Alla Spina, a new eatery in Philadelphia, is not only the go-to place for hard-to-find Italian craft beers in the city, but also home to offbeat Italian-inspired gastropub fare like beer ice cream floats, beer cocktails, fried pig tails and pig pot pie.
Headlining the dessert list are three beer floats, or affogati, meaning “drowned” in Italian. Each is a glass of soft-serve ice cream topped with one of the bar’s 20 draft or 50 bottled brews, served with a spoon and straw, priced at $10.
In one float, a twist of two soft-serve flavors — fior di latte, Italian-style sweet cream, and chocolate — are doused with a dark wheat beer from Germany known for nuances of banana and bubblegum.
“When we tasted the wheat beer with the two ice creams it was kind of an epiphany,” said Steve Wildy, beverage director of Alla Spina, which is the fourth local restaurant for chef-owner Marc Vetri and his partners. “All those flavors are pushed to the forefront, especially the banana. We’ve heard people say, ‘I didn’t know you had banana ice cream here.’”
Chocolate lovers are drawn to a beer float made with dark, malty oatmeal stout from a local brewery poured over chocolate soft-serve. Another winning combo features fragrant, fruity raspberry lambic beer over fior di latte.
The menu section called Shandyland, a nod to the British shandy, a beer and lemonade cocktail, features mixtures of beer with fruit juices, coffee, soda or liqueurs.
“Draft beer is definitely what people come here for, but the beer cocktails have been really well received,” Wildy said.
One of the creations is Quattro Pazzo, a mix of Italian lager, blood orange juice, prosecco and an orange-nuanced Italian liqueur, priced at $8.
“We wanted to do something with spirits and a beer-like flavor that was really fruity, drinkable and unique,” Wildy said.
Other brew cocktails are the Birmosa, with Italian lager and mango juice, priced at $5, and Schillaci, with stout, Italian herbal liqueur and coffee liqueur, priced at $9.
Partner Jeff Michaud points out that Italian-inspired bar foods are also catching on. Take fried pig tails, which are brined, boiled, fried like chicken wings and served with fennel-tinged agrodolce, a sweet and sour sauce.
“They have really crispy skin and plenty of fat and meat on them,” said Michaud. “People are loving them. It’s something you don’t see in a lot of other places.”
The same goes for roasted marrow bones served with radish and parsley. “We sell quite a few of those,” said Michaud. “People are more open to all of the offal and organ meats now.”
Patrons also fancy pig potpie, which is filled with pork ribs, shoulder, head and sausage and topped with puff pastry. According to Wildy, it’s a dish that begs for Italian sour ale brewed with cherries.
“The fruity, juicy, sour cherry note of the beer really lifts the richness of this dish,” said Wildy. “It’s like the whole cranberry sauce and turkey thing at Thanksgiving.”