With Philadelphia area restaurants soon (or soon enough, like July 3?) moving into Code Green and 50% of indoor seating as the allowed capacity standard in the C-1 era, it is local outdoor venue seating and some awkward sidewalk seating that is saving the day for businesses and diners alike. Sure, they’re conscious of socially distanced seating – some more than others – and will do everything from taking temperatures to contact tracing measures. But, we’re out, and we’re eating, and they’re serving beyond carry-out cocktails and curbside take-out options.
With that, I ventured out for my first restaurant meal in three months with my usual Friday night dining crew (the last one was Talula’s Garden, March 13, indoors), out of doors, and under the big top of Cherry Hill’s Caffe Aldo Lamberti.
To start, as with most outdoor locations, we did have to head into the restaurant – through a narrow corridor, with masks on – to get our temperatures taken courtesy a $20,000 plus scanner high above the reception stand, and with a video monitor to guide our way once cleared. I was fairly frightened of this, as my temperature always run high. But thankfully not high enough, on this night, to ward me away and allow me to sip my first chilled Vodka Martini of late spring, early summer. Well, at least the first chilled vodka martini away from home, that is.
Unless it is steaming hot or raining (which, in this Code Yellow, many outdoor restaurants will not open – something most of us who make reservations must be watchful of) alfresco dining is actually always a delight. No joke: the night’s cool breezes while laughing, eating and drinking with friends, just felt amazing. It was an equal match for my evening’s dining options which included everything from fresh, piled high langostinos, deep plates of rich, buttery eggplant Napoletana, an al dente Pennoni Alla Nonna, a thick flaky halibut, and more.
Beyond that, the conviviality of being with my buds – talking face to face rather than on Zoom, test or phone – loudly touting opinions, recent purchases, favorite Netflix moments and such, without being covered by masks was the most delicious highlight of the meal. Though Caffe Aldo Lamberti was as tasty as ever I would have been just as pleased if we all hung out and supped at an Arby’s parking lot.
OK, maybe not.
I am curious to see how Dante & Luigi’s and Bar BonBon do sidewalk seating soon, as well as how L’anima and Talula’s Garden handle its great outdoors. Plus, another of my neighborhood bistros, Pierre and Charlotte Calmels’ French BYOB Bibous, is opening ist Parisian style sidewalk cafe, L’Apero – more on this shortly.