Taste West Chester - Autumn 2021

Page 1

Produced & Published by The WC Press



good food news

Sampling dozens of


throughtout town


All the flavor, none of the regret


We gots the ‘za.

Where’s the Beef?

First and foremost, it’s at

PIETRO’S PRIME. (But we’ve also explored some other local options.)





Letter from the Editor

Back of House

Kate Chadwick introduces the issue

PUBLISHER Dan Mathers dan@thewcpress.com


o you know what it feels like to be an understudy? You know—the person who is supposed to be ready to jump right on stage in the event the star of the show can’t make it? That’s how I feel right now—kinda shoved out here, blinking under the lights. I know this isn’t the byline you’re used to seeing in this spot—that’s usually our publisher, Dan Mathers. He’s decided to give the understudy (that would be me, the managing editor) the job of writing the letter that greets you when you open an issue of The WC Press or Taste. It’s fortuitous for me that he chose an issue of Taste to start this, as I’m a big fan of food. Whenever I know I’ll be spending a significant chunk of time in the borough, I start planning that time around where/when/what I’m going to eat. Or grab a coffee. Or get some takeout. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a big fan of browsing and shopping and art gallery-ing, or getting my hair cut or my nails done or just walking around this town, but that’s the tent of my day. The eating is the poles. I have my favorite things at my favorite spots like we all do, but if we start down that rabbit hole, we’ll be here all day. So, let’s talk about what’s on tap for this issue. One of the things that makes our writer Danielle Davies such a joy to work with is her (possibly pathological?) enthusiasm—I kid because I love. When I assigned her the enviable task of tracking down vegan desserts, I suggested six places. She came back with 12 of them. Mind you, I’m not vegan, but you don’t need to be to follow the glorious dessert path through the borough that she’s blazed. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Jesse Piersol answers the age-old question, “Where’s the beef?” in her breakfast, lunch, and dinner tour for carnivores. She pulls triple duty in this issue, with that feature as well as the On a Roll and Dining Out columns, where she visited Meatball U and Spence Café, respectively. You should do those things, too. We round out the features with my mini bar crawl to some of our favorite borough spots in search of alcohol-free liquid refreshments. Added bonus: I didn’t stagger out of any of these places like I used to. All this and more awaits you in these pages. Corralling this talented group of writers is my pleasure. Thanks to them and to our loyal advertisers, we’re able to bring this content to you, our readers. Thanks so much to you as well—this would all be kinda pointless without you. And thanks, Dan, for pushing me out here. —kate@tastewestchester.com

“The only thing I like better than talking about food is easting.” -John Walters

STAFF MANAGING EDITOR Kate Chadwick kchadwick@thewcpress.com

ADVERTISING MANAGER Nick Vecchio nick@thewcpress.com

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Jesse Piersol jpiersol@thewcpress.com Danielle Davies ddavies@thewcpress.com


CONTRIBUTORS Becca Boyd bboyd@thewcpress.com Andrea Mason amason@thewcpress.com DJ Romeo romeo@thewcpress.com Published By... The WC PRESS & Mathers productions, LLC 1271 Phoenixville Pk West Chester, PA 19380 mathersproductions.com 610-299-1100

TASTE West Chester is a quarterly magazine mailed to more than 3,000 homes throughout West Chester, as well as being dropped off to about 150 locations in and around the borough. For a free subscription — digital or mailed — visit thewcpress.com.

Today’s Menu 7

#TASTEWC Our favorite social media posts from fans are getting printed


SAVOR A SLICE There’s no such thing as bad some are better than others


BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS The most important meal of the day. @ Two Birds Cafe


FORM & FUNCTION The borough’s best kitchens and dining spaces. @ Mercato


SMALL FRY Dining out with the young ones in tow. @ Side Bar


THE BOOZE-LESS CRUISE A mini bar crawl, minus the buzz.


ON A ROLL The best foods served between slices of bread. @ Meatball U


BEEF: IT’S WHAT’S FOR DINNER (And Breakfast & Lunch)


DINING OUT Sampling some of the borough’s best meals. @ Spence Cafe


VEGAN DELICIOUSNESS Dozens of desserts that don’t involve animals.


BEHIND THE BAR WITH NATALIE ALVARO Discussing a life behind bars with the borough’s best-known faces.


PHOTO HUNT Find the five changes, win a Barnaby’s gift card.







Like and follow us on social media, then tag us in your posts for a chance get your work published here. Our favorite image each month () will earn its photographer a gift card to @barnabyswc.














Savor a Slice There’s no such thing as a bad pizza, but that doesn’t mean some aren’t a cut above. photos ERIK WEBER @westchesterviews

Cirillo’s Artisan Pizza Pickle Pizza While pickles, hardwood smoked bacon, mozzarella and a romano/parmesan cheese blend served with a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil might sound strange at first, you have to give it a shot.

Mercato Bianca Pizza Mercato’s Neopolitan crust with mozzarella, prosciutto, Buffalo mozzarella, arugula, EVOO and Saba — an Italian condiment made from reduced grape juice, somewhat akin to balsamic vinegar — makes a mix of sweet, salty, bitter and savory.

West Chester Pizza Cafe Sicillian Slice Sometimes you crave the classics, and this Sicillian slice — with just a touch of sauce that’s deeply covered in mozzarella and parmesan and served on a thick, crunchy crust —satisfies that urge perfectly. PUBLISHED BY THE WC PRESS




Breakfast of Champions The most important meal of the day can also be the most delicious way to start it. This Month: Two Birds Cafe Opening their doors just three months before the start of the pandemic proved a baptism by fire for Justin and Jessie, the chefs/owners of Two Birds Cafe. What emerged was refined by the metaphorical flames. Though they never closed their doors, they had to get their takeout up and running immediately and create outdoor seating so their newfound regulars could don gloves and hats to grab a bite. Located just outside the borough, in East Bradford, Two Birds has found its niche in West Chester: a breakfast and lunch spot that strives to create a homey, community feel while providing a meal that more than hints at fine dining. Why shouldn’t it? Justin has enough experience to helm a flagship of restau-

rants, and his expertise is matched with a passion evident in the Two Birds menu. While not huge, it’s arguably perfect: flavorfully balanced dishes, ideal portions, and enough tempting options to ensure a second (and third) visit. The “COVID purchase” of a smoker has yielded applewood smoked bacon, smoked jalapeño ranch on their buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, and a smoked beet “toast” that was a favorite of mine: smoked beets, whipped goat cheese, arugula, egg, and a sweettart blackberry vinaigrette combines in a way that had me nibbling way past my customary “tasting bite.” I will be ordering the house-cured salmon (with smashed avocado, pickled red onions, and fresh dill) next time I’m there. Justin has pioneered a condiment I’ve yet to come across: a fermented chili sauce recipe that takes over a week to create. The flavor profile contains a unique taste that complements whatever it’s paired with. It’s served drizzled over their Huevos Rancheros, but I implore you to request it as a side even if you order pancakes or French toast so you can take a taste of it. It’s almost like you didn’t know hot sauce could taste like

that. It’s dubbed the “Glen Sauce” for its namesake regular diner who buys it by the bottle and who’s encouraged Justin to try his hand at other versions. Justin started working in professional kitchens at 15, beginning as a dishwasher and working his way up to chef at Alba in Malvern. Though a classically trained chef herself, Jessie prefers her passion for baking. The adage that you’re either a cook or a baker holds no truth here. In fact, the exact science of baking holds value for Jessie, whether it’s the slow rise for her cinnamon roll dough or homemade bread for French toast, she knows that the details matter. The crumb-lovers cake (with its almosttwo-inches-high topping) is a thing of beauty, and the muffins and scones in the case by the register will make you forget how full you are from those pancakes when paying your bill. Paired with their locally sourced, house-made jam, I’d recommend taking a few to go. Justin and Jessie wanted a menu full of options that they would want to eat. They believe that scratch is better. Justin wants his kitchen to work like a restaurant from 100 years ago. How do you have jam to





serve with toast if there isn’t a major food distributor that sells it in bulk? You learn how to make it yourself with what’s seasonal. How do you make a fried chicken sandwich if you don’t purchase precooked, pre-breaded chicken patties from a warehouse restaurant supplier? You marinate a chicken breast in buttermilk, coat in seasoned flour, and deep fry to golden perfection. With their focus on using as much seasonal produce as possible, intelligent creativity makes a difference. If you want a tomato for your sandwich in January, Justin will offer you tomato jam he made in the summer of ’21. We live in a world where every food is available every day of the year, regardless of where and when it was grown, but there’s no reason to eat a bland, tasteless item just because it’s there. It’s the details that matter, and they’re not overlooked at Two Birds. Take, for instance, the omelet with brisket and roasted mushrooms. It contains tender egg, tangy cheddar, earthy mushrooms, and perfectly cooked brisket. All together it’s just about ideal, but if the omelet is opened up and each part tasted on its own, each could stand alone. That’s similarly true for the lunch item I tasted, which was the Peach and Burrata salad, with walnuts, shaved red onion, baby arugula, and a reduced balsamic. The walnuts were toasted just right, the red onion offered a spicy freshness but didn’t overwhelm, and the peaches were perfectly ripe. It was a cacophony of flavor.

With their focus on using as much seasonal produce as possible, intelligent creativity makes a difference. If you want a tomato for your sandwich in January, Justin will offer you tomato jam he made in the summer of ’21. The ambiance at Two Birds makes you never want to leave. Jessie has been floored by the community her restaurant has created. She doesn’t know where they’d be without their hardworking high school and college student employees, many of whom have forged relationships with the restaurant’s patrons, resulting in graduation cards and multigenerational friendships. Jessie has watched growing pregnant bellies result in snuggly two-week-old babies, in for their first “breakfast out.” Authenticity reigns supreme here. When I mentioned the phrase “farm-to-table” I received an eye roll and a groan. Jessie assured me that she doesn’t hate the term itself, she just thinks it’s typically used inappropriately. For instance, if you use bananas in your Pennsylvania restaurant, you’re not actually farm-to-table. Here, they use as much seasonal produce as possible, work with as many local vendors as they can find and cook almost exclusively from scratch. The future looks bright for this pair, as (here’s hoping) things ease back to normal. Requests for private events have been rolling in; it’s the perfect spot for a baby or wedding shower or even a birthday. They have also discussed the idea of a once-a-month ticketed dinner. This place is a must visit, and I predict that one time won’t be enough for you. It sure wasn’t for me. photos & story BECCA @homebeccanomics






Form & Function Exploring the design concepts of our borough’s best kitchens and dining spaces. This Month: Mercato Located on bustling stretch of Market Street you’ll find Mercato, a restaurant brimming with Italian charm. It’s a local favorite and you can see why, with its quaint everyone-knows-everyone appeal. I had the pleasure of talking with manager Shant Mahserejian about what makes Mercato the authentic Mediterranean getaway that everybody needs. Shant began by telling me about the culinary experts behind the space, owner Alfredo Giannaccari and his late wife Barbara. They opened Mercato together in 2014 and created a unique ambiance. You’ll see a mix of materials here from the brick and stone walls to the wooden tables and chairs that pair perfectly with

the sleek granite bar countertops. The restaurant has a warm, earth-tone color palette, and both the lighting and furnishings are a mix of old and new, creating a beautiful balance of comfortable and polished. Alfredo found inspiration in the Mediterranean, from his hometown of Naples. The style’s reminiscent of a family-friendly eatery you’d find right in Italy. Another thing from Naples? The large, beautiful brick pizza oven in the back—both a centerpiece and an element you can’t miss Located in their lively open kitchen, this oven generates the most delicious classic Neapolitan pies. With the cooks hard at work and calling out orders, the kitchen becomes a focal point of the restaurant and you can watch the action. The interior is spacious, with multiple seating areas. The lower level boasts ample space for larger private parties, but also offers intimate dining set within the stone walls and dimmed lighting of the wine cellar. Thinking about dining al fresco? Mercato’s outside patio has been newly expanded and is just as magical as the

interior with twinkle lights and cozy seating so you can enjoy the fresh air and watch the busy town pass by. The menu has a wide range with everything you could want from delicious pastas, pizza, and specials made every day. Shant listed a few favorites starting with the Tagliata steak and was confident you can’t go wrong with any of the pasta specials that are made from scratch daily. The bar will whip up an array of craft cocktails; a popular go-to is the blood orange cosmopolitan, and Mercato is also known for its thoughtfully selected wines. Dining at its finest, Mercato also prides itself on a pleasant environment— perfect for a date night or a family get together. You will be instantly transported to Italy here, which is an escape we all need these days of limited travel. They are open for lunch and dinner with brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Just be sure to make your reservation on the weekends—they fill up fast! story ANDREA MASON @andreamasondesign





Small Fry Some suggestions on the best destinations when dining out with the young ones in tow. This Month: Side Bar After a year of playing chef and ordering family-style takeout meals, my wife Shannon and I were more than excited to get out of the house. Eating at the same kitchen table was beginning to feel like Groundhog Day. We were even more delighted when we got the news that downtown West Chester was doing the open-air market once again on Gay Street. Then reality set in: we now have a three-year-old little lady who, through the pandemic, has developed into — let’s just say — a strong-willed diva who knows what she wants. Olivia has morphed into a complete hybrid of her mother and I, which is great, but it can also be a bit exhausting. Instead of just feeding her what we want, we have to plan ahead and give her “options,” so when it came to dining out, we had to involve her in the decision-making process. We started our old routine of packing a bag with crayons, coloring books, toys, iPad and everything we could think of using to distract her and hopped in the car where we immediately began discussing our potential destination in a way that made little Olivia feel like she was the one making the decision. After a heated debate, we were on our way to Side Bar. Not all restaurants embrace children the way Side Bar does, so they were always a top contender from the start of the debate. Olivia has been going there since she was 8 weeks old and had become somewhat of a regular before the pandemic, so it was also a top choice for the petite diva in the car seat. Side Bar was always accommodating on our previous visits, with plenty of high chairs, booster seats, changing tables in the restrooms, free WiFi for the iPad and a traditional kid’s menu we knew Olivia enjoyed... not to mention, plenty of delicious brews, cocktails and new menu items for Mom and Dad. Upon our arrival, it felt like we were back home! We grabbed a table on the patio and a sense of calm set in knowing that we didn’t have to cook dinner, that Olivia

would be happy, and we could enjoy ourselves in a space that catered to just this kind of occasion. When asked, Olivia — without hesitation — said she wanted ketchup for her meal. Upon further review, she decided on grilled cheese and fries. Naturally, my wife went with her go-to Piri Piri Chicken, and I had been craving the Shaved Rib Eye Sandwich for months. We also ordered a Hummus Platter (feta, cucumbers, kalamata olive, roasted red pepper, tomato and toasted pita) which was perfect for sharing while Olivia filled her belly. Side Bar’s beer list is so good, and their staff so well educated, that I didn’t even bother to consult the beer list, I just asked Pat, our server and also a manager, to bring me the best IPA they had on tap. It was amazing, and I don’t even know it’s name.

Pat couldn’t have been more attentive and within minutes of ordering, Olivia was dipping her fries into her beloved ketchup. Pat and the rest of Side Bar’s team have always made Olivia a priority whenever we’re there, and she might have already developed a crush on several of them. There was no rush to finish, and Olivia was given ample time to polish off her grilled cheese while daddy embarked on a second IPA and momma sampled a virgin mojito (did I mention baby #2 is on the way?). Sitting out on Gay Street was almost blissful. As we took in the atmosphere and enjoyed the sensation of somebody else making our meal, we reflected on how much we’d taken for granted the simple joy of a night out as a family. story & photo @djromeo24







booze-less Cruise A mini bar crawl, minus the buzz.






or someone in recovery like me — or for a designated driver, or for a pregnant woman, or for someone who just doesn’t drink (such unicorns do exist!) the beverage options were, for a rather long time, fairly limited. A club soda, a ginger ale, an O’Douls N/A beer (which is not great, although their amber is pretty good)—these were the options if you wanted to stand around with something in your hand. Things have changed in recent years, as people start to reassess their relationship with alcohol, whether it’s become problematic for them or simply from a wellness standpoint—that piña colada you’ve got there can run anywhere from 500-900 calories. Each. And there is a myriad of other health issues, but I digress. The N/A industry has really upped its game—even as the alcohol industry has encroached on that sober drinker go-to—seltzer, damn them. Many bars and restaurants have expanded beyond the standard O’Douls offering. Others have created actual mocktail menus, and any bar can offer a virgin option of most mixed drinks.

Strawberry Mojito Mercato doesn’t mess around. The mint that’s muddled in your drink is grown on premsises, right on their patio. I did a mini tour of four borough establishments to see what they’re offering up in terms of N/A beverages. First stop:


I’m going to be honest: Patrick Evans, the bartender here, really set the bar (sorry). There are two types of bartenders: cool, wry, and knowing, or enthusiastic and engaging. Patrick was the latter. I strolled into Mercato around 2pm on a Saturday. While the outside dining area was still bustling and there were a couple of indoor tables lingering over lunch, the bar was empty. I bellied up and told Patrick what I was doing there, and his face lit up like a Christmas tree. “I LOVE doing this kind of stuff!” he announced. A big fan of getting creative, he started quizzing me on what I don’t like in terms of fruit while his wheels

spun about what to make me, which was very smart. Me: “I don’t like bananas or raisins.” Him: “Okayyyyy – good! I don’t usually put bananas or raisins in drinks!” It was right around here that I accurately pegged him as a fellow Gemini, but I digress again. What we ended up with was an N/A strawberry mojito. Fun fact: my last cocktail ever in my drinking career was a mojito (not to be confused with my last actual alcoholic beverage which was a Bud Light pounder). And that was delicious, but then we started talking about how much I like blueberries, so he whipped up a blueberry mojito next, which I liked even better. The mint that Mercato grows themselves, right outside, was key. Having just eaten a big brunch at Two Birds, I wasn’t hungry, but I asked Patrick what he’d recommend if I wanted something to munch on with my drink. He immediately suggested the Fried Artichokes, which I will have next time I’m there. In terms of N/A beer, Mercato serves Heineken 0.0, an excellent choice. Patrick was just getting ready to make me a yellow watermelon mojito—who knew such a thing existed, or that a bartender



Time to see and be seen. 22


would run across the street to fetch one from Carlino’s? —when we both realized I had three other places to visit. So, he poured the rest of my drink into a to-go cup and threw in a handful of blueberries for the road. I popped them into my mouth as I took a leisurely stroll to:

“Doesn’t it bother you to sit in a crowded bar if you’re sober?” “No, not anymore,” I replied. “If anything, it can serve as a reminder of why I no longer drink.” Right on cue, someone at the raucous table behind me spilled a drink.

The Social

The Gay Street seating area just outside was packed on what was shaping up to be a gorgeous late-summer day. The vibe when I walked into Social was “Saturday afternoon madhouse,” and poor Sean, behind the bar, was sprinting around like an Olympic athlete. I love the feel of Social—dark wood, high ceilings, red walls—very sexy in an old-fashioned kind of way. The bar is the centerpiece of the main room when you walk in, with various other seating areas scattered around and tucked away. I parked myself in the corner opposite the bustling service bar, which was also a whirlwind, right next to the leg-with-fishnet-stocking, a/k/a the “major award” lamp from A Christmas Story, and patiently waited for Sean to head my way. I quickly explained what I was doing, and he immediately suggested a virgin version of their Strawberry Lemonade. It’s usually made with their own lemonade and macerated strawberries, along with a shot of citrus vodka and Sweet Revenge Strawberry Liqueur—mine obviously lacked the last two. There was a guy drinking one right across the bar from me, so Sean didn’t have to convince me. He poured me a tall pint glass of it, and it really hit the spot—the tart lemonade and sweet strawberries in perfect balance. The only difference between my drink and that other guy’s besides the alcohol was that his was served up in a cocktail shaker and side glass. I spotted several of these at other—quite lively—tables around Social. My dinner plans weren’t until 7pm, so I figured a bit of protein was in order. Sean fetched me a menu and I ordered the delightful pistachio-crusted chicken fin-

gers (no fries), and with it I had a Heineken 0.0. Three years ago, I first saw an ad for this N/A lager in an airline magazine on a flight from Dublin to Paris, and over the past two I’ve watched it pop up in bar after bar. 10/10, would recommend. About then it looked like Sean might be heading out after his crazy afternoon. He stopped back to check on me, and I said I hoped he had a relaxing evening planned. “No,” he said. “I’m going home to shower and come back. Can I ask you a question?” “Sure,” I said. “Doesn’t it bother you to sit in a crowded bar if you’re sober? I hope I’m not getting too personal.”

Strawberry Lemonade The Social makes their own lemonade and mashes the fruit on the spot, and you can get a whole shaker to yourself. “No, not anymore,” I replied. “If anything, it can serve as a reminder of why I no longer drink.” Right on cue, someone at the raucous table behind me spilled a drink. Sean looked at me and said, “Good for you. I don’t even know you, but I’m proud of you.” Right back at you, Sean. Not much of a commute to my next stop, across the street at...





Bar Avalon

I wove between lively tables in the street from the dark, smoldering Social to the lighter, brighter Bar Avalon. And jackpot: yet another handsome bartender. I hit that sweet spot (4:15-ish?) when the servers were getting ready for the dinner shift and still outnumbered the customers. There were two men at the bar; it appeared to be a post-golf date. I slid onto a seat near the window, fully distracted by the stunning bouquet of white roses on the bar. Bar Avalon’s environment screams elegance, but they don’t take themselves too seriously—their slogan, on the servers’ tees, is “Bar Avalon: It doesn’t suck.” Kyle came over promptly, and I shared my mission, watching the wheels turn in his head instantly. This man was a true professional. “How do you feel about ginger?” I feel fine about ginger, as it turns out, so Kyle whipped up a ginger lemon cocktail—and I’m telling you it was exquisite. It was sharp and perfectly balanced with the right amount of sweetness and the optimal fizz level from a shot of club soda. I was particularly taken with the glass it was served in, an elegant—dare I

Ginger Lemon Fizz Bar Avalon was happy to whip up a cocktail on the spot, perfectly balancing sweet, tart and refreshing. say artistic?—take on a Collins glass, but more compact and with a curved base and narrower opening. Bar Avalon could easily be considered “fancy,” but there is nothing pretentious about it. I got an example of that when a couple walked in and sat two seats down from me, and we immediately started chatting amiably. The lady ordered a glass of wine, and the gentleman ordered a Smoked Manhattan. Side note: even at my worst as a drinker, whisky was at the absolute bottom of my list, but I’m sure this one is excellent, and what a treat it was to watch it being made! The cocktail was mixed separately, and then wood chips were set ablaze on a sizzle plate. A snifter was placed over the smouldering embers until it filled with smoke, and then the drink was poured into the cloud of smoke. Beautiful to look at— and talk about sensory overload—it was

like a tiny fireplace suddenly sprang up on the bar. You were the star of my Instagram story that night, Kyle. On my way out I noticed a tee shirt for sale at the hostess stand. It was gray and featured a drawing of Dr. Anthony Fauci on the front, and “In Fauci we trust” written over it. I nearly bought it, until I noticed it said “Wash hands, drink alcohol, repeat” under it. I can only carry half that message, Bar Avalon, but I really like your style.

Split Rail Tavern

When I made my way to my final stop, it was right around 5pm and the bar—and restaurant—were completely packed. I asked the hostess what time they opened for brunch the next day, and when she said 11am, I said “see you then.” My sister and I met there and were shown to the last table in the back on the first floor. Bridget, our waitress, brought menus and my sister ordered a coffee, bless her. Also in recovery, she’s one of those lucky people who can drink coffee all day and it doesn’t affect her sleep. I cut myself off by 11am, or I’m doomed to lie there all night, solving the world’s problems. I asked





Bridget if they make their own Bloody Mary mix at Split Rail and she answered correctly with, “Yes!” so I ordered a virgin one. Once upon a time, I was a real Bloody Mary aficionado; of course, once upon a time, I was also always hungover, and they rightfully have a “hair of the dog that bit you” reputation. Originally conceived to whet one’s appetite, I find that virgin ones fit that same bill without the poor decision making and other vodka-related fallout I’ve experienced over the years. Once again, I was quite taken with the glass (I’m easily pleased—what can I say?). It was served with all the usual accoutrements: an olive, lemon and lime wedge skewered on a cocktail toothpick. The mix was one of the better I’ve had: total synchronicity of ingredients, nothing overly spicy—although I love a spicy Bloody—no one ingredient completely overwhelming the others (a danger with that particular drink). After we ordered, I told Bridget about the story I was working on and that I’d be popping over to the bar to speak with the bartender. She said, “Go for it—that’s the bar manager over there, Jordan.” She walked away, but then she came right back. “I just have to tell you: I’m so glad you’re writing this story,” she said. “I am in recovery, and this is an important thing you’re doing.” Bridget = new favorite waitress. I went over to Jordan and talked with him briefly, and he soon brought me a mocktail of his own concoction as well (“If someone comes in and orders this after your story and I’m not here, tell whoever is working to call me”): a club soda base with some lemon, some OJ, and as a lovely and extremely tasty twist, a dash of honey and a fragrant sprig of earthy rosemary. This drink was perfect with the mushroom omelet I ordered. We stopped briefly on our way out to visit with our own account manager, Nick Vecchio, seated with his adorable daughter Olivia, and equally adorable wife, Shannon, who is pregnant with their second child. She is, of course, going the N/A route until November, when the baby is due, and we chatted about that. Usually a wine drinker, she was sipping on a juice concoction jazzed up with some fruit, and we talked about how sadly lagging the N/A wine industry is compared with beer. Shannon noted that in her girlfriend squad there are

Bloody Mary As you’d expect from a scratch kitchen like Split Rail Tavern, they make their own bloody mary mix. a couple of beer drinkers, one of whom is also pregnant, and said that she’s happy with the increased N/A beer offerings out there now. Nick noted that Split Rail carries Athletic Brewing Company—a super-hot brand at the moment—with the distinction of being the first N/A only brewery in the US. Jordan brought over the two they carry: their Run Wild and Free Wave IPAs. We didn’t have time to sample one there, but I’ve had the Free Wave since and it’s excellent (although Brooklyn Brewing’s Special Effects is my favorite N/A IPA by far). And a pro tip here about N/A beers: if you’re not an active alcoholic, these are a great N/A option. But if you are, don’t think that swapping out regular beer for these will “cure” you—it’s a bit more involved than that. Some people in recovery never

touch them; some, like me, will have them on occasion. Oh, and while we were eating, I noticed someone smiling and waving at me from under a baseball cap a couple of tables away. It was Patrick, the bartender from Mercato, enjoying brunch with his girlfriend. If you want to know where to go and what to drink in West Chester—even alcohol-free—just ask a bartender. West Chester may be known as a bit of a party town, but if you or someone you know needs help with a drinking problem, you might be surprised at the amount of support here. From peer-to-peer recovery groups like AA to Intensive Outpatient to medically supervised detoxification to community sober living, there are about a dozen options for rehab and around 65 active AA meetings going on at any given time in and around the borough. You can find one at aasepia.org. photos ERIK WEBER @westchesterviews story KATE @KATEC61 6






On a Roll Sampling all of the borough’s best foods served between slices of bread. This Month: Meatball U With festive purple and gold pennants in a spacious, relaxed setting, Meatball U. boasts the biggest meatballs in town. Located just blocks from WCU’s campus, it offers booth and counter seating for up to 45 people, although these days, takeout comprises most of their business. For 20 years, Dan Shea and co-owner Morgan Harris worked at the Jersey Shore, Dan as a DJ and Morgan as a bouncer. But Dan always imagined a place where he could make his family’s delicious recipes and serve them to the community. On November 24, 2019, Meatball U. opened its doors. It hasn’t been easy. “After Thanksgiving break came winter break,” he recalls. “And then spring break…” after which WCU students didn’t come back to campus at all, switching to remote instruction due to COVID for the remainder of the semester and the following two terms. “We’ve got 18,000 students in town. I figure 17,500 of them haven’t heard of us.” Yet.

Dan credits the supportive town for getting Meatball U. off the ground. “Families found us and ordered big meals,” he says. “Local schools did dine and donate with us.” Happy Hour Meatball Sliders We rolled in for a late lunch during Meatball U.’s happy hour—2 to 5pm daily—when sliders are two for $5 (usually $3.29). We sampled four: classic beef with red sauce and mozzarella cheese (their best seller), sausage (a combination of hot and sweet Italian sausages), vegetarian (plant-based protein from Impossible Foods), and seasonal roasted pork (with provolone, broccoli rabe, and roasted red peppers). If I had to choose a favorite, it would be the beef or the roasted pork, both tender, juicy, and perfectly seasoned. “It’s like your mom or grandma’s favorite meatball, made from a nice-quality ground chuck,” Dan says of the beef version. All the food reflects his commitment to premium quality, uncomplicated ingredients. Cento brand crushed tomatoes simmer on the stove all day to let the flavors develop fully before becoming the red sauce for the following day’s meatballs. For me, one slider was the perfect serving. The meatballs are the size of tennis balls, the vegetarian version larger still since it doesn’t shrink during cooking. College athletes heading to practice might require more than one. And if any-

one wants to top last November’s oneyear anniversary meatball eating contest, that number is 23—the winner ate 22 in five minutes. The Roll Meatball U. earns an A+ for choosing South Jersey’s Liscio’s Bakery as their bread purveyor. Our sliders’ brioche rolls were surprisingly capable of handling their contents (fork and knife suggested). Larger sandwiches are served on an 8” steak roll (three meatballs for $8.99) or a 12” sub roll (5 for $13.99). Varieties can be mixed and matched to create a custom sandwich. Regardless of roll, the preparation is the same: sliced and smeared with garlic butter, then toasted in the brick oven. On the Horizon In addition to their classics, seasonal flavors infuse the menu, like autumn’s Oktoberfest offering of bratwurst balls topped with pickled slaw accompanied by a brick oven-toasted Bavarian pretzel and two types of mustard. In November, a stuffing-filled meatball arrives in time for Thanksgiving. And if all goes well, West Chester is just the beginning. The enterprising duo imagines a Meatball U. in college towns all over the country. photo ERIK WEBER @westchesterviews story JESSE PIERSOL @JESSEPIERSOL





BEEF it’s what’s for Dinner

(and breakfast) (and lunch)





The Pinky Benny


Market Street Grill The Pinky

We begin our tour with “The Pinky,” a Market Street Grill signature eggs benedict dish: an English muffin topped with braised short rib and two poached eggs with hollandaise sauce. While we’re talking ribs, this meal will stick to yours. “It’s one of the first things we did that we really liked,” recalls Darla Riccetti, chef at Market Street. They’d been offering their short rib as a side dish and then one day, owner Kerry Greco decided to build a benny around it, and it’s been gracing the menu for more than 10 years now.


“You have to be in the mood for a big, hearty, hefty meal. A woman comes in all the time, including today, and gets it, and only ever eats half.”



very time you hit the grocery store, consult a fine dining menu or walk into a fast food chain, it seems there’s a new “meat alternative” option. The Impossible Whopper is old news. Now there’s everything from McDonald’s P.L.T. (plant, lettuce, tomato) to Panda Express’ Orange Beyond Chicken. Obviously offering customers choices to fit their dietary needs or ethical life choices is a good thing, even better is that cutting back on meat consumption is one of the best choices you can make as an individual to combat climate change. That said, there are times when your inner carnivore takes control and only beef will do. We’ve all had the hankering. Whether your body’s telling you you’re low on iron or you’re just ready to celebrate with something decadant, no Impossible option is going to satisfy the way beef will. And so we embarked upon a decadant tour of the town exploring the best buys in borough beef. What follows are some of our favorite spots for answering the question, “Where’s the beef?”

Market Street has a deserved reputation for their twists on breakfast classics, like the “Benny” section of the menu, with Chef Darla’s takes on Eggs Benedict, of which The Pinky is a standout.

The short rib is braised with wine, carrots, and onions before slow roasting for several hours. Since the prep is so time intensive, Darla isn’t in a hurry to add it to more of their featured dishes. On the weekends, they’ll sell through every bit of the meat they prepare. It’s not for the faint of heart. “The Bennys are very hearty,” she warns. “You have to be in the mood for a big, hearty, hefty meal. A woman comes in all the time, including today, and gets it, and she only ever eats half.” There is no right way to enjoy it. “Some guy adds it to his hash browns and puts vegetables on it,” she adds. “If it’s on the menu, you can do whatever you want with it. You just have to ask.” Short rib meat is still available as a side dish too, or as an omelet option.





For anyone hankering for french fries, another popular use for the short rib meat is served atop a pile of homemade Market Street french fries. “They’re hand cut and deep fried,” she says. “So good.” She suggests them topped with cheese and sausage gravy.


“People come back for it. It’s not a one and done thing”


And if it’s possible to require something other than the short rib benny, there is another big seller: The flank steak benedict called The Lew. “When we first started, this customer named Lew got steak and eggs all the time,” says Darla. “So, we made a benny out of it and named it after him.” The flank steak is marinated in Worcestershire and hot sauce before adding Montreal seasoning (typically some combination of garlic, coriander, black pepper, cayenne pepper flakes, dill seed, and salt). It is available as an omelette too, topped with salsa, pepper jack cheese, and sour cream.

Truffle Cheesesteak


Saloon 151

Truffle Cheesesteak After walking two (or 10) laps around town, it’s time to start thinking about lunch, and Saloon 151 has a new offering perfectly suited to our beef excursion: The truffle cheesesteak. A staff favorite already, the sandwich has only been on the menu for about four months. “People come back for it. It’s not a one and done thing,” according to Jill, who has been managing at Saloon 151 for about a year. “We probably sell five or six a day.” The truffle cheesesteak arrives on a 12” hoagie roll from a local bakery. It comes standard with (or wit, if you’re from Philly) American cheese, as well as sautéed mushrooms and truffle oil, a combination that Saloon also offers on their fries as well as their white mushroom flatbread. All ingredients are prepared fresh, with the steak getting seasoned and chopped up on the flat top for each order. Popular customizations include crispy onions, sauteed

Want a classic wiz wit? Philly is 20 miles away. Want a decadant take on a regional favorite, carefully handcrafted with local ingredients? Good news: Saloon 151 is right here. onions, and/or switching to other kinds of cheese. Jill loves it for both lunch and dinner. “It comes cut in half, and it’s very hearty. During the day, it’s great as a lunch special, because there’s always some to bring home,” she says, which is an especially useful tip for those of us who may have started the day with a short rib benny. The sandwich is served with a choice of tater tots, chips, or fries. For a somewhat lighter option, Saloon offers it as a wrap as well. Jill suggests pairing it with a nice cold beer, such as a $3 Yuengling on tap. “You can’t go wrong with a cheesesteak and a beer.”



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Pietro’s Prime

Porterhouse Steak All this talk about beef really stimulates the appetite; fortunately, it’s time for dinner, which means one thing: the porterhouse steak at Pietro’s Prime. Pietro’s porterhouse is first seasoned with kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper before going on a grill “just like you would at home,” says chef and owner Sean Powell. “Of course, our grill is just a bit bigger than most grills at home.” Sourced from small farms in the Midwest, the steak comes from cows raised on grass and finished on natural corn and grain, all with no GMOs. “Natural steak is the most tender,” he explains. “Beef raised with GMOs is tougher and more rigid, with a harder chew.” The porterhouse has been on Pietro’s menu for as long as they’ve been in business. A combination of sirloin strip and filet, at least three inches of filet must be on the lean side to be considered a porterhouse, with any less cate-

gorized as t-bone. A perpetual favorite, their porterhouse hasn’t changed a bit over the years. Customers usually request the steak cooked medium-rare to medium, and Sean sees requests for all kinds of different toppings: garlic butter or bearnaise sauce, which is made fresh every day. Some folks prefer it Oscar style, with house-made hollandaise and crabmeat. “We always have lobster tails ready for old-school surf and turf, too,” says Sean. He considers himself more of a purist, preferring it just plain.


“We always have lobster tails ready for old-school surf and turf, too.”



He notes that all of Pietro’s side dishes are fresh and homemade. Creamed corn, mashed potatoes, and creamed spinach are classic steakhouse choices to accompany the porterhouse, although a rising star is their spicy andouille mac and cheese. They sell between five and 10 per week, he estimates, depending on the

Porterhouse Nothing satisfies like a perfectly grilled steak. Look at those sublime sear marks. You know you need a steak from Pietro’s Prime. popularity of the other specials. Starting at 24 ounces before it’s cooked, this is a steak for someone with a big appetite, such as someone like former Eagles player Brian Dawkins, who has ordered it every time he visits the restaurant. For anyone looking for a lighter steak option, Sean recommends the 14-ounce bone-in filet, which is basically half of the porterhouse steak. “People who like it a little leaner but still get the flavor from the bone and a little bit of the outside fat.” So, carnivores—rejoice. West Chester’s got you covered. photos ERIK WEBER @westchesterviews story JESSE PIERSOL @JESSEPIERSOL





Miso and Sesame Baked Salmon topped with Seared Scallops

Dining Out Sampling some of the borough’s best meals in West Chester’s premier dinner destinations. This Month: Spence Cafe The bright notes of a brass quartet were bouncing between the buildings of downtown West Chester and out into the waning sultriness of a Friday evening in mid August. Walking down High Street from the north end of town, the sounds of music and merriment emanating from Gay Street’s outdoor dining hub almost pulled me right past the entrance of Spence Café. Friday nights are precious; was I making a mistake trading the exuberance that beckoned from the blocks beyond for what would undoubtedly be a quiet meal in the tranquil environs of Spence? Oh my, no. First off, Spence is hopping. It’s only 6:30, but almost every table inside is filled. I’d requested a table on the patio out back, and most of those were filled too. I was shown to a table

for four along the wood privacy fence and waited for my dining companion to arrive. The patio space is lovely and surprisingly intimate, despite there being tables of four relatively close together. A long wall is painted to mimic the rustic look of reclaimed wood, with the Spence logo and a metal fish adorning it. Strings of Edison-style lights hang overhead, lighting the area with a soft sparkle as the sun goes down. For starters, I am waffling between the soup specials, either the summer gazpacho or chicken corn chowder. Our server Michael does not hesitate when I ask his advice: “Get the mushroom bisque.” It is a sound recommendation. With an earthy aroma, the soup is delightfully toothsome, light and brothy while also being thick and hearty. “We use a ton of mushrooms and as little cream as possible,” explains owner and chef Andy Patten when I call him a few days later for some extra insight into my dining experience. My companion chooses a mixed green salad which consists of leafy greens adorned

with plump blueberries, candied pecans made in house, goat cheese, and a light vinaigrette. After pondering the soft shell crabs for my entrée, I ultimately choose the miso and sesame baked salmon topped with seared scallops. The strip of pink salmon and the two scallops perched on top of it absolutely melted in my mouth. I love salmon in any form, but having it disappear without chewing really sends my taste buds scurrying to make sense of things. The delicate glaze of miso and sesame perfectly accent its tenderness. A rice pilaf offers a soft and non-distracting presence to showcase the fish, and to absorb some of that miso and sesame glaze. A side of sautéed summer squash, carrots, and green beans add both a pop of color and a chewy, crunchy textural counterpoint. Andy says the accolades for this masterpiece belong to Blaise, Spence’s other chef, who created the dish. The salmon and scallops—like all the seafood served at Spence—is sourced from Gadaleto’s Market just down the road. He notes that for the five years that Spence has





been here on High Street, the salmon has been the biggest seller on the menu. My dining partner chooses the filet mignon, served with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, caramelized shallots, bleu cheese butter, and a cabernet demi glace. The 8-ounce filet commands an impressive swatch of real estate on the plate. “If we say it’s 8 ounces, it actually is 8 ounces,” says Andy. “We’re straight shooters.”

“Everything gets made that day... I don’t make potatoes to use for the next two or three days. We make everything when we come in, and we don’t have a lot left over.” Andy attributes the tenderness here to letting the meat rest for about 10 minutes before putting it on the plate. “It redistributes the juices to the center, so they don’t go all over the plate.” Quality also matters. “We haven’t skimped on quality,” he continues. “I buy the best I can reasonably afford to put it on the plate for a reasonable price. We sell a ton of it. People will tell us it’s the best filet they’ve had in awhile.” The mashed potatoes are made with enough butter and cream to make anyone swoon. Freshness is key. “Everything gets made that day,” says Andy. “I don’t make potatoes to use for the next two or three days. We make everything when we come in, and we don’t have a lot left over. All the sides are fresh everyday.” Spence desserts are classic choices. I go with the chocolate peanut butter pie, served alongside a couple of enormous blackberries and homemade whipped cream. It is decadent, with the peanut butter filling achieving its richness and simultaneous lightness from a combination of whipped butter and cream. There is an Oreo crust—made from real Oreos—and a chocolate ganache layer on top. “Regulars always have their favorite stuff, and that’s often a favorite,” Andy says. “They’ll order one to have for a holiday or to take to an event.” My companion chooses the brownie sundae, topped with homemade vanilla ice cream. “We try to stick with simple stuff that people are familiar with,” he explains. “Brownies and ice cream. Who doesn’t like that?” These days, the future is up in the air and requires a planning approach with flexibility at the core. “We’ve been trying to keep the quality up with rising food costs and concentrating on keeping things consistent,” he says. “Once school starts, we might start takeout again if needed. Once people get into the routine of school, we’ll have deals for take-home meals.” He looks forward to being able to hire more staff and open more hours. For me, I am still haunted by the chocolate peanut butter pie, the other half of which I may have eaten for breakfast first thing the next morning. photos ERIK WEBER @westchesterviews story JESSE PIERSOL @JESSEPIERSOL






Deliciousness Desserts Around the Borough



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From the very, very beginning, back before there was even a storefront and they were on the farmer’s market circuit, Dia Doce Cupcakes has offered vegan cupcakes. “We were on Cupcake Wars,” says Thais da Silve Viggue, founder and baker of Dia Doce. “The theme for our show was Girl Scouts and we made a gluten-free, vegan version of the thin mint.” That was in 2011. These days, Dia Doce is known as much for their cupcakes as for their range of vegan options, two types of which are always available in their weekly rotation of flavors. “We typically do a chocolate based and a non-chocolate based every week,” says da Silva Viggue. “We don’t want to exclude anyone, especially when a lot of times, it’s children.” Their grab-and-go vegan cupcakes are always on hand, and offerings include flavors like White Velvet, a vanilla cupcake with a chocolate fudge center; Black Magic, an all chocolate cupcake with vanilla cream center; Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, a brown sugar chocolate chip cake with vegan cookie dough frosting; Lemon Raspberry, a lemon cake with lemon frosting and raspberry compôte inside; classic vanilla; classic chocolate; party cake, the

Dia Doce version of Funfetti; and Snickerdoodle, a cinnamon sugar cake with vanilla cream inside and on top, rolled in cinnamon crunchy sugar. But any of the Dia Doce cupcakes can be made vegan by placing an order 48 hours in advance.

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Dia Doce’s When You Give a Mouse a Cookie, a vegan-friendly cupcake with buttercream, homemade cookie dipped in chocolate ganache and mini chips.



If there’s anything better than creamy cold ice cream on a hot day (or frankly, on a cold day), we don’t know what it is. And at Scoops & Smiles, which has locations in Malvern and in the borough, the non-vegan options are endless and include creative concoctions like Bordeaux Cherry, Caramel Apple, Fluffer Nutter, Guatemalan Ripple, and Pumpkin Cheesecake, as well as traditional flavors like Pistachio, Vanilla Bean, Chocolate and Chocolate Chip. Lucky for vegans, there are a few dairy-free options that make the rotation of flavors that are available daily. Vegan flavors include Almond Bark, Vanilla, and Wild Berry, and as far as we can tell, they make for a pretty great cup of frozen deliciousness. “It’s much more expensive to carry, but we always strive to be the local ice cream shop where we’ve got something for everyone in the family to enjoy together,” says owner Akain Rowland, of their dairy-free ice creams.


I don’t think it’s a trend. We’re trying to create as many vegan and vegetarian products as possible for social and health reasons. We believe that this is the future. And while I can’t hold myself to it all the time, that’s the direction I’m trying to go. It just makes more sense, health wise, environmentally, everything.



ontrary to popular assumptions, vegans and plant-based eaters do not rely solely upon salads and chickpeas for sustenance. In fact—and this might come as a complete surprise—many vegans are foodies, heading place to place on a quest for the most scrumptious animal-byproduct-free meals they can find. Lucky for them, plant-based lifestyles have become more mainstream. Gone are the days when vegans were relegated to a house salad at the neighborhood diner, or a bag of Oreos (coincidentally vegan) for dessert. Instead, vegans now have options, from different types of cuisine to—and this is our favorite part—loads of vegan desserts, from creamy dreamy ice creams to pies and chocolates. We’ve rounded up the who, what, and where of vegan desserts in the Borough. Your job? Get out and taste them all!

Milk and cookies might be amazing, but some would argue that the most delicious part of the cookie experience takes place at the very beginning: with the dough. Unfortunately, most raw cookie dough—with its raw eggs and uncooked flour—isn’t particularly safe to eat, and almost none of it is vegan. Luckily for us, we have access to Cookie Dope, the home of delicious, safe to eat (it’s made with heat treated flour and pasteurized eggs), cookie dough in a variety of rotating flavors. Flavors change weekly—owner Preston Neidermyer cycles through approximately 100 cookie dough recipes—with five varieties available each week. Even better? There are always two vegan options. “We’ve had vegan options from the first week we opened,” says Neidermyer, who opened Cookie Dope in February 2018. “We sell it out every time.” Some of the vegan flavors include customer favorites like peanut butter oatmeal, which is also gluten friendly; cinnamon crumb cake; banana chocolate chip oatmeal; carrot cake; and some of the cereal cookie doughs. Additionally, customers can put in requests for vegan options of regular flavors, which can be made available the following week. On top of vegan cookie doughs, which can be enjoyed in a cone or a cup, and even refrigerated for two weeks after purchase, Cookie Dope has 20 snow cone flavors—all refreshing, and all vegan.


-Christopher Curtin, Éclat Additionally, Scoops & Smiles serves 10 rotating flavors of their Philly-style Italian ice, which are vegan friendly. While staple flavors include mango and cherry, their number one seller is Jamaican Me Smile, which is cherry, pineapple, and pistachio-flavored water ices, swirled.

To say that Master Chocolatier Christopher Curtin knows a thing or two about chocolate would be the understatement of the century. Curtin, who has spent decades making chocolate, honing his skills for 14 years in chocolate houses in Belgium, Switzerland, France, Germany, Spain, and Japan before opening Éclat Chocolate in West Chester 16 years ago,






has had his chocolates named the “Best Chocolates in America” by Bon Appetit. He knows his stuff. And while he isn’t quite a vegan himself, he’s particularly vigilant about offering vegan options to his guests. “I don’t think it’s a trend,” says Curtin of veganism and vegetarianism. “We’re trying to create as many vegan and vegetarian products as possible for social and health reasons. We believe that this is the future. And while I can’t hold myself to it all the time, that’s the direction I’m trying to go. It just makes more sense, health wise, environmentally, everything.” The result is a shop full of decadent, exquisite, and oftentimes vegan, chocolates. Among those products are the Dark Chocolate Organic Bar, a simple 72% cacao bar made from organic chocolate; the First Harvest Bar, Éclat’s premiere chocolate bar made with hand selected Peruvian Pure Nacional Beans; Destination Bars, a series of chocolate bars inspired by different destinations around the world; the Longwood Gardens bars, which include fusions of chocolate and mint, basil and lavender; Spice Bars, a trio of exclusive chocolate bars made in collaboration with La Boite Spice Master Lior Lev Sercarz; various flavors of Mendiants, which are perfectly bite-able chocolate disks; and Éclat’s Cacao Nibs Mondiants™; among other special bars like their recent Porcini & Thyme bar.


With over 5,700 Dairy Queen stores worldwide, chances are, you’ve been to one. The franchise was founded in 1940, and some locations, like the one on Gay Street in the borough, are decades old— ours has been operating since 1953. The Dairy Queen is the quintessential frozen dessert eatery, famous for things like ice cream sundaes and dipped cones, and specialty items like the Peanut Buster® Parfait, the Brownie and Oreo® Cupfection, and a bevy of Dairy Queen Blizzards®, soft serve blended with sundae toppings and/or brownies, candy or cookies. We can now add to that list the vegan friendly Non-Dairy Dilly® Bar. Made with coconut cream, the NonDairy Dilly® Bar is the gluten-free, dairy-

This simple 72% cacao bar is made from Organic chocolate using artisanal techniques that maintain the original pure flavor of the chocolate. free, vegan version of the Dilly® Bar. And it’s good. “I was kind of skeptical when we got them because I didn’t know how they were going to make a non-dairy ice cream product, but I was impressed,” says Luigi Capriotti, manager of the Gay Street Dairy Queen. “It tastes a little different, it’s a little lighter, maybe it’s a little less sweet. I’m not a vegan, but I like it a lot.”


As the name implies, The Master’s Baker isn’t your run-of-the-mill bakery. It’s not the place to hop into for a casual cupcake or a delightfully decorated cookie on a whim. Instead, The Master’s Baker focuses on high-end, made-to-order custom cakes, perfect for weddings, anniversaries, and special celebrations.

They’re a local legend and wildly popular—The Master’s Baker is currently booked through November. And though they’ve been in business for 50 years, it wasn’t until the last decade that they really began putting an emphasis on vegan and allergen-free cakes. “If I had to guess, it would have to be about six years ago,” says Danielle Zahodski, the General Manager of The Master’s Baker, about their emphasis on allergen-free cakes. “We didn’t make as many as we do today, but we definitely had allergen-free cakes and vegan cakes. As more things arise, we do our best to find out whether or not we can cater to them.” At The Master’s Baker, they’ve succeeded in making almost every one of their flavors into a vegan option, including traditional vanilla, chocolate, orange, lemon, confetti, pink champagne, triple citrus, strawberry parfait, raspberry parfait, lemon blueberry, almond, marble, chocolate chip, carrot, and red velvet. And their traditional buttercream frosting, which they’ve been using for



decades, has always been vegan, as opposed to the European buttercreams made with butter and egg whites. Zahodski isn’t a vegan herself, but her favorite cake is. “My favorite is the vegan chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream,” she says. “Between the traditional chocolate cake and the vegan chocolate cake, I would pick the vegan every time.”


Gemelli is known far and wide for its scrumptious and decadent gelatos and sorbetto offerings. And though Gemelli seems to be beloved universally, it holds a special place in the heart of vegans. “We have a large and loyal vegan clientele, and I care about the fact that as many people as possible can enjoy what we do,” says Vincenzo Tettamanti, who opened Gemelli in 2014 with his wife, Julianne. “For me, it was important to create something that was just as good, something I would eat and it’s just as good as the other products.” Gemelli features a variety of vegan 48

Gemelli features a variety of vegan gelatos and sorbettos. gelatos and sorbettos daily. In the summer, when Gemelli features a full case of options, there are always four vegan friendly flavors—two gelatos and two sorbetto offerings. There are also vegan grab-and-go pints at the ready, as well as milkshakes made with oat milk. While flavors rotate frequently, some vegan favorites are the chocolate, pistachio, Oreo espresso, and biscotti espresso gelatos, which are made with oat milk. Vegan sorbettos, which are water based and made with fruit, include lemon basil, raspberry lavender with lemon zest, lemon lavender, blueberry mojito and peach, among many others. Check the Gemelli Facebook page to see what’s new, or better yet just stop in. Vegan or not, you can’t go wrong here.


When you’re looking for easy, delicious, and icy cold treats for everyone in


the family, from the youngest toddlers to your beloved grandma, look no further than Rita’s, where there’s a frosty dessert for everyone. At the Rita’s in the borough, which just celebrated its 25th year in business, plenty of customers may order any of the delicious gelatis—gelato with creamy custard in the middle. But vegans have plenty of non-dairy, non-animal-product choices too, including some of the most popular water ices on the menu. “People would be surprised by how many vegan options we have here,” says Rocky Marusco, shift manager of the Rita’s here in West Chester. “Even the vanilla Italian ice is vegan.” In fact, almost all of the Italian Ices, which are made fresh, right on the premises, are vegan friendly, including, but hardly limited to Rita’s most popular flavors including Mango, Cotton Candy, Lemon, Cherry, Root Beer, and Wild Black Cherry. (This excludes the cream ices). And with 95 Rita’s flavors that can be alternated, there are more vegan options than we can put in print, but they include juicy pear, green apple,

cherry lemonade, watermelon and pina colada. If you’re looking for something sippable, try the Frozen Drink, a drinkable version of Italian Ice. Dee-lish.


If your memories of warm, gooey cookies fresh from the oven make you rue the day you ever became a vegan, you need to order Insomnia Cookies. Built on the premise of traditional fresh-baked cookies delivered to your home or business as late as 3am, Insomnia Cookies could have stopped there and still been wildly successful. And yet they chose not to let the vegans of the world drool in vain and created a series of delicious cookies just for us. The options are classics and include birthday cake, a sweet vanilla cookie with colorful sprinkles; chocolate chunk, with a buttery flavor and plenty of dairyfree chocolate chunks; double chocolate chunk, a chocolate-lover’s dream of a chocolate cookie with more of those dairy-free chocolate chunks; and the

Insomnia Cookie’s Double Chocolate Chunk, a chocolatelover’s dream of a chocolate cookie with more of those dairy-free chocolate chunks. vegan and gluten-free chocolate chip cookie, for those with the most serious dietary restrictions. And if you’re feeling really hungry, or just want to share with your friends, Insomnia offers plenty of cookie packages (6 packs, 12 packs, and 24 packs). We don’t know about you, but this is a midnight order we’d be happy to place.


Glenn and Kristin D’Ascenzo opened D’Ascenzo’s Gelato in the Borough in 2011 after selling their homemade gelato at farmers markets and street festivals for several years. Through it all, they’ve made—and sold—gelato prepared with the finest ingredients in small batches. The result has been beloved gelatos— including flavors like Cocoa Rosso, Choc-

olate Hazelnut, Stracciatella, and Mocha Espresso—and 11 years in business. Even better? They’re vegan friendly. Like the non-vegan gelatos, the vegan options rotate. However, past menu items that are frequently offered include vegan-friendly options like Mint Chip, Peanut Butter, Butter Cookie, and Chocolate, Vegan Chocolate Oreo, and a variety of fruit flavors, all made with oat milk. They offer some vegan seasonal flavors March through October as well, in addition to a variety of water based, and vegan friendly sorbets.


With over four decades of experience—just over 14 at the West Chester location—Carlino’s has something for everyone. From amazing sandwiches and soups, to prepared meals and baked goods, it’s a smorgasbord of Italian-based culinary excellence. And while vegans often enjoy Carlino’s famous tomato pie, topped with crushed tomatoes, garlic, basil, celery





and olive oil, they’re missing out if they don’t try dessert. Check out Carlino’s Chocolate Covered Strawberries, made with vegan friendly chocolate. Available most of the year, the Chocolate Covered Strawberries are the perfect combination of semi-healthy and utterly indulgent—just be sure to ask for them without sprinkles, which aren’t vegan. And come fall, when the days start getting shorter, sweaters begin making an appearance, and the universal craving for all things pumpkin commences in earnest, vegans can head back to Carlino’s for the ultimate fall dessert—pumpkin pie. Vegan friendly—but delicious to all—the six-inch mini pies feature a crust made with crushed cashews and vegan butter, a filling made with pumpkin puree and all the spices one would expect with this fall favorite, and a topping of apricot glaze, roasted cashews, and a sprinkling of powdered sugar. Perfect for an after-dinner dessert, or let’s face it, as a decadent breakfast next to a piping hot cup of coffee, Carlino’s vegan pumpkin pie is a can’t miss.

Carlino’s six-inch mini pumpkin pies feature a crust made with crushed cashews and vegan butter, a filling made with pumpkin puree and all the spices one would expect.


They may be known for their 100% vegan deli sandwiches—think Reubens, Turkey Clubs, and Grilled Cheese Paninis—but Love Again Local originally started out with a simple cookie. “This company was originally built on just the cookie,” says Abraham Koffenberger, general manager and vegan butcher at Love Again Local, of the cookies made by owner Elena Masherino. “She was just wholesaling vegan cookies. Essentially, Love Again Local started as cookies. She was doing Love Chunk Vegan Cookies for at least a year prior to opening Love Again Local.” While those cookies aren’t the mainstay of business at Love Again Local, they are the perfect accompaniment to

any deli sandwich. After all, who doesn’t need dessert after an Italian panini or vegan cheesesteak? “These cookies melt in your mouth when you eat them,” says Koffenberger. “I never had a cookie like this before.” Options include Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter, and Chocolate Dipped Pistachio, and from what we hear, they’re all delicious. Of course, if you’re really craving dessert, your better option might be the Love Again Local Chunkwich, made with two chocolate chip cookies, stuffed with either soy-based vanilla or cookie dough ice cream, and rolled in chocolate chips. Either way, it’s a win-win. So, even if making the jump to a vegan lifestyle may seem like a birdge too far, diving into vegan desserts will only hurt your waistline (but it’s worth it).

photos ERIK WEBER @westchesterviews story DANIELLE DAVIES @danielledavieswrites





Behind the Bar with

Natalie Alvaro

Discussing the details of a life behind bars with one of the borough’s best-known faces. How long have you been at Greystone Oyster Bar? I’ve been here since like, late March. We might have been open for three weeks when I first started. What made you want to join? My roommate has worked at Mercato, the sister restaurant, for a long time, and I love Chris Jones, the manager here. He’s a great guy, as a person and as a manager. I tell everybody it’s the best place I’ve ever worked. The vibe is awesome. Explain the vibe. It’s just a bunch of really good people. There’s none of the drama you’d expect in a restaurant. It’s a small space, pushing high volume, and it’s intense, but we all have great attitudes. Do customers pick up on that? Absolutely. If you’re looking around, you see all your waitstaff smiling and being nice with each other, being in a good mood, and that resonates. I think that’s a big part of why we’ve grown so quickly.

To what else do you attribute your success? Our biggest focus is consistency and quality. I hate when I go out to eat, I have a dish I love, but then it’s not the same the next time. We showcase a lot of stuff that’s fresh and local — from produce to cocktails — and it’s the same high quality every time, because everyone here really cares about that final product. And when you say “local cocktails” you really mean it. Yes. Everything we serve at the bar was made in PA. In the state of Pennsylvania, if you’re brewing on-site — as we do — you need a brewers license, and that enables you to serve PA wine and spirits without needing a separate liquor license. There are certain things that are definitely different (like, say, tequila for instance) but I’ve been working with it so long that I’m able to work with these ingredients and make incredible cocktails; sometimes they’re even better just because they’re different. Have any examples? In Elverson, PA, which is kinda the middle of nowhere, there’s a distillery called Revitalist that makes amazing craft gins. We use their jalapeno-infused gin with vanilla vodka, lemon juice and honey, we shake it with a chile pepper and add a splash of orange juice; we call it the dragon fire. I’d never

encountered a gin like it before, but it’s inspired us to make this really incredible cocktail. It’s just obvious quality and care that goes into these craft distilleries. Are you rotating the menu for the fall season? The plan is to do a classic cocktails menu. I’m working on a Mai Tai, an Aviation, and a Side Car. Sounds simple, but it’s about sourcing high-quality, local ingredients so that we’ll execute these and do it well. We’re also adding four types of Greystone Oyster Shooters as well as rotating fresh, daily specials. You should come in for our happy hour every week day from 4-6pm to give some of it a shot. You’ve worked in a bunch of different places, right? I’ve been in restaurants for the last 12 years. I’ve done a few different things, but always come back to this. What keeps bringing you back? I really enjoy the craft — making drinks, trying new things. I love learning about old recipes and making something new from them. There’s nothing better than messing around and making an amazing drink, then getting to see the reaction of our customers as they savor them. photo ERIK WEBER @westchesterviews interview DAN @thewcpress




catering gourmet market gifting



128 W. Market Street, West Chester, PA 19382 54


If you can spot the five differences in this Thanksgiving spread, email your answers to contests@thewcpress.com, and you’ve got a chance to win a Barnaby’s gift certificate. Congrats to August’s winner: Shalini Mukund from Fanklin Mint FCU.



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