Cheat Sheet & Bonus Photos: Zavino University City

By Danya Henninger  |  March 20, 2014
Credit: Danya Henninger

First read up on the new Zavino's high points, and then click through pics of the food and interior, below

The Gist: This University City sibling to Greg Dodge’s 13th Street pizzeria is more than twice the size of the original. It joins the newly hot food corridor near Drexel that is also home to outposts of Shake Shack and Joe Coffee (coZara, a cousin of Rittenhouse sushi stop Zama, is due to open there this spring).

The Vibe: Tightness of quarters is one of the only drawbacks to the Midtown Village Zavino, so the spacious, airy atmosphere of this West Philly version feels relaxing and luxurious. With marble countertops, dark wood tables, white tile and a network of steel shelves, the space is like a cross between an old school steakhouse and a hip industrial loft.

Eat This: Chef Carlos Aparicio’s Neapolitan-style pies are some of the most satisfying in the city, with a slightly thick crust full of burned-top poufs. Eight are on this menu, including The Joey, with Berkshire pork sausage and provolone ($16). His fluffy gnocchi in house-roasted cherry tomato sauce were an unexpected treat ($8).

Drink This: All 24 wines on the list come in both glass and bottle and all are decently priced. A flute of sparkling rosé from Spain ($8) will go great with your cheese plate, and a bottle of Argentinian Torrontes ($36) will do your rock shrimp pizza right. If you’re just stopping in to sit at the swooping bar, sip on a Bourbon Hound (Bulleit, grapefruit and basil), kindly listed at just $9.

Skip This: Unlike 13th Street, this kitchen has room to put out entree-size dishes, such as the roasted Amish chicken and a Tuscan-style steak. While we can’t say they’re not worth ordering, the charcuterie and the selection of small plates - like the spaghetti squash with pine nuts and tomato sauce - are always a better bet.

For Fans Of: Zavino Midtown Village (duh), In Riva, Osteria

The Damage: Except for the pizzas, which are filling but not huge and ring in at an average of $15 each, the pricing here is extremely generous. Interesting and unique salads, apps and pastas are all $10 and under, and though the beer selection is bottle-only, nothing on the craft-heavy list is over $6.

The Verdict: Students should be especially thrilled to have this newcomer in their backyard - it’s perfect for date nights that don’t break the bank. For the professors and others who work in the area, the expansive seating provides plenty of opportunities for private conversation or business meetings. All of West Philly can be happy that there’s another spot for good pizza, of which there is a serious lack on that side of the Schuylkill.

Zavino at Chestnut Square, 3200 Chestnut St.; 215-893-3195

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    This bar has the same curves as the one on 13th Street, but is about twice as large. It also sports one of the only bar booth-seating options we've run into, just off screen to the right of this photo as the bar grazes past a large structural column.

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Space, space and more space. Over 73 seats are spread among the various booths, tables and bar.

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Next to the semi-open kitchen are two marble tables with a prime view of the action.

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Chef Carlos Aparico's pizza-handling skills are top notch - we hardly had a chance to shoot photos before he had the dough flat and ready to receive toppings.

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    After a scattering of fresh tomato sauce and cheese, the pie lands in the 850-plus degree oven for two minutes or less.

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Next to the kitchen is this European-style "finishing" table, where servers apply last-minute touches like fresh herbs and olive oil before delivering plates to your seat.

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Zavino's classic Margherita is tangy and chewy.

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    All pasta is made in house, including the hand-cut tonarelli.

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Those thick and toothy strands show up in a simple but satisfying cacio e pepe variation, laced with truffle flavor thanks to a healthy grating of pecorino tartufo.

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Plump pillows of gnocchi will disappear before you know it, leaving you staring wistfully at your (still attractive) natural wood plate.