Moments upon entering the tiny Mr. Martino’s Trattoria, located on Passyunk Ave., you may feel as if you’ve traveled back in time. Suddenly, it’s the beginning of the 19th century, or at least it feels that way with the saloon-like structure and olde time look.
True to form, this time traveling aura also translates to the food as well. Everything in Mr. Martino’s is completely untampered with. Dishes are prepared with minimal to moderate alterations allowing the fresh flavors of the main components to stand out. Even the bread, traditionally served upon being seated, has a delicious twist with the accompaniment of a sun dried tomato and olive oil mixture for dipping. The house salad is fairly basic, comprised of noticeably bright mixed greens and garnished with the house dressing, (a tasty vinaigrette infused with a subtle flavor of dates, $6).
Now, on to the main course. A guest favorite is the calamari and spaghetti special (tossed with broccoli rabe, olive oil and tomatoes creating a mild broth that allows the taste of the calamari to stand out, $17). Another standout dish is the homemade veal tortellinis. They’re soft and fresh, with a Gorgonzola tomato sauce that offers an interesting and tasty variation on a more traditional pasta.
For desert, check out the chilled sponge cake with strawberry and vanilla cream ($7). The dessert is light and airy, resembling a miniature strawberry shortcake and topped with a mild vanilla sauce that’s never overly sweet, hitting all the right notes.
Although Mr. Martino’s is well-hidden in the South Philly area (there’s hardly even a sign outside the door to indicate it exists), it’s well-worth looking for. Once you find this buried treasure, you’re sure to experience true Italian food in its most authentic, unobstructed state.