Phantom Diner

Agrodolce - Phantom Diner, Central PA Magazine, August 2009

Written by The Phantom Diner | Jul 14, 2009 7:21 PM

Let me first note that Agrodolce, a relatively new Italian BYOB in downtown York (it opened back in January), is very cool. Entering is like entering the lobby of an upscale boutique hotel.

It’s located in a beautifully refurbished industrial building on a corner of North George Street just across from the gorgeous Sovereign Bank Stadium, home to the York Revolution minor league baseball team.

The restaurant, really more like a casual European cafe, has huge windows, is bright and airy with outdoor seating and interesting wall art. It is part of Codo, a trendy 35-unit complex of studio apartments, flats and lofts in the same building as the restaurant. The complex has 20-foot ceilings and a rooftop deck and is smoke-free inside and out. It looks like something you’d see in downtown Boston, not downtown York. But there it is, and it is impressive.

The restaurant’s name translates from Italian to literally “sour-sweet.” It’s the name of a sweet-and-sour sauce used in Italian cooking.

The menu is not extensive but inventive. It has a wood-burning oven, handmade pizzas and pastas and artisan breads. And, at the time of my visit, there were three-things and four-things specials for $34 and $38, respectively — that is, say, an appetizer, entree and dessert for $34, or add a pasta for $38. It’s a nice way to price a meal that, regrettably, they have stopped, at least for now.

The owner/chef, John Roeder, is a York native who worked at other local favorites such as the Accomac Inn in Wrightsville and The Left Bank up the street.

I love the idea of this restaurant as well as its look and feel and service staff. It is very hip, and I hope it does well. Sadly, I can’t rave about the food.

My group opted for the three-things/four-things pricing and found too many of the things too salty and too much of the table’s reviews mixed.

One dining partner, for example, got a fried calamari salad (again I send out my oft heard plea for someone, anyone, to stop frying and start grilling calamari offerings) with arugula, roasted local sweet corn and sun-dried tomato pesto for $10. Looked great; but too salty, too soggy, too over-dressed.

On the other hand, another dining buddy had an order of mussels in white wine with garlic, basil and tomatoes, served with grilled bread, for $10, that was out of this world. I haven’t tasted mussels as plump and fresh anywhere outside a major seaport city. If you go and they’re on the menu, get them.

I had an octopus and white bean salad for $9 that was generally fine but, again, too salty.

On the other hand, our wines were opened and served promptly and our whites immediately chilled.

Other appetizers on the menu at the time of my visit (it now changes daily, rotating in the more popular dishes more often) included creative offerings such as spicy grilled frog legs with apple salad and lemon mayonnaise ($9); a Sicilian egg, hard-boiled, wrapped with Italian sausage and sweetbreads and deep-fried ($8.50); braised fennel stuffed with goat cheese and ground lamb and wrapped in prosciutto ($9); or fried duck wing coated with an apple bourbon glaze and served with a Gorgonzola dipping sauce ($7).

There was also a mussel and white bean soup; tomato bread soup and a new seafood soup are frequently offered.
Pastas are made in-house daily. And I had high hopes. But I’ve had better, though it had more to do with the sauces than the pasta itself.

For example, I had an off-menu item, sweet basil pesto gnocchi ($12.50) that appeared to be perfectly prepared pasta but was swimming — I’d say drowning — in sauce. Some folks like lots of sauce. I like to taste the pasta. This dish did not allow that.

Same, sadly, was true of the saffron pappardelle with traditional Bolognese ($13). Good, tender pasta, way oversauced. Looked like a plate of Bolognese.

On the other hand, a fellow diner was very happy with the tuna Livornese with capers, black olives, garlic, fresh herbs and roasted potatoes ($23). And there are other lovely offerings such as smoked scallops with salsa and fried risotto ($19); pork loin wrapped in roasted asparagus and provolone and topped with a fried egg and brown butter sauce ($18); and braised veal cheek cacciatore with fried polenta ($20).

There were plainer dishes: a smoked petite filet with cucumber slaw is $22; striped sea bass over orzo salad, $22; and there’s even a vegetarian dish of grilled Mediterranean veggies, layered and topped with tomato and pesto sauces, $18.
Desserts are excellent. They included milk chocolate tiramisu, a lemon pine nut and goat cheese tart (which was exceptional but is not currently offered) and homemade crepes filled with banana and Nutella (a sweet hazelnut spread) and topped with vanilla ice cream or toasted marshmallow fluff (sinful, but heavenly).

This place is too bold and beautiful not to succeed. I admire its aggressive menu. And it’s certainly possible the kitchen had a bad night during my visit. But at least for now, I’d suggest special-requesting less dressing on salads, less sauce on pastas and extra marshmallow fluff.

Agrodolce
251 N. George St., York; BYOB, street parking; takes major cards; open for lunch Tuesday through Friday, dinner Tuesday through Saturday and brunch on Sunday; 717-848-5988.

Published in Phantom Diner

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