Ciao Down

Go west to a neighborhood bar that defies categorization.

By Liz Spikol
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jan. 3, 2007

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Warm and toast-y: Bronwynn Hall and Roger Harman have a drink at Abbraccio.

Across the street from the grungy Danger! Danger! House, where rock bands like Stinking Lizaveta and the Yah Mos Def play loud and sweaty parties, and around the corner from the Fu Wah grocery store, where dreadlocked kids buy their tofu hoagies, there's Abbraccio, a clean, well-lit Italian restaurant at the corner of 47th and Warrington.

In the summer the wide porch is filled with diners eating steamed mussels and pumpkin soup, often with their dogs resting at their feet. In cooler months people move inside, some of them to the restaurant's small bar. With smooth blond wood and soft lighting, the bar is an oasis of calm, particularly when the fireplace is going.

Drink specials include the Lugano Citrus Cooler--an Apple Pucker martini served over cool lemon ice--and the more plebeian $5 pitchers of Yuengling. There's also Spanish coffee with Tia Maria, champagne with peach nectar, $10 pitchers of Stella Artois and chocolate martinis.

There's Yards on tap as well as Guinness, Magic Hat No. 9, Stella and Hoegaarden. Nothing especially unusual, but a nice selection for a small bar like this one. Bartender Peter Crimmins, a freelance broadcaster for public radio, tries to get creative with shot specials. On Frank Sinatra's birthday, for instance, he served Jack Daniels, the singer's favorite drink. But he admits the beer specials for Monday Night Football are more popular.

Crimmins, who moved to Philly from San Francisco about a year ago, seems reluctant to identify a typical Abbraccio drinker. Old and young, gay and straight, black and white and brown, 

the bar's patrons reflect the diversity of the surrounding area. That's refreshing because that diversity, though widely touted by residents, doesn't always translate to meeting places like neighborhood bars.

The blond Crimmins was once told, for example, that he looked "too California" to go into one of the dive bars on Baltimore Avenue. Similarly, it's hard to imagine the neighborhood's leftist activists having fun at a swank cosmo-centric bar that caters to Penn students.

But at Abbraccio, which opened in 2003, such distinctions don't mean much. The bar is so pleasantly bland, it can be invested with any number of associations: Italian cafe, college hangout, gay piano bar, neighborhood watering hole--everything fits.

On a recent night, after serving a frosty mojito with fresh mint, Crimmins chats with 25-year-old Meg Frattare over the flickering light of votive candles that line the faux granite bar top. Frattare, rosy-cheeked and blond, looks out with tired eyes from behind her hip glasses, and it's no wonder: She's just come back from a long weekend in Atlantic City. Though she won a lot of money, she's exhausted, and is happy to be resting and drinking some red wine at her favorite neighborhood bar.

When asked what she does for a living, the Pittsburgh native laughs and looks to Crimmins for an answer. They both pause, then she says she makes clothes for dogs. Well, for pitbulls mostly. Well, mostly her pitbull. She and Crimmins giggle, and then settle into an easy and familiar silence.

When she's done here, Frattare will go home and get some sleep. But for the moment, sitting at this snug bar and eating some of the restaurant's Italian fare is the perfect way to transition from madcap casino action to a warm bed.

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