Many people warn that bad things come in threes. Rocco Cima, the owner of Fuel, 1917 E. Passyunk Ave., may soon proclaim that good things arrive in fours, as readers deemed his two-year-old East Passyunk Crossing eatery the chief spot for hummus and soup and as the offerer of the healthiest and top sit-down lunch menus.
Drawing inspiration from business trips, the disc jockey and resident of the 2900 block of South 17th Street designed Fuel as a haven for nutrition- and calorie-conscious diners.
“Growing up, I noticed people had obsessions with pizza, cheesesteaks and Chinese food,” Cima said. “Healthy eating was something I wanted to bring to my hometown.”
Relying on fresh creations that contain fewer than 500 calories, he runs an operation bent on making novelty an everyday occurrence. A prominent Middle-Eastern treat, hummus has helped him to expose patrons to a high-protein, zero-guilt delicacy. Toasting the chickpeas gives the dish a nuttier flavor that Cima said has won praise, as has the addition of sriracha, a Thai hot sauce.
“People spot and like the heat,” he said.
Cima declared his eagerness to incorporate more gems into the mix, noting shrimp and crabmeat as almost certain newcomers.
“Some people use hummus as a starter, while others make it a quick choice when on the go,” he said. “It is definitely a healthier option than a bag of potato chips or popcorn in your cupboard.”
While hummus ranks as a non-traditional, any-season choice, soup possesses a reputation as a conventional, autumn and winter pick. At Fuel, Cima and his staff strive to have their handiwork serve everyone by offering tomato basil and two other soups daily. Lobster bisque and butternut squash with apple most often delight bowl-scraping fans and continue to advance Cima’s mantra that fresh, local ingredients will win the day for his establishment.
“I think people can really feel the passion in our food and see that everything’s made fresh,” Cima said.
Hummus and the soup samples leap out among a bevy of filling finds on Fuel’s lunch menu, which Cima admitted is a bit of a misnomer.
“We are open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and offer the same items each day,” he said, noting that specials developed from trips to markets relax any notions that Fuel is staid.
Cima and his cohorts are devising a dinner menu and are creating more delicious yet waist-friendly desserts.
“To stay a factor, we are always experimenting to give people more nutritious products,” Cima said.
Working with dieticians and nutritionists helps the staff to know the calorie count for its items — that include its top-three orders of sweet pea wonton, the protein buster juice bar choice and the Fuel stacker panini that unites assorted vegetables with mozzarella and pesto — as does Cima’s nutrition certification from The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College. In an era that frequently makes gluttons out of consumers, Cima craves only to tend to cravings with tidy portions that remind people they do not need to gorge to gain fullness.
“The health aspect is almost a bonus,” he said. “Even if you’re not into the health kick, you’re going to enjoy our meals.”
For hummus, Bitar’s smoothed over second place, with Mazza dipping into third.
Penrose Diner heated up a second-place soup finish and Barrel’s Find Food & Catering spooned third.
Scannicchio’s Italian Restaurant made off with a second-place midday meal finish, with Green Eggs Café ordering third.
Mazza promoted healthy dining with a second-place result, and Plenty proved plentiful in third.
Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 124.
2012 Readers’ Choice Award winners
Geno’s Steaks: Cheesesteak
John’s Roast Pork: Pork sandwich
SliCE: Specialty pizza
Penrose Diner: Diner
Ippolito’s Seafood: Seafood selection
Scannicchio’s Italian Restaurant: BYOB; Italian Restaurant; Dessert menu; Chef
Cantina Los Caballitos: Ethnic restaurant (non-Italian)
Birra: New restaurant
Night on the Town
And the Rest …