A multi-mood eatery that accommodates elegant rehearsal dinners as graciously as it does famished skateboarders walking in off the street. Warning: you’ll need to return multiple times and take a team with you to sample everything from RoseLena’s multiple menus.
RoseLena’s on East Passyunk Avenue is named after co-owner Terry Masino’s mother, and it takes about 90 seconds to feel as if the Masinos are your own long-lost relatives. Terry and her husband Al and their Zagat-recognized chef son, Chris, run this exceptional eatery that doubles as a kind of family museum, situated across the street from where Terry grew up.
Inside, you’ll find scores of precious, sentimental artifacts from the 1800s, magnificently and creatively brought to life. Terry worked as a paralegal for 35 years before her husband and sons came together to realize her dream and open the restaurant in 1994.
Start with one of dozens of French-pressed loose teas (spiced chai, $4.50 or Terry’s blend of plum and vanilla, $4) or coffees (RoseLena’s Blend or Ethiopean Yirgacheffe, $3.75). Or maybe Cr�me Brulee Latte or European drinking chocolates. The list of fountain sodas alone takes two pages in the coffee bar and dessert menu.
Instead of a standard bread basket or roll, you may find your table presented with a display of garlic and cheese toasts, and mini-caramel rolls with homemade jam.
For brunch, few kitchens in the world can compete with RoseLena’s crepes filled with goat cheese and spiced fig jam ($8.50). Among several persuasive choices, it’s hard to resist trying the creamed sherried chicken with peas atop a Belgian waffle ($7.50). Other daytime offerings include soups, salads and various “Passyunk Favorites, ” which tempt and satisfy for $10 and under.
Dinner appetizers include breaded mushroom casserole and “Green Lips & Mahogany” (clams and mussels with crab/corn broth), each $8. Then move on to delectable lamb chops ($26), polenta with sausage ($16), seafood, veal, steak or RoseLena’s pasta du jour.
There won’t be room for dessert, but you must take home the signature Antico Dolce Torte (sweet old cake, $7)—a cross between a giant schnecken and baklava, this citrus and honeyed high-rise pastry is famous in South Philly Italian lore as the recipe handed down from Michelangelo’s mama.
Go soon, while you can still enjoy RoseLena’s 1950s-style fountain parlor next door. Chris Masino plans to convert that section into a piano bar. You’ll be back often to share in the continuing best of old and new.
1623 East Passyunk Ave.