The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Weekend in Philadelphia: Capogiro, Village Whiskey, Garces Trading Co., Kanella, Rita's, and More

I've sucked at updating this lately. I know. If it makes you feel any better, I barely write anywhere, even at Serious Eats (as evident in the links to my SE posts in the right column); I think most people think I write, when in reality I edit more than I write—words and photos. I have no idea how other bloggers manage to get their photos and posts together in a timely fashion. To make up for what may be another blogging dry spell, here's one huge ass entry about my weekend in Philadelphia from April 2 to 4. It'll take hours to write, but just minutes to read. Yaaaaay! [sobs in a corner]

With Alex!

It started with gelato. As I've mentioned before, Capogiro is always the first stop when I make my occasional Friday-to-Sunday weekend trips to visit Alex in Philadelphia because gelato is one of the best things to ever be crafted by man. Wheels, steam engines, transistors, sandwiches...gelato. All good things.

Although I'm not a big fan of Capogiro's pistachio gelato (pistachio usually being my gold standard of gelato awesomeness)—I prefer L'Arte del Gelato's version—they have a wider range of interesting flavors than gelaterias in New York City, and everything is "good," if not, "OMG [brain sputter] FRIGGIN' GOOD." In my cup of hazelnut and ginger, hazelnut was "good" while ginger took the brain sputtering trophy. What made it better than other ginger-flavor ice creams? It tasted better than ginger. Not the face-punching sort of ginger, but more mellow and fragrant. I ate it three weeks ago so I'd be lying if I said I remembered every nuanced layer of flavor (...okay, I wouldn't remember every nuanced layer of flavor even if I ate it an hour ago), but I do recall looking at my melting spoonful and thinking, "Man, this is good." And then sticking it in my mouth. That's about as contemplative as I get.

After that, Alex and I along with Mel and her friends went to Mel's apartment and splayed ourselves out on her couch while watching I Shouldn't Be Alive. Never heard of the show before? Neither had I. The topics for reality-based TV continue to amaze me. As alluded to by the title, the show reenacts real life incidents where people in life-threatening situations should've died, but miraculously didn't. And the dude in the episode we saw ("Fear in Freefall") totally should've died at least 10 times, if not from the emergency skydiving part and being the only survivor from his plane, then the dehydration thing, or the "getting stung by a bagillion jellyfish" thing, or drowning, or something else leading to failure of indispensable organs. But on what must've been the worst day of his life, he had some luck on his side. (What was Fate thinking? "I could let you drown now...but nooo, let me throw you this floating log to give you a glimmer of hope. OHH, HERE'S A SCHOOL OF JELLYFISH, have fun while they sting the shit out of you. Damn, are you hallucinating from dehydration now? Meh, I'll let you live. Then you can tell you story on the Discovery channel.")

Day 2: Muffin, Pork, Burger, Etc.

blueberry muffin blueberry muffin, nekkid
Muffin. Naked.

Alex and I started with a morning snack at Garces Trading Company, where vegetarian-since-forever Alex shakes his fist at their non-vegetarian-friendly pizza made with duck fat-enhanced dough. Aw.

My blueberry muffin would've been near perfect if the blueberries hadn't all collected in the bottom half of the muffin to give the muffin a mushy midsection. But they were nice blueberries. The cakey part was moist and tender, and I loved the crisp sugar-sprinkled top crust.

flaky tart thing with fruit and nuts?
Flaky tart thing.

Alex got this flaky tart thing filled with fruit and nut things. Yeah, I totally didn't write down what it was. Um. It was super flaky and probably packed with butter. Those are good qualities for a pastry to have.

Paesano's, Home of Awesome Pork Sandwiches

Paesano's menu

We met up with Mel at Paesano's, highly recommended by my coworker Carey for their roast pork sandwich bomb, the Arista ($8). She said one sandwich was enough for two meals.

The Arista
The Arista.

She wasn't exaggerating. I only got through half before feeling like my stomach was gonna 'splode from the compressed log of roast pork. Look at that innards shot; they give you waaay more than your money's worth. Aside from the mass of juicy pork shreds, there's also broccoli rabe, Italian long hots, and sharp provolone, all of which go well with the pork without overpowering it (I especially liked the spicy long hots). Because what the hell could overpower that much pork? Nothing. The bread doesn't do much besides act as an edible container, just a barrier between your hands and the meat.

Although I'd recommend this sandwich to other people, I think it was a little too much of a good thing. It would be more of a balanced sandwich experience with half the amount of pork and still be worth $8. I ended up eating the other half of the sandwich for dinner the next day, replacing the pork-soaked bread with rice.

the falafel-y wrap
Falafel-y wrap.

While I fulfilled my pork quota for the day, Alex happily ate his vegetarian-friendly Panelle ($6), a wrap filled with Sicilian chickpea pancake, roasted tomato, fennel, lettuce, peperoncini, and maybe other stuff. It was falafel-y.

roasted potatoes
Roasted potatoes.

Since Mel had already eaten a meal that morning, she just got a side of roasted potatoes. They're crispy and well salted; if you have any stomach space, you should try them. Hell, who am I to care about "stomach space"—there's always space in there! Just shove it in! Yeah! [PS: My eating methods may make you ill. You probably shouldn't listen to me.]

Lil' Trip to Bryn Mawr

waiting for the train
Train, where are you.

Alex had been telling me since last year year that I should visit Bryn Mawr's campus (he's studying art history there; undergrad is all female, but grad is mixed) on a nice day to soak in the prettiness, but I didn't get my chance until this day. The weather was great, the trees were a-blooming, and we didn't have to be anywhere until dinner. After the short train ride we got to see...

This looks better

This honkin' huge tree spurting flowers from every branch.


This statue of Athena. ...I forget what the story is behind it.

Oh yeah these things are everywhere

Archways for frolicking.

This area was pretty much empty the whole time

Cloisters for hangin'. (I thought about writing "hanging," but that's not the same as "hangin'." I think.) We doodled and I made Alex read an issue of Fillerbunny. That comic has consistently filled me with delight and horror since high school and probably shaped my brain in way that I cannot undo.


Hangin'. My leg is the non-hairy one.

A flower tucked behind my ear
Photo by Alex.

I look pretty normal in this photo. That's rare. Relish the moment; I'll negate it later.

It was nice roaming around a mostly empty campus with an abundance of foliage and Gothic architecture. "So this is what I missed by going to NYU," I thought. Granted, I chose NYU partially because it's in a big, congested city and doesn't have a closed campus, but it's nice to have...cloisters.

Burger Time at Village Whiskey

Village Whiskey
Village Whiskey.

For dinner we met up with Philadelphia's main Burger Baroness, Jess Ward of Fries With That Shake, at Village Whiskey. I totally need to write a "real" review for A Hamburger Today, but until then I'll splodge out some hopefully not-too-malformed, not-especially-in-depth words for you guys.

Herb cherry tomatoes pickles
Cherry tomatoes!

We started with herb cherry tomatoes pickles ($4) served in a cute little jar accompanied by black olive tapenade, whipped ricotta, and toasted sourdough slices. As a lover of bread, spreads, and pickles, I give this combo a big, "YAY." It's refreshing and simple (interesting-simple, not boring-simple), a good way to start a meal if you know it's going to end with a slab of ground beef in between two buns.

tater tots tater tots

We also tried the homemade Tater Tots ($3) just to see what fancified tater totes looked like: They come in a porcelain bowl sprinkled with herbs. But these aren't Tater Tots; they're fried mashed potato nubs, like potato croquettes. And that's so not the same thing. I mean, they were perfectly tasty, because it's hard for fried potato matter to not be, but we wished they had been more Tot-y by being made of grated potato instead of mashed. I'd assume that they tried it and maybe it just didn't work. Oh well. We liked them, but don't expect something that's better than regular Tater Tots.

Village Burger

Jess and I got the same thing, the Village Burger ($9) made with an 8-ounce patty on a sesame roll with Bibb lettuce, tomato, and house made Thousand Island dressing. They have lots of toppings to choose from—avocado, fried egg, smoked bacon, and horseradish crab salad to name a few—but I kept mine unadorned, even though I usually order cheese. And it turned out fine; the burger didn't suffer from lack of gooey coagulated milk.

burger innards burger juice
Innards. Juice.

Even though the patty looked a bit more cooked than I prefer (medium rare), it was plenty juicy. The beefiness hit my nose before I bit in, and the flavor of the well seasoned patty held up as I ate it. One of the most memorable parts of the patty was the texture: loose, light, sort of fluffy. It was no surprising when later I found out it employed the Heston Blumenthal burger-making method, which entails aligning all the strands of ground meat in the same direction.

I thought the excess bun overhand would be a distraction, but it turned out to be fine. The soft, light bread melded well with the meat. The only thing I wasn't that into was the sauce—if the meat had been dry and tasteless the sauce would be more important, but the meat didn't need it.

Veggie burger veggie burger innards
Veggie burger + guts.

Alex's veggie burger ($8) didn't fare as well as its beefy kin. It sounded fine on paper—black bean and lentil patty topped with guacamole and pickled red cabbage—but the patty seemed to have some structural issues, in that it was a patty of mush. Not surprising since it was made mostly of black beans and lentils, prime members of the "mushy stuff" family. At least it came on a nice bun.

Hot fudge sundae
Hot fudge sundae.

For dessert we shared the hot fudge sundae ($6) made of vanilla ice cream topped with bananas, peanut butter brownie chunks, chocolate ganache, whipped cream, and crushed peanuts. First collective thought as we dug in: "Whoa, this is good." Moist brownie chunks, chocolate goo, whipped cream—every component came together in sugary harmony. But there were some problems: One, there wasn't much ice cream in it, resulting in spoonfuls of mostly brownie and cream (a good combination, but you know, you want more ice cream in a sundae); two, the spoons were too fat to reach the not-completely-insubstantial dregs packed into the bottom inch of the cup. We would've happily eaten those dregs, but not to the point of picking them out with our fingers.

Otherwise, it was a great sundae. (Just change those spoons, Village Whiskey.) Perhaps it was too small for three people to share, hence why there seemed to be an unbalanced distribution of ice cream, but it provided just enough dessert to fulfill our sweet tooths.

Sprecher Root Beer
Root beer! My favorite beer!

Village Whiskey has an extensive whiskey menu, as you would expect, along with many cocktails, beers, and wines, but my non-alcoholic self still got in on the drinking game with a Sprecher Root Beer ($3).

If I lived in Philadelphia I'd definitely go back to Village Whiskey for a burger, unlike other places I've tried in Philly. Many thanks to Jess for pointing us in the right direction!

Capogiro, round two
More gelato.

After we parted ways with Jess, Alex and I got...gelato. This was over an hour after we left Village Whiskey, mmkay guys—our dinner had time to settle before we piled more frozen awesomeness into our stomachs. We met up with Mel at Capogiro (not the one across the street from Village Whiskey, but one that required more walking) where I got a cup of dulce de leche and grape. Dulce de leche was fine, but that grape...oh man. That grape was brain sputtering-good, like the ginger I had the night before. It had a slight flowery flavor mixed with mellow fruitiness. Grape and ginger, you two are winners.

We're on Mel's couch again..cos it's comfy
Self portrait. Back to dumb faces.

We went back to Mel's place for another round of "splayed on the couch while watching TV shows I've never seen before." Tonight's show: 16 and Pregnant. And I thought I Shouldn't Be Alive was scary? Jesus christ. Watching 16-year-olds going through raising a baby boggles my mind in so many ways. I can't imagine having a kid until I'm well settled and have the potential to save enough money for a college fund, which means I may never have a kid. The 'boppy line ends here. World, you can thank me later.

After Hours at Garces Trading Co.

Justin cuttin dough
Justin cutting dough.

Alex's friend Justin, a baker for Jose Garces, happened to be working that night at Garces Trading Company (where some baking and other food prep is done for Garces' restaurants) and was nice enough to give us a tour of the kitchen when Alex and I popped in after 11:30 p.m. A few photos from the kitchen:

MEATS! Heehee.

The room of hanging meat logs.

meat log!
..More meat!

A mother meat log for Village Whiskey's burgers. (Justin is the one who informed me on the Heston Blumenthal method.)

burger meat!
Burger meat.

Meat for the burger meat log.

Alex is sad..
Sad face.

A forlorn Alex overlooking the stand mixer full of duck fat-enhanced pizza dough. Aw.

Thanks to Justin for letting us mosey around the kitchen!

Day 3: Kanella and Rita's Water Ice


Alex and I ate lunch at the Greek restaurant Kanella for a few reasons: 1) It's only a block away from his apartment; 2) Another restaurant we thought about going to was closed for Easter; 3) One of his friends was working there that morning (actually I don't know if we knew that before we went there, but it all worked out!); 4) It's good.

easter bread
Easter bread.

We started with complimentary Easter bread, a mildly sweet, eggy bread, to celebrate the holiday.


Upon Alex's recommendation, we shared the semolina porridge with warm milk and preserved fruit ($5). And it's a good thing we shared it because it's a helluva lot of porridge for one person. It's super thick, smooth, and creamy, flavored with just a hint of rosewater, and gets plenty of sweetness from the fruit and syrup at the bottom. The preserved fruits vary depending on what they have at the time; I just called to find out that today's version included apricot, plum, and raisins. My shoddy memory can't recall if this is the same version I got three weeks ago, but whatever I got was great. I'd love to eat this porridge again, just not by myself.

Meat close up.

Every weekend chef Konstantinos Pitsillides roasts a different kind of meat just outside the restaurant on the sidewalk. Today's meat: pork butt (which is a shoulder cut, just to clarify; the first time I heard of "pork butt" I thought it was...butt). It took me about a millisecond to decide to order it.

"Weekend Roast"

While it sounded expensive—around $15 if I remember correctly—compared to other dishes on the menu, which hover closer to $10, it made sense when I received a portion big enough for two people. I couldn't defeat the two ginormous herb-rubbed chunks of pork. They weren't dripping with succulence, but were juicy enough. Stomach, how could you fail me?


Alex ordered the shaksouka ($7), two eggs poached in a cumin-scented tomato and pepper stew served with grilled bread.

I haven't had Rita's in years

For dessert, I fulfilled my craving for custard and water ice (the name for Italian ice in Philadelphia) from Rita's, which I haven't had since my trip to Virginia in 2008. Yup, I've been craving it for about two years. I had plenty of chances to go to Rita's know, all those trips I've taken to Philadelphia over the past year (and I just found out there's one in NYC on the Upper West Side), but I guess I was always too full before.

water ice + custard

I skipped the limited-time-only Peeps-flavored ice [shudders] and went for mango in my cup of gelati, their combination of custard and water ice. Although Rita's is known for water ice, what I really love is their vanilla custard. A. Lot. A crapton. It's what I wish Mister Softee was: super rich with a discernible milk and vanilla flavor. It's much more likely I would order a cup of custard on its own instead of a cup of water ice, but the best choice is to get them together so you get a bit of fruity ice and creamy custard in every bite. It's all about balance. Yes. Balance the non-dairy-based thing with the dairy-based thing. Don't say you never learned anything while reading this blog.


And then I went back to my Alex-less life in New York City. And it's all been downhill from there since.

But it'll get better because in two weeks I'm going to Hawaii to eat my butt off with Kathy for a week! Prepare yourself, Hawaii.

And if you made it through this entire post, holy crap, congratulations. I'm going to "reward" you with this splodgy custard-inspired doodle:

Levitating custard.

I like drawing fat bunnies.


Multiple locations listed at

Garces Trading Co
1113 Locust Street, Philadelphia PA 19107 (map)

Village Whiskey
118 South 20th Street, Philadelphia PA 19103 (map)

1001 Spruce Street, Philadelphia PA 19107 (map)

Multiple locations listed at


Lor / April 26, 2010 12:33 AM

I need to stop reading your posts when it's past midnight. I have mad munchies right now and only a juicy, delicious burger will sate the craving.

Instead, I will drink a glass of ice water, crawl into bed, and dream of well salted meats encased in a fluffy bun.


Nicholas / April 26, 2010 12:50 AM

1) Totally didn't realize there was a Rita's on the UWS. Would've gone to get free ice on 3/21 :(

2) That Paesano's sandwich makes me kind of excited to be headed to Philly, not gonna lie. It's twice the size of most sandwiches in NYC at least.

3) Hrmph, I wish someone had told me Bryn Mawr grad was mixed... for uh, personal... reasons? Yeah.

tex / April 26, 2010 2:02 AM

i was going to post a comment agreeing with another commenter on the pitfalls of reading this blog. especially when living in bed-stuy, where even crown fried chicken is closed.

but i opted against it.

until i closed the tab the blog was in, and saw the wikipedia entry for fillerbunny that i had opened while reading the above post. i havent really kept up with jhonen vasquez since highschool, when JTHM was still in circulation ( as in probably going on 15 years). so i'm pretty stoked to find something new-ish by him. thanks.

roboppy / April 26, 2010 2:28 AM


I hope you have burgery dreams. :) I ate a ton of pork for dinner so writing this post didn't make me hungry. I might have porky dreams though.

Nicholas: I just signed up for Rita's club thingy and got a two-for-one coupon! Wanna help me use it? Hehe. it expires in 2 I wish that Rita's were a bit more convenient for me to get to, but it's closer than going to..NJ. Yeah.

There's lots of great food in Philly; you'll have an AWESOMETIME! Tons of pork sandwiches to choose from.

As for Bryn Mawr, Wikipedia says the male percentage of the grad student body is 19.4%. You would totes stand out. Heh.

eula: Thanks for reading!

tex: WHOA another Bed-Stuy resident! Perhaps I have passed your Crown Fried Chicken. I live near a KFC and McD and Gray's Papaya knock off. ...Yeah I don't eat in this nabe much ever (not that there isn't anything worth eating here, I just haven't sought out those restaurants yet. Eep.)

I'm mega glad I could expose you to the wonders of FILLERBUNNY, because that series is really friggin' awesome. You should get all the three teeny books ASAP, and if they don't get you rolling on the floor in fits of spastic wheeze-laden laughter, em again until they do. But not so many times that your brain melts, cos that would be bad. I first got into Jhonen with JTHM, but it's a bit too gruesome for me; I'm way more into Squee and Fillerbunny.

kim / April 26, 2010 8:14 AM

Oh wow! You're going to Hawaii with Kathy?! Will you guys be hopping around the island or just staying with her family? Have fun! Looking forwards to read about your good eats there.

jenny / April 26, 2010 10:13 AM

i love that you've written about philly so many times because i'm moving there in the fall and i plan on checking out all your recommendations! :)

Joanne / April 26, 2010 10:28 AM

I just want to say how much I love your Philly posts. :) I thought I was going to be sad leaving NYC for Philadelphia last year, but the restaurants and food markets here are amazing. People take food very seriously.

I also had grape at Capogiro's the other night, and holy crap, it was like grape candy but BETTER. Enjoy Hawaii!

Doug / April 26, 2010 10:30 AM

Epic post. I'm liking the looks of Paesano's. Makes me want to hit up Sophie's Cubano for some hot pork sandwich action. xo

Lydia / April 26, 2010 12:54 PM

Oh man! First I use your Iceland posts pretty much as a travel guide, and now you're going to Hawaii, where I TOO am going?! I hope it's Maui so I can just copy where you eat again. Now I just need to go to Philadelphia because it looks delicious.

Rachel J / April 26, 2010 2:32 PM

I'm from the area and I love your take on the regional cuisine. Def going to to Village Whiskey next month when I go home to visit the family. For the water ice, Rita's is not top notch. There are tons of handmade water ice indies in the area that will blow your taste buds away. Cheers! Oh, and next time in Philly too go to Johnny Brenda's for beer & food and just authentic Philly experience. Also, Rocket Cat Cafe for coffee and baked goodies, and Reading Terminal Market. Ok that is all. I promise.

Jess / April 26, 2010 3:22 PM

Philly is more fun with Roboppy! So glad we got a chance to grab a burger together. I've got plenty more on the list for you.

yoko / April 26, 2010 9:15 PM

So jealous that you had a burger with Jess! (Well, jealous of the hanging out with Jess part, not the burger part.) And dammit, I need to find a good gelato place here! You make me homesick.

roboppy / April 27, 2010 12:14 AM

Kim: I don't think we'll hop around much, prolly just stay around Honolulu. But..uh, I have no idea cos I'm not really planning anything, haha. LEAVING IT UP TO KATHY! :)

Holly: Oh man, if I lived in Philly I wouldn't go that nutso with food either. :) But I gotta pack it in during those short trips!

Jenny: Woohoo! I hope my recs are useful. I haven't even had a cheese steak yet...oops..

Joanne: Thanks! Philly is a rad place to live, it seems. There certainly isn't a shortage of good foodstuffs. And it's way cleaner than NYC (but then most places are).

Doug: OOH Sophie's cubano is awesome. I haven't had it in a long time. :(

Lydia: Oh noes, I'm not going to Maui, but ummhmm I'll still have some reports on Hawaiian food! SPAM, HERE I COME.

Rachel: Oh yeah, Jess told me the burger at Johnny Brenda's is great. Gotta put that at the top of my list. And I want more water ice!

Jess: I'm probably going back to Philly in May for some food researching, perhaps involving burgers...will totally hit you up when I figure that out, hehe. I will bring da FUN!

yoko: Jess + burger = AWESOME TIMES! Not many gelaterias can measure up to Capogiro awesomeness.

Julie / April 28, 2010 11:17 AM

Of course everything looks tasty and crave-inducing and I want to visit Philly, but mostly now, I wish I had a Jhonen Vasquez book to read.

Okay, I also want a side of tots--real tots, not mash-tot-atoes.

James / April 29, 2010 9:37 PM



This post was over for me as soon as I saw that. I made it to the end, anyway, but I don't even remember my own damn name anymore. It's "Pork," right?

Melissa Z / April 29, 2010 10:39 PM

I never thought about my cloister-less life at NYU. I actually committed without realizing it didn't have a campus. D'oh. You can tell how much I researched my college decision.

Also, that [semi]-ice cream sundae lack of adequate dessert craving fulfillment makes me sad. Maybe it was intimidated by all the gelato you were destined to have.

(I like fat bunnies, but I have a soft spot for your fat manatees.)

roboppy / April 29, 2010 10:57 PM

Nicholas: WHOAA yay classes are over soon! Awesome. We can celebrate with Rita's.

Julie: OMG BUY A JHONEN BOOK! I recommend Squee. It'll bring you a lifetime of laughs!

James: Yes, from now on we shall refer to you as PORK.

Melissa: Perhaps you're right about the sundae knowing what frozen desserts were in my future. It just..KNEW...

Fat bunnies and fat manatees gotta come together in harmony. I should doodle that next.

ACM / April 30, 2010 9:43 AM

It's my first time at your blog (found you this morning through, which I just found through my friend's rec) and found this blog about my very own neighborhood, and my favorite gelato place (weekly pilgrimage occurs, even during snow storms). Totally makes this blog an instant add-on to my reading list. I hope you keep covering Philadelphia!!

Mel / May 1, 2010 9:17 PM

Miss you! Come back soon! We can watch crappy reality TV and we'll go to South Philly for secret Indonesian cuisine...:) Mel

roboppy / May 4, 2010 11:56 PM

ACM: Thanks for reading! Gelato eating does NOT STOP during snowstorms, hell yeah.

Mel: OK! I love crappy reality TV! But only when I'm on your couch.

Su-Lin: Shall doo! Kathy will be the best food guide.

Alex / May 5, 2010 12:52 PM

Yay! I have so much fun every time you come to Philly. I just watched some sweet chinchilla/raisin goodness over your James Beard Foundation award-winning site.

Also I totally don't look sad enough in that picture with the dough mixer. The profound depths of my sadness that I cannot eat a pizza because of its duck-fatty dough are simply inexpressible.

Something random from the archives