Cafe Giardino – PA

This reader-suggested café is a small neighborhood fixture and the owner, Erika, is a sweetheart who was genuinely amused that a customer had given such a glowing review.  She introduced me to Freddie (with an “ie” as she let me know) the chef and co-owner and he, too, seemed pleased by Dannie’s referral.  Then it was time to get down to the business of ordering.  Before I actually looked at the menu, I read the various chalkboards behind the counter and noted the signs about in- and out-of-season vegetables.  I knew at that moment that this wasn’t your standard panini spot.
Looking at the menu, I could’ve ordered one of everything but I settled on the Giardino Classico panini (grilled chicken marinated in a balsamic vinegar reduction, sautéed spinach, and provolone) with a cup of homemade lentil soup with proscuitto and grated parmigiano reggiano, and a lightly dressed mixed green salad on the side.  The first bite–the smokiness of the grilled chicken and the slight pungency of the balsamic–was enough to make me a believer and to say I wanted to lick the plate is not an exaggeration.  The hearty soup was a perfect way to combat a winter’s day and Erika was even nice enough to make me a simple dessert of warmed Nutella and sliced Granny Smith apples.
Even though the establishment is 7 years old, many still refer to it as South Philly’s best kept secret. Serving comfort food that tastes this good?  That’s a secret worth sharing.

Café Giardino
1732 W Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19145
(215) 468-3453

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