La Viola

GnocchiIf you’ve ever been to Philadelphia, you might have noticed the popularity of BYOB (bring your own bottle) restaurants. What’s amazing is that there are some very high end places without liquor licenses, making fine dining in Philadelphia quite affordable (that is, if you’re a wine drinker like me).

I now appreciate the fancy places, but my best memories from college in Philadelphia are from some favorite cheap Italian BYOBs. That’s not to say that these restaurants are bad; let’s just say that the focus was the wine at the time.

Still, I remember always enjoying my food at these restaurants, so we made a reservation at one favorite – La Viola – the night before the Philadelphia Marathon. This time the focus would be on the food, and I was curious to see how much of my love for La Viola was just wine-fueled.

We arrived 15 minutes early for our 7:30 reservation. As it got closer to 7:30, people started pouring in and there wasn’t room for anyone to wait. No one was being seated on time and you could tell people were getting impatient. Luckily, I knew the restaurant was tiny and not known for the best service, so at least I was mentally prepared. About 15 minutes after our reservation, we were finally seated.

Linguini Pizzaiola

I ordered the Linguini Pizzaiola, which was linguini with veal, olives and capers in a spicy marinara sauce. I liked the briny taste that the capers and olives gave to the sauce (even though it wasn’t spicy at all), but the ground veal was a little dry and felt like an afterthought. It was good, but not spectacular.

Penne All'Oriolo

Katie ordered the Penne All’Oriolo, described as penne and vodka sauce with porcini, peas, and pancetta. She said it was good, though the pasta was overcooked slightly. She also wished there were more peas and pancetta. Now that I think about it – where are the peas?

Vitello Alla Viola

My mom ordered the Vitello Alla Viola. The veal medallions were served with proscuitto and a sherry wine sauce, with some braised cabbage and sweet potatoes on the side. I think everyone agreed that this dish was the favorite. The veal was incredibly tender and the earthy sauce had a hint of sweetness that complemented the veal.


Candace got the Gnocchi that was made with ricotta cheese and spinach, served with mozzarella and tomato sauce. I tried a small bite and thought the gnocchi was a little gummy.

Farfalle Marinara

Matt kept it simple with the Farfalle Marinara. I didn’t try a bite, but I could tell he wasn’t very impressed.

Overall, some things were much better than others. I suppose my taste has changed a bit since college, not surprisingly. While I might not make a point to come to La Viola on my next Philly visit, it’ll always hold a special place in my heart.

La Viola
253 S 16th St
Philadelphia, PA 19102
La Viola on Urbanspoon

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