Our relationship with pasta is best described by “love at first bite”, that’s why we simply could not pass up the opportunity to go behind the scenes and learn more about the sophisticated Italian fare served at Scarpetta Restaurant. The restaurant first opened back in September 2016, inside The Rittenhouse Hotel. LDV Hospitality brought the upscale modern Italian restaurant to Philadelphia. Its name coming from the Italian phrase “fare la scarpetta”, meaning to savor a meal to the last bite.
What a way to describe how we feel?! We spent the afternoon at Scarpetta learning about Italian wines and Chef Michael Loughlin walked us through the intricate process of how the signature Scarpetta Spaghetti is made. We began downstairs in the lounge by talking about different types of Italian wine. We enjoyed some bar bites including Arancini with wild mushroom and tallegio, Formaggi, and Salumi.
It was wonderful to learn more about pairing Italian wines with food and very relaxing to sit in the lounge overlooking Rittenhouse Square. Scarpetta offers guests a bar menu, as well as the full dinner menu in the lounge.
The wine list at Scarpetta offers a variety of Italian wines, but that doesn’t mean they don’t make a nice strong cocktail. Some of our cocktail favorites include: the Cucumber Gimlet with Absolut Elyx, cucumber, lime, and freshly ground black pepper, the San Remo mixed up with Woodford Bourbon, Carpano Antica, Campari, St. Germain and citrus; Negroni Invecchiato crafted with Plymouth Gin, Carpano Anitca, Campari and orange; and the Palermo Old Fashioned made with Maker’s Mark, Nonino Amaro, and vanilla bean.
Later we made our way into the kitchen. Upstairs the restaurant has been totally renovated, the main dining room is decorated with a true minimalist, contemporary design-white oak, marble, and distressed leather across the 7,000 sq. ft., 150-seat dining room. The Scarpetta Spaghetti is served with a straightforward, traditional, fresh tomato sauce in which ripe tomatoes get cooked quickly to retain their vibrant flavor.
Fresh is always best with the tomatoes. Especially perfectly ripe plum tomatoes, but if the season doesn’t allow for it, supplement a base of mostly fresh tomatoes with a few high-quality canned San Marzano tomatoes.
The pasta is made from scratch and this is most definitely the labor intensive part. We mixed the dough from 00 Grade Flour, Semolina, water, and egg yolks. You’ll recognize the golden color of Scarpetta Spaghetti comes from these yolks. The dough then rests, is kneaded, and rolled out into sheets to be cut. Fresh pasta is made daily at Scarpetta for a variety of dishes on their menu.
The pasta cooks quickly and soon is added to a pan with olive oil, garlic, and laddle of crushed tomatoes. Then add a small ladle of pasta water. The starch and salt in that water will help the sauce adhere to the pasta, making it thick and creamy. To toss the pasta and sauce together the pan is moved in a jerking method to coat the pasta evenly with the sauce, but it also introduces a little air into the process making the dish feel lighter and brighter.
Finish the dish with some butter, some Grana Padano cheese and sliced fresh basil. Grab your tongs, swirl the pasta onto your plate in a birds’s nest type fashion. This delicate past is then housed in a beautiful ceramic dome to keep warm before being presented to the diner at their table. The Scarpetta Spaghetti most certainly embodies how making a classic dish with care and quality ingredients can truly transform it into something you never imagined. We certainly will never look at a box of dried spaghetti the same.
If you’re interested in having an experience like this, stay tuned- Scarpetta will begin to offer wine and pasta classes once a month this Spring. Scarpetta is open for dinner and a special Easter brunch. Tasting menus are offered Sunday-Thursday. Reservations can be made via OpenTable.