or Pappardelle Bolognese with smoked bacon, beef, veal, pork, tomato ragu, and ricotta salata. You’ll wish you could swim in a dish of the Gnocchi, bathed in dreamy white truffle cream, peas, and prosciutto di Parma. And if you’re looking for seafood, you’ll enjoy the Lobster Ravioli filled with Maine lobster, sherry lobster cream, and roasted tomatoes.
For Piatti Principali, we’d highly recommend the tender Grilled Lamb Shank with stewed mixed bean, vegetable ragout, bacon, tomato, and whipped goat cheese. On the lighter side is the Chicken Milanese with arugula, plum tomatoes, red onion, buffalo mozzarella, lemon oil, and balsamic reduction. The Veal Saltimbocca is always a classic favorite with fontina cheese, prosciutto di Parma, plum tomatoes, sage, Trebbiano wine, and whipped potatoes. Indulge in a steak that goes beyond traditional flavors with the Filet Mignon topped with chunks of gorgonzola, crispy leeks, wild mushrooms, in a Barolo wine sauce over parsnip puree.
If you save room for dessert get the Tiramisu, S’mores Brownie, or Hazelnut Semifreddo!! Late-Night Eats at Bistro Romano are offered Friday and Saturdays after 10 pm, order an antipasti and pasta entree off the menu for only $20.00! Reservations are easily made on Opentable.com and signing up for their email list will let you be the first to know about the many specials, prixe fix dinner, and special events (such as murder mystery or wine tasting dinners) held at the restaurant. The third-floor dinner theater offers 85 people the chance to enjoy dinner over the course of a live, four-act show every Friday and Saturday. Delivery available via DiningIn.com and Caviar.