It took guts for chef Luke Palladino to open his debut restaurant in Philadelphia in an oddly shaped space at the entryway to East Passyunk Avenue, let alone do so right before Christmas. But dine with the 45-year-old Jersey Shore-based owner of Palladino’s and you find he’s as determined as he is energetic — or, in his words, “restless.”
The new Palladino’s is an 80-seater with a black-and-white tile front reminiscent of classic Tuscan architecture, and an intimate bar pouring cocktails like the EPX Coupe, a neighborhood-themed take on the classic Sidecar.
“We’re doing things in an upscale manner, but want them to be casual, warm, even primal. We’re not uptight at all,” Palladino says, inviting diners to put down their forks and pick up the unleavened Focaccia Di Recco or the oversized chops with their hands.
Palladino lived and cooked in Italy, “up and down the boot” in Tuscany, Rome, Venice and Sicily — “rather than focus on one region, I include all those styles and traditions,” he says.
One of his signatures, the gnocchi, is a nightly sell out at Palladino’s, but the chef still plays with the dish to come up with new variations. Diners are also showing up for the casonsei, a “candy wrapper” filled with beets and smoked dried ricotta, and the conchiglie con pate di polpo, with octopus ragu with red sauce. But for the octopus dish, Palladino uses tomatoes sparingly, allowing the fish and pasta to shine. “Diners,” Palladino asserts, “like adventure more than consistency.”
Welcome to the neighborhood
The restaurant joins a strip of award-winning foodie favorites and hopping bars on East Passyunk. Palladino plans to take advantage of the Avenue’s vibe with 30 outdoor seats for al fresco dining and a happy hour with a special bar menu.
He also just added a late-night menu, available during the week until midnight and weekends until 1 a.m. It’s “a first for fine-dining spots on the block,” he says.