Best Thing We Ate

Best Thing We At This Week: Spaghetti and Clams

By Danya Henninger  |  October 3, 2013
Credit: Danya Henninger

When Palmer Marinelli returned to Philly last week after spending a summer running the popping kitchen at The Diving Horse in Avalon, he wanted to cook something different. Not that he didn’t have fun tirelessly putting out seafood and fresh veggies for Jersey Shore’s higher-end diners night after night, but he wanted a chance to try out new ingredients and dishes.

On Monday night he held a pop-up meal at Bella Vista BYO Little Fish, and we were lucky enough to attend. The meal was a never-ending parade of dishes, more than 10 courses filled with plates both large and small. Not every one of them was a hit, but there were more than enough winners to eat way beyond your fill. “Some of these things are not actually that good,” Marinelli said to us after the meal, “but it was great to experiment.”

One experiment that worked perfectly was the spaghetti, thick, meaty, housemade strands of pasta that held onto every bit of the lightly spicy chili and tomato sauce. Clams contributed a rich, briny flavor, and cherry tomatoes held enough of their form to pop in your mouth and add juice.

Also on point was the whipped foie gras, served under a layer of bright fuschia housemade cactus pear jelly. “You’re supposed to spread it on bread!” we whispered to our dining partner, who was happily sucking it down by the spoonful. The bread in question was another winner, a basket of rolls, focaccia, cornbread, biscuits and scones that the chef baked himself.

Marinelli has worked with The Diving Horse/Pub & Kitchen/Fitler Dining Room team for years, but right now he’s planning to take some time off to travel and stage (apprentice) in several kitchens around the world. He’ll be in Australia first, at the renowned Aria in Sydney, and then he will head to San Francisco to cook with Daniel Patterson at Coi. Keep an eye out for his return; he’s definitely one to watch.