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|From The Morning Call 2007|
Italian Delights make off-the-beaten path Trattoria 903 a welcome find
By Susan Gottshall
Special to the Morning Call
You never know what lies just beyond the next bend in the road. If you’re lucky, it’s a restaurant like Trattoria 903.
The luck that led me there was not happenstance, however; it was a tip from a reader “ecstatic” about the food at this Jim Thorpe eatery – which I found worth every minute of the hour or so it took for the drive from the Lehigh Valley.
Several miles outside the tourist town’s center of gravity, the café-style Italian eatery is off the beaten path for sure, but bears pursuing. We traveled a long, lonely stretch of highway for what seemed like quite a while, finally figuring we must have missed it. A cell phone check assured the restaurant was, literally, just past the next bend in the road.
Unassuming could be understatement in the case of Trattoria 903. The restaurant makes its home in a small, isolated, rustic strip mall along with a carpet store and Alice & Sal’s Hair Designs and Tanning.
This setting sets the restaurant’s tone – simple, casual, ultimately comfortable. No white tablecloth attitude here. Fabric curtains at the windows and walls that look freshly painted in earthy tones of terra cotta and sand, along with Tuscan-style dishes here and there, add homey touches. The deli counter and pizza oven suggest previous incarnations.
All the Italian favorites are here: chicken and veal marsala, “Francesse” and parmigiana, along with stuffed shells, manicotti, ravioli and many more. Selections such as calamari bellissimi (squid with black olives, capers and artichoke hearts in light marinara), pork chop Murphy (sautéed with hot cherry peppers, onions, potatoes, and sausage) and sausage, broccoli rabe and roasted potatoes (sautéed with garlic and olive oil) introduce less standard combinations.
When our server recited the evening’s specials, fresh mozzarella rolled with roasted peppers sounded just too savory to overlook. The creamy white and mild cheese, a tabula rasa of sorts, if you will, partnered perfectly with
red and yellow peppers, their roasted smokiness adding sensual, earthy notes to the equation. Syrupy, dark, sauce – reduced balsamic vinegar, I’m guessing drizzled around the plate’s perimeter, brought depth to the successful combination.
Dinner salads were bold and beautiful – large plates piled with mesclun lettuce, red onion and tomato tossed with house-made creamy balsamic vinaigrette. Unfortunately, several pieces of lettuce were way past their prime, the one blemish on an otherwise “straight A” dinner.
Tucked inside a wire basket, large, heavy and warm rolls, touched with sweetness, represented well the ultimate in carbohydrate comfort.
veal saltimbocca was stellar. The prosciutto, sage and Romano cheese
that topped the scaloppini medallions added complexity through sharp,
salty notes and herbal piquancy. It was the bed of spinach on which
the veal was served, however, that showcased the genius of this dish
– the intensely green vegetable, still toothsome, was so
brilliantly cooked it contributed amazing texture to the dish,
Melted fresh mozzarella finished the veal with creamy richness.