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Dining Out

Photos: Glenn Race

–by Frank Quattrone

M O O N ST R U C K never thought I’d find a restaurant that could make gnocchi as tasty as my dear departed nonna’s. But I was wrong. It happened during our most recent visit to Moonstruck, the elegant upscale Italian that’s been setting standards and inspiring changes in the local dining scene ever since it opened as Ristorante DiLullo in Fox Chase more than 37 years ago. Lactose intolerant, my wife Eve and I had just a taste of Moonstruck’s delicate house-made dumplings in a creamy gorgonzola sage sauce (lovely) but simply reveled in the spinach gnocchi kissed by a traditional light tomato sauce. Amazing! But it’s what we’ve come to expect from Moonstruck and its visionary hosts, Toto Schiavone and Claire DiLullo, the happily married restaurateurs who have been creating great food together for years. Moonstruck, like the multiple Academy Award-winning 1987 film that inspired its name, exudes romance — from the stately brick and black tablecloths of its private dining rooms to the classy glass dividers that create a sense of intimacy while connecting guests to the vibrant tables beyond their own.

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And then there’s the menu. Emanating from the restaurant’s first consultant, beloved world-famous chef and cookbook author Marcella Hazan, tweaked by Moonstruck’s first chef Aliza Green, another acclaimed, prolific cookbook author and Elkins Park’s own culinary queen, and driven by the passionate soul of Toto, whose upbringing on a farm in Calabria has taught him more about the freshness of foods than most people will ever know, Moonstruck features classic Italian cuisine lovingly prepared and presented. Although you couldn’t find Calamari Fritti, a mainstay on most menus these days, on more than a handful of Italian menus in 1979, Ristorante DiLullo was already serving it to its appreciative guests. Today Moonstruck has refined that staple into its Calamaretti appetizer, a plate of sautéed tender squid served in a seafood tomato broth with fingerling potatoes and fresh peas. But you must begin your meal at Moonstruck with Salumi, the great antipasti dish that Toto calls “the centerpiece of the Italian table,” a grand array of capocolla, house-made and house-cured soppressata, prosciutto, and speck (zesty smoked prosciutto—an Italian

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