Thursday 17 April 2008

Turn-of-the-Century Feel Dominates Davio's Restroom

111 S 17th St
Philadelphia, PA USA 19103

Where is it?

This sprawling restaurant is about the length of one city block, with its grandiose, spacious dining room taking up almost three quarters of its space and its bar tucked into the back corner of the place.

To find the toilets, head to the bar. When facing it, go to the right and sneak down the hallway to the back right of the bar. The toilets will be there.

What's it like?

This high-end Italian-inspired restaurant describes itself as a "northern Italian steakhouse," however it feels more like an upscale turn-of-the-century dining parlor than anything else. The dining room decor, from its stucco walls to its light bulb-studded ceiling to its enormous and vast dining room, make you feel like you've just stepped into a chapter of E.L. Doctorow's "Ragtime," like it was once a place where union reps once drew masses and organized protests. (I asked and was told the building used to be a bank. Go figure.)

The menu, on the other hand, offers a mix of familiar Italian and steakhouse offerings, as well as some inventive dishes (Philly Cheese Steak Spring Rolls, for example). The steaks are phenomenal, as are the fish dishes and vegetable sides, which come prepared simply so that you can taste the freshness of the ingredients, and the desserts are near-legendary in quality (the molten chocolate cake was so rich I could only eat half the serving, which was small to begin with).

It's an expensive place too, and dressy -- not your everyday eatery, and great for special occasions. Ironically, the restaurant is attached to an inexpensive business traveler hotel I was staying at (Club Quarters Philadelphia). This made me wonder how much more expensive restaurants would be if were attached to a high-end hotel. Kind of scary if you think about it, no?

The toilets here follow the motif of the dining room, in that when you step in you feel like you've stepped into the bathroom of a turn-of-the-century parlor. They are not as spacious as the dining room, mind you, but they do make good use of space, particularly in the central area, which provides lots of room for visitors to maneuver in and out of places.

The lighting is dim (perhaps too dim, as you can see from the pictures -- perhaps the same person who lit this place lit nearby Le Castagne?), though it's used to good effect, especially the candles placed on the counters, which draw the eyes to the place's more decorative features. The walls and floor are covered with simple-yet-elegant tile work that feels both functional and sophisticated -- kind of like what I saw at Marathon Grill, but with a greater emphasis on grout work. The sink station featured antique-inspired faucets (not automatic), free-standing stainless steel soap dispensers and baskets holding high-end paper towels (again, reminiscent of Le Castagne, only a bit more refined here).

Fixtures were standard white but also felt old-fashioned because of the way they complimented the tile work. Stalls and urinals were separated by beige metal barriers, which melded with the decor thanks to the way the lighting was used. Clearly, the person who lit this knew what he/she was doing -- it's the bathroom's great unifier, if you think about it.

It's very clean and well-maintained. I stepped in three times over the course of a long evening and never found a mess or a smell awaiting me. If I had to complain about anything it's that you can hear the bar area a little too well when you're inside, especially if the bar's busy (as it was on my visit). Not to the extent of Soyka's in Miami, but still even when I was alone in here I didn't feel like I would have the place to myself for very long.

Marks out of 10:

8. Well-kept and very unified in design thanks to its tile patterns and expert lighting.

Comments to the Management:

I would suggest increasing the lighting here some, so it's a little easier to see, but that might ruin the turn-of-the-century effect. However, you might consider piping in some music so that people in hear don't hear the bar area so well.

No comments: