If you’re looking for a uniquely authentic experience of the taste of Italy, we’d recommend you stop by Gran Caffe L’Aquila to check out the new Sugo Della Domenica menu featuring Nonna’s Sunday Sauce. Italian restaurateur, Riccardo Longo, has a legendary story to share. When Stefano Biasini, Gelato Master, and Michele Morelli, international renowned coffee roaster, lost the original Gran Caffe L’Aquila restaurant in the 2009 earthquake which destroyed L’Aquila in the Abbruzo region of Italy (90 miles northeast of Rome). Longo help them rebuild the restaurant in 2014, right here in Philadelphia.
The team literally brought the entire restaurant to Philadelphia piece by piece with equipment and accessories to set up the most authentic and energetic service oriented Italian cafe and dining experience in the heart of center city. The Gran Caffe serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a formal dining room upstairs and casual European cafe on the ground floor. Almost everything on their menu is made from scratch including a special weekly regional menu with dishes from a specific area of Italy. They offer an extensive hand-selected wine list from Italy and a variety of Amaro options for after-dinner drinks.
With the emphasis on Italian culture at the restaurant it was very important for guests to be able to share Sunday sauce the way they do back in Europe, with homemade pasta and tender, rich slow-cooked meats. Even better- Gran Caffe L’Aquila is offering Sugo della Domenica everyday of the week!
When you stop in for Center City Restaurant Week or the Chef’s Tasting Menu you’ll have the option for a wine pairing (we highly recommend you opt in!). In addition to fresh baked bread for the table you’ll have a seasonal bruschetta course like Roasted Red Pepper Caponata Bruschetta (for us paired with a light sparkling Italian wine which is fermented twice like champagne, but has more fruit flavor. The carbonation of the drink is meant to activate the tastebuds of the diner.)
For the second course we had a Cold Antipasti course complete with Buffalo Mozzarella and Burrata imported from Italy of course. Fresh fruit, tomato, and basil complimented the creamy cheeses. The plate also included two Involtini of Mortadella and Proscuitto wrapped around Risotto rice with a balsamic reduction and apricot marmalade. The Hot Antipasti course followed with Grilled Octopus from Puglio, Lamb Arostini, and a cheesy meat-stuffed ball of Arancini from Sicily over marinara. The side of Calabrian chili sauce also added a nice kick of heat to the hearty flavor of the grilled lamb.
At Gran Caffe L’Aquila the pasta course is the main event. Here you’ll not only find pastas all made in house, but paired creatively with gastronomic gelato flavors to create dishes unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. We can’t deny the delicious richness that comes from the smokey pancetta gelato tossed into the Pasta Carbonara made with fresh egg yolk, Parmesan cheese, black pepper, and diced guanciale (very similar to bacon). It took us no time to devour this dish. The Agnoletti Al Tartufo are little delicate pillowy ravioli stuffed with veal, pork, onion, and herbs in a light butter-sage sauce. This plate is topped with truffle-enhanced gelato. The heat of the dish starts to melt the gelato slowly releasing the intense flavors into your dish. And if you’re gluten free don’t worry- Gran Caffe has got pasta for you too.
The new Sugo della Domenica comes from Nonna’s recipe from her days being raised in the Cilento area of Campania (south of the Amalfi Coast). Growing up in Rome, the Longo family would develop the flavors of their artisan tomato sauce by cooking it slowly with veal braciole, sausage, lamb, and pork meatballs. The local pasta of the region is Fusilli Cilentani, using a thick mixture of flour and water to hand-roll pasta rods which are later tossed into the sauce and sprinkled with grated Pecorino and Caprino cheeses. The larger cuts of meat in this dish is served alongside the pasta. Gran Caffe is offering a selection of Veal Braciole, Boar Meatballs, and homemade Pork Sausage.
The Sugo della Domenica tasting menu is now being offered 7 days a week in addition to Center City District’s Restaurant Week, 3 course lunch menu for $20 and 3 course dinner menu for $35 from January 13-25. And for goodness sake do NOT skip dessert at Gran Caffe L’Aquila! Coffee beans imported from India, Africa, South America, and blended in Torino, Italy then shipped and roasted daily right on site in the Petrocini machine at the restaurant. Creating four styles of excellently crafted coffee, also available wholesale from the downstairs cafe.
The undeniable claim to fame at Gran Caffe L’Aquila is the gelato. When you can’t possibly decide on one flavor, we often opt for the Gelato Flight with 5 different flavors, each shocking our tastebuds in the most amazing way. Chocolate Hazelnut, Pistachio, Salted Caramel, Black Cherry with Vanilla, and Mango. It was nearly impossible to pick a favorite, we loved them all with their creamy texture and bold flavors you don’t find in American ice cream. Lucky for you, if you can’t make it into the restaurant for gelato- they offer delivery via Caviar and Grubhub for $12/pint.
After indulging you’d be smart to end your night with some Amaro. This Italian herbal liqueur that is a commonly consumed after-dinner digestif. It usually has a bitter-sweet flavour, sometimes syrupy, and has a higher alcohol content. From smokey to sweet the Amaro selection at Gran Caffe is extensive and something you also won’t find much anywhere else in Philadelphia.