There’s plenty of style and substance to go around at La Scala’s, 615 Chestnut St. , especially on the plates, which consistently hold feasts for the eye as well as for your lucky gullet.
If La Scala’s chopped salad ($9) is any indication, there’s fine attention to detail to the quality of the greens. It was chopped, tossed and dressed impeccably, with its various elements — Italian meats, pepperoncini, red onion and fontina — each able to stand out.
On La Scala’s small-plate menu, things got off to a decadent, bordering on obscene, start with the crab chips ($11): delicately thin fried potato crisps topped with crab meat, provolone cheese sauce, hot peppers, Old Bay seasoning and bacon. Subtle it’s not, but this dish was irresistible.
The grilled artichoke ($10) with prosciutto and Parmesan held its own against the crab chips even though it was far more refined and laidback dish. The escarole and white beans ($8), on the other hand, while satisfying, proved that carnivores do have more fun.
The pasta menu at La Scala’s is exceptional. The gnocchi ($18) was an exercise in simple perfection, impossibly light and bathed only in mozzarella, basil and tomato sauce. You’ll want to finish every morsel. Heartier appetites should drift toward the short rib agnolotti ($20), an earthy dish well seasoned with Gorgonzola and wild mushrooms.
Be warned that La Scala’s entrées are massive. If you’ve indulged in any of the aforementioned selections during the course of your meal, hit the dessert cart and call it night. You can always come back later and try the entrées. And trust us, you really, really, really want to try the entrées.
The jumbo lump crabcake ($22) is pushed over the top by a generous dusting of fried zucchini (we could swear they tasted more like shoestring fried potatoes ... in a damn good way), keeping the texture crunchy and interesting. Garnishes both make and break the lamb chops ($28), which paired excellently with the eggplant capanata but suffered slightly at the hands of a too-dry mushroom polenta cake that was not on par with the other strong flavors on the plate.
The true clash of the titans on the entrée menu was the filet mignon Philly style ($29) and the grilled pork chop ($24). Each delivered its own unique “Wow!” factor. The filet mignon was a refined version of Philadelphia flavors, smothered in sautéed onions, provolone sauce, mushrooms, hot peppers and roasted potatoes. Without a doubt, it works like a cheesesteak and an upscale dinner at the same time. The pork chop was a monster 14-ounce double-cut portion made all the more enticing by the hot and sweet peppers, mushrooms, onions and balsamic vinegar that topped it and the fluffy mashed potatoes alongside it.
When La Scala’s dessert cart comes around, you could play it safe and order the cheesecake with fresh strawberries ($8) or the crème brûlè but, really, with its track record on Italian dishes, there’s no use resisting the tiramisu ($8) or the homemade cannoli ($7). Both are extremely rich and naughty, with the former being soft, moist and piled super-high and the latter a crunchy, creamy, chocolate-chip-laden force of nature.
La Scala’s demands a big appetite. Bring it and you won’t leave disappointed.