La Fontana Della Citta


For 10 years, the property at the corner of 17th and Spruce streets stood idle. It was quite an eyesore. Last fall, I noticed major reconstruction going on at the site, which for many years was the restaurant Fratelli. Several weeks ago, the space reopened as La Fontana Della Citta.

I have lost track of the Italian BYOBs that have opened in the past five or six years. Since Edward and I have memories of Fratelli, I was curious about the changes and the menu.

Mom, Edward and I were greeted by a friendly hostess who showed us to a roomy table. Major rehabbing was done on this lovely space. It is no longer bi-level. There are two dining rooms, with high ceilings, faux painted walls and colorful cityscape artwork. Tables are covered in crisp white linen with matching napkins.

Our server told us about the specials, but the menu contains no surprises. It is straightforward Italian and Italian-America cucina. We brought along a bottle of red wine from Puglia and looked over the choices.

Edward spotted the grilled vegetable appetizer ($7.95), but our server had brought a small plate of complimentary grilled vegetables along with hot-from-the oven crusty Italian bread and a small dish of olive oil topped with balsamic vinegar. The plate contained paper thin slices of grilled eggplant, yellow squash and roasted peppers. It was served cold and lacked a drizzle of olive oil. Although the vegetables were freshly prepared, they would have had a better flavor if served warm or, at least, room temperature.

It being a cold night, Mom warmed up with a bowl of pasta e fagioli ($4.95) while Edward and I shared a platter of calamari fritti ($7.95). The soup was obviously homemade, rich with tubetti, white beans, onions and tomatoes. All it required was a bit of salt.

Fried calamari has become so ubiquitous I cannot remember a time when it wasn’t on menus. This version consisted of small rounds of squid and tentacles dipped in crumbs and quick fried to a light golden brown. The squid was freshly prepared and arrived nice and hot. The homemade marinara sauce was in a sauceboat, making for easy pouring. It had a slightly acidic flavor, which could have been easily remedied with a bit of butter. Still, the starter was delicious.

I always admire an honest waiter. We were gong to order another appetizer, but, since Edward and I wanted to share a pasta course and order entrees, our waiter advised "it will be too much food." Three tips of the toque alone for this unusual practice.

There are 18 pastas on offer. Gnocchi are always iffy in restaurants. More often than not they are lead balloons. We ordered gnocchi al Gorgonzola ($14.95) and were downright delighted. The bowl was full of light fluffy pillows of potato that literally melted in our mouths. The gnocchi were bathed in a homemade rich, creamy imported Gorgonzola sauce that properly clung to the pasta. All I can say is the pasta course was perfect. This is, indeed, a rare occurrence.

When we arrived at about 6 p.m., we were the only patrons. Within an hour, the entire room was nearly filled. I suspect those who live on Rittenhouse Square were waiting for La Fontana Della Citta, which means "the fountain of the city" in Italian, to open. Every patron brought a bottle of wine.

The kitchen was out of osso bucco ($24.95), so Edward steered his taste buds to veal cutlet alla Milanese, another favorite. It is not listed on the menu, but veal Parmesan ($16.95) is.

"Can I have the veal cutlet dry, with no sauce, along with some arugula and shavings of Parmesan?" Edward asked our waiter.

Without missing a beat, the server replied, "Any dressing on the arugula?"

Two good-size portions of escallop of veal were dipped in crumbs and fried. It was of good quality, but the veal was overcooked. The chef placed the arugula alongside the veal, instead of on top. Still, the greens were fresh and their spicy flavor a fine foil for the veal.

Mom loves ravioli and ordered the cheese variety in homemade marinara sauce ($11.95). Ravioli in a white sauce, which I assume is white wine and butter, is also available.

Mom’s bowl contained about eight nice-size ravioli topped with the slightly acidic tomato sauce that came with the calamari. They were OK with a few toted home for lunch.

I ordered vitello alla Fontana ($20.95), thin escallops of veal topped with proscuitto, mozzarella and a porcini sauce. My dinner lacked eye appeal and was oversauced. The proscuitto was too salty and an overload of cheese detracted from the flavor of the veal. I love fresh porcini, but the dark salty brown sauce masked its flavor and texture.

The service was fine, even as the room filled. Our plates and flatware were changed for each course and our wine and water glasses were kept full.

La Fontana Della Citta isn’t filling any niche. There are many Italian restaurants in the neighborhood. Still, it is a lovely space and probably a fine one for a salad and a bowl of pasta. Especially that dreamy gnocchi.

Two tips of the toque to La Fontana Della Citta.

La Fontana Della Citta
1701 Spruce St.
BYOB open for lunch and dinner
VISA and MasterCard accepted
Wheelchair accessible

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Jane Kiefer
Jane Kiefer, a seasoned journalist with a rich background in digital media strategies, leads South Philly Review as its Editor-in-Chief. Originally hailing from Seattle, Jane combines her outsider perspective with a profound respect for South Philly's vibrant community, bringing fresh insights and innovative storytelling to the newspaper.