Kris Restaurant in South Philadelphia Showcases the Jersey Tomato

Kristian Leuzzi (center) with staff members Russell Burke (left) and Anthony Ciccotta

My wife Glamorosi has a gorgeous garden with everything from blackberries, grapes and figs to cucumbers, arugula and garlic, plus forty different herbs including eight types of basil and seven kinds of mint. I didn’t start my life with a green thumb but I'm learning more every year. Most of all, it’s been educational to watch her tend to her favorite fruit: the tomato. Glamorosi grows fourteen varieties of heirloom tomatoes including Black Krim, Green Zebra, Mister Stripey, Regina’s Yellow, and little Sprites, all of which she uses to make family favorites like tomato salad with hard bread,  fried tomatoes, tomato soup... That’s why we were particularly curious to try Chef Kristian Leuzzi’s Four-Course Tomato Dinner celebrating the Jersey tomato.

Leuzzi has long been a part of the Italian Market’s fine food fare. Back in the day, Kristian’s restaurant at 11th and Federal in South Philadelphia was the best white linen restaurant in the city for Northern Italian cuisine: gorgeous cream sauces, lovely pork tenderloin with orange, a bar stocked with classic spirits. Leuzzi closed Kristian's in May 2009, only to reconfigure and reinvent that same space as Kris in November 2011. This time around it's a little more casual with Italian microbrew Tenute Collesi Imper Ale Rossa replacing port on the menu.

Tomato bruschetta with scallops
From the end of August through the Labor Day holidays, Kris is offering a Four-Course Tomato Dinner (at $24,  an outstanding bargain), with the red fruit from Jersey as a centerpiece of every bite. A deceptively simple Salt Cod and Tomato Carpaccio with pickled red onion was an elegant start, followed by a Tomato Bruschetta with pan seared dry scallop and a balsamic reduction, a small but filling portion of Baked Rigatoni featuring Jersey tomato, scamorza, local zucchini and fresh basil. For the last course, Leuzzi chose a lightly battered and tender Chicken Cutlet Milanese with lemon aioli, Jersey tomato salad and spicy dandelion greens that was beyond compare.

Gnocchi with speck, mushrooms, peas
The staff was down-to-earth and cool; we weren't kidding when we said we wanted them to sit down and eat with us. The drinks – especially the red sangria – were tasty. We also enjoyed Leuzzi’s non-tomato specialties: a luscious veal shank surrounded by lentils and escarole, and gnocchi done up with speck, Mushrooms (shiitake and oyster) and fresh peas in a light chicken stock.

Kris Restaurant and Bar
1100 Federal Street
Philadelphia PA 19147

Kris Restaurant and Bar in South Philadelphia

Photos ©Glamorosi 2012

Posted on Thursday, August 23, 2012 1:49 PM EST