An Italian American-style Diner Knows Its Spaghetti And Seafood

Posted: April 23, 1993

The crowd that frequents Spaghetti Bistro, on Fourth Street just north of Spring Garden, could best be described as eclectic. There's the mix of workers that stop by to take advantage of the $3.95 lunch (which includes soup and a beverage). And there's the clientele that travels from other neighborhoods for dinner and kept coming back.

Some of the Bistro's customers were no doubt headed for the nearby Spaghetti Warehouse but ended up here by mistake. The food and the price brought them back.

Chef-owner Bari Bashar thinks that he has lost some customers much the same way. "People have called for directions, made reservations and then never arrive," he says. "I think somehow they've ended up at the other place, thinking they were coming here."

For whatever reason people stop by Spaghetti Bistro, the honest attention given to some very basic American-Italian dishes brings them back.

If you're looking for sun-dried tomatoes and pancetta, this might not be your spot. But if you can imagine the Italian equivalent of an American diner - and like the idea - you'll enjoy yourself here.

Best of all, now that the warm weather appears imminent, Spaghetti Bistro offers an alternative to the trendy eateries that have opened along Delaware Avenue. The prices are affordable and the portions, ample. And there's a short

menu for children.

The building used to house what I think of as a diner-luncheonette: booths, lunch counter and a menu not unlike the typical diner. Little has changed

physically, but Spaghetti Bistro is attractive and comfortable.

Three visits here convinced me that Bashar's strong point is consistency. For the most part, the food has a made-to-order quality. You never feel that someone in the kitchen thinks that just because your entree costs only $5.95, there's no need to pay much attention to it.

Most entrees include soup or salad. The soups, which change daily except for the hearty onion soup ($2.50), are served hot and have flavorful broth and hand-cut veggies. Salad bar is minimal - but fresh - and features greens, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, spinach, beans and a variety of standard dressings.

Chicken wings - you get six pieces - are crisp, dry, cooked through and painted with a Louisiana-style hot sauce ($2.95). Appetizers also include creamy sticks of fried mozzarella (2.95), mussels in red or white sauce ($4.95) and clams on the half shell ($3.50).

Worthy home-made specialties are cannelloni stuffed with minced veal, chicken and beef ($5.95) and twin sets of eggplant slices wrapped around a mix of spinach and ricotta cheese, and baked with mozzarella and a decent tomato sauce ($5.95).

Spaghetti Bistro has an excellent selection of seafood dishes, from a combo of scallops, clams, mussels, crab legs, shrimp and calamari in tangy fra diavolo sauce ($12.95) to the Bistro Delight ($11.95), which brings together broiled chicken breast and shrimp ($11.95).

There are also sandwiches ($2.75 to $4.50) and pizzas ($3.50 to $4.95). Desserts are routine. There is no liquor license, but you may bring your own wine.

SPAGHETTI BISTRO

538 N. Fourth St., 215-629-0688.

Open: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, to 11 p.m. Saturdays and 4 to 10 p.m. Sundays.

Price range: Entrees $5.50 to $12.95, sandwiches $2.75 to $4.50 and pizzas $3.50 to $4.95.

Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard.

Nonsmoking section: Yes.

Facilities for handicapped: No.

Atmosphere: Faux brick and booths.

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