It’s been a family affair for Cotoletta owner Beth Amadio. Since the opening of her rustic Italian BYOB in January 2016, the self-taught chef and 56-year-old Penn Valley native has had her whole familgia pitching in. Her husband, Lou, likes to prep; their four grown kids are servers; and even the two daughters-in-law help with restaurant operations.
In the process, the family has turned the former Mel’s International space into a homey spot with warm lighting, Tuscan-style landscapes and bright surface splashes of Mediterranean azure. Natural birch cuttings double as wall décor, sunflowers or daisies poke out of empty wine bottles on every table, and an intimate six-seat bar is tucked into one corner.
For her menu, Amadio draws on home-cooked Italian inspiration. Her marinara is light and elemental. Crusty Metropolitan Bakery Italian bread soaks up the flavorful red or white broth that permeates the mussels. As for the baked meatball, it’s an orb of excellence. For her Cacio e Pepe, Amadio arrives tableside to twirl spaghetti inside a giant wheel of nutty, salty pecorino. Once it’s fully coated, the pasta is served with a peppery flourish.
Veal chop Milanese.
Cotoletta means “cutlet” in Italian. It’s the restaurant’s specialty—a buttery half-inch cutlet of patiently hand-pounded chicken or veal prepared in a rich Marsala wine sauce or a lemony picante, or encrusted in zesty Parmesan. The Cotoletta Stack is Amadio’s signature dish. It consists of fried eggplant and a long hot pepper stuffed with marinara and Provolone cheese, both sandwiched between two crisply seasoned chicken cutlets. Served with a side of pasta, the generous portion almost guarantees some tasty leftovers.
The throwback Milan salad is an homage to the famed iceberg lettuce, chopped egg, bacon and thousand island recipe made famous in 1950s Philadelphia at Jimmy’s Milan. “It’s as good as Jimmy’s,” said my mother of Amadio’s version during a recent visit. “But her shrimp are jumbo—Jimmy’s used baby shrimp.”
Cotoletta’s throwback Milan salad.
“She’s correct,” Amadio adds. “We also use real bacon instead of bacon bits.”
Michele DiArenzo wasn’t so much our server as she was a caring aunt. “Did you want dessert tonight?” she inquired with genuine concern.
Of course we did. Cotoletta offers a selection of simple dolce, including profiteroles, homemade Jewish apple cake, and a yummy (pre-purchased) triple chocolate mousse cake.
Amadio’s restaurant is like a love-filled culinary portal that leads to and from nearby South Philadelphia.
201 Jefferson St., Belmont Hills, (610) 660-5224, www.cotoletta.net.