Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Brunch: Kid-Friendly For Real

I've managed to avoid the brunch whirl for over 5 years, coincidentally (and not accidentally) the span of time during which Ben and Sophie have been front and center for almost every dining decision in this house. There was an extended family brunch after the kids' first birthday party and a memorable review visit to the original Meridith's in Berwyn (now moved and renamed Aneu Bistro), and that was pretty much it. Over the past 5 years, I've found the regional brunch culture to be decidedly kid-unfriendly. Hotel-style brunch buffets are certainly doable, but the food is typically mediocre and uninspired; okay, they're almost always godawful. And despite the underwhelming food, the pricing for kids trends to the too-expensive-to-be-worth-it price point. Heck, I've actually worked at hotels that purposely priced brunch for "kids under 12" to discourage serving kids. I think that philosophy still exists at finer hotels, where the hope of a subtsantial, creative brunch still flickers.

So, hey, PJ'S Pancake House in Princeton sounds good, dunnit?
Well, I've had my eyes opened recently by Le Castagne in Philadelphia, Anthony Masapollo's sophisticated Northern Italian restaurant in Center City. I once interviewed Masapollo for an article I did on restaurants that served Christmas Eve Seven Fishes Dinners, and he really impressed me with his passion for family, eating together, relaxing together and I could tell that his philosophy was an important cornerstone in his life. And as a father of four young ones, he is no doubt aware of the dichotomy between fine dining and kid-friendly dining.
Masapollo has decided to open elegant Le Castagne for Sunday Brunch, with a menu of dishes priced mostly in the teens (and a half dozen dishes priced in the single digits), ranging from yogurt and granola to frittatas, a salumi plate, sandwiches, pastas and an earthy Eggs Benedict made with toasted pane rustica, prosciutto and truffled hollandaise. But Masapollo is also offering an elaborate buffet with the usual breakfast suspects and additions like smoked salmon, chicken cacciatore, veal porcini, mussels oreganata, and pastas priced at just $20 for adults and just $10 for children. He also slashes the price of brunch entrees in half when ordered with the buffet. God bless him.
I'm blogging all of this because I think it's a refreshing (and pretty damn bold)move on his part. It's not always easy to find a restaurateur who understands the challenges of dining out with kids, both social and financial, and Masapollo is making a culinary and business decision that favors the family. Because Masapollo gets it. He's all about family. And he's putting his money where his mouth is.
Le Castagne
1920 Chestnut St

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