Films, flowers and food


The Philadelphia Flower Show, the oldest and largest event of its kind in the world, opens Saturday and runs through March 8 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

This year’s theme is “Celebrate the Movies,” with a salute to Disney and Pixar films. Food often plays a pivotal role in dramas, comedies and romantic comedies, so here are my picks on where to have lunch or dinner if you are going to The Flower Show. I also feature the films that helped me make my choices.

“Ratatouille” is an enchanting film about a rat who wants to be a chef in Paris. Nora Ephron’s “Julie and Julia” tells the story about how Julia Child began to cook in her tiny Paris apartment during the 1950s and of New Yorker Julie Powell, who decides to cook her way through Child’s book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” first published in ’61. If these films bring out the escargot lover in you, I suggest dinner at Bibou, Pierre and Charlotte Calmels’ jewel box bistro at 1009 S. Eighth St. The couple plan to close the restaurant for renovations about six weeks from now, so choose your best bottle of wine and head over to the Italian Market. Bibou is cash only.

In Walt Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp,” Lady, the cocker spaniel, shares a romantic plate of spaghetti with Tramp, who is a mutt. I love the scene when each has the end of a strand of spaghetti in their mouths and they nosh until their lips meet.

Who can forget Jack Lemmon straining spaghetti with a tennis racquet in “The Apartment,” which won the Best Picture Oscar in ’60? He also made meatballs to delight Shirley MacLaine.

“Moonstruck,” which earned Cher an Oscar, has many scenes that feature Italian fare. Cher wants manicotti for dinner before her fiancé flies off to Sicily. Olympia Dukakis, who also won the Academy Award for her work, fries up Italian bread with an egg and roasted peppers for breakfast. She also orders minestrone as her antipasto while dining in a neighborhood Italian restaurant.

These films bring me to Dante & Luigi’s, 762 S. 10th St., — one of my favorite South Philly Italian restaurants. It opened in 1899 and serves one of the most delicious, most lovingly-prepared lasagnas I have ever tasted. The pasta is handmade, rolled into thin sheets and layered with Bolognese, ricotta and mozzarella. The lasagnas are built into large sheet pans, sliced into individual portions and served piping hot.

Tre Scalini, 1915 East Passyunk Ave., is another Italian restaurant where customers are treated like family. I always enjoy mussels, fresh pasta or a perfectly grilled veal chop that is getting more difficult to find on restaurant menus.

In “Sleepless in Seattle,” Tom Hanks and Rob Reiner share a jumbo burger and a beer lunch at Seattle’s Pike Place Market. In “You’ve Got Mail,” another Nora Ephron film, Meg Ryan scolds Hanks for taking all the caviar garnish from the rim of an egg salad mold and begins to carve a turkey sitting on a buffet table during a pre-Thanksgiving party at an author’s home.

Ryan also gives a delightful performance in “When Harry Met Sally,” written by Ephron and directed by Reiner. During lunch with Billy Crystal at Katz’s Deli, she prompts a woman at another table to say “I’ll have what she’s having.” The funny part is the woman at the next table is Reiner’s mother, Estelle.

Burgers, turkey sandwiches, Jewish deli and more can be found at the Reading Terminal Market, 12th and Filbert streets. The Market has extended hours during the Flower Show, so plan on breakfast, lunch or dinner. Just take a walk around, and let the aromas wafting through the market help you to build up an appetite. 

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