January 17, 2013

Mr Martino's Trattoria: Like Eating at Home with Nana?

Mr Martino’s Trattoria is a small Italian BYOB located on East Passyunk Ave across from Cantina Los Caballitos. We heard about it from South Philly friends because of its long history of serving simple homemade Italian dishes.

Marc and Maria Farnese are the co-owners with Maria being the sole cook (don't call her a chef!) and Marc the host. A true Italian husband/wife combination that is ideal for The Nana Test.

Atmosphere: Mr Martino’s is casual and intimate. The all-wood interior is like an old time saloon filled with antiques collected by Marc and paintings. It’s both charming and purposefully out of step with today’s modern d├ęcor. Early on a Friday night we shared the place with only two other parties, so it is not ideal for larger parties with loud conversation. We heard every creak in the decades-old floors.

Short wine glasses + menu
The pace of the meal is measured, which goes well with good conversation and plenty of wine. You're given short, no frills table glasses for the wine like you would see in homes in Europe. No stemmed - not even stemless - wine glasses here. It does the trick to make you feel like you are at a friend's dinner table.

Marc stopped at our table several times to check in and you could tell he was sincere about offering a positive experience. Score: 3 out of 5 points.

Simplicity: Definitely simple. Don’t expect anything out of the ordinary in terms of service, presentation or food. The rigatoni was served with a very basic plum tomato sauce that reminded me of an everyday sauce my grandmother might make. The bread was served with olive oil with sun dried tomatoes. The simple combination was one highlight of our meal. Even the grated locatelli romano cheese came in a big self serve jar that signified simplicity. 4 out of 5.

Rigatoni with plum tomato sauce
Cavatelli with tomato pesto sauce

The Sauce: Extra points to Maria for happily honoring my request for a little extra sauce than normal. Our server even said she could give more on the side if needed. The plum sauce, while simple, was ultimately under-seasoned and generally underwhelming, though.

The larger disappointment was the pesto tomato sauce that came with Kristy’s cavatelli. I expected more from that sauce, which was average at best, and she just didn't think the flavors worked well together.  2 out of 5

Baked ricotta with green beans and housemade vinaigrette

Bread and sundried tomatoes
Antipasti: An antipasti of meats and cheeses was not on the menu. Actually there was no selection of meats at all. We therefore ordered the baked ricotta with green beans and citrus vinaigrette. We both expected a larger chunk of ricotta for the price and it lacked much flavor.

Many online reviewers of Mr Martino's have gone absolutely bananas over the vinaigrette. You can even buy a bottle for $11. We, on the other hand, did not agree. While the vinaigrette had the simplicity of my Nana, neither of us would rave about it and certainly not purchase a bottle.  2 out of 5.

Serving size and bread: Plenty of bread was served. In fact, I think we went through two servings of 7-8 slices (I'm no Atkins fan...). And we both enjoyed the rustic quality of the bread. The pasta sizes were average but as we mentioned above the baked ricotta was on the skimpy side. 3 out of 5.

Sambuca test:  A flat no when requested. Ouch.

Final score: 14/25

We can definitely see why Mr Martino's is commonly compared to eating in someone's home - in fact maybe you are actually in Marc and Maria's house, we're not sure. Simple as can be, and cheap too, but we won't be running back there soon for the flavor.

Mr. Martino's Trattoria on Urbanspoon


Janeane said...

been wanting to try this place but maybe not so much now! i'm a big fan of ralphs and dante & luigi though for old school italian. got any other suggestions?

Bradd said...

Janeane - thanks for the comment. We both enjoyed Ulivo. Melograno is also a favorite Italian BYOB.