I have written that Italian cuisine is what many, including myself would choose if told we could only have one cuisine to eat for the rest of our lives. Mina Cucina Rustica (Mina's “Country Kitchen”) is a good place to find out why.
Owners Miriam (“Mina”) Bompartino and daughter Lisa serve up fresh, homemade Italian dishes like your “Nonna” (Italian grandmother) – if you had one – should make. Their moderately sized menu is centered around the deeply traditional foods and recipes of the various regions of Italy and especially Sicily. It even offers: “If you have a ‘family favorite’ … please let us know; we will do our best to accommodate you on your next visit.” (And/or, if you call ahead, I would assume.)
Mina's has a talented new head chef, Anthony Pasecri, formerly of Moda Mia, in Northern Liberties.
A new menu will be announced shortly, but I do not expect many changes to the core of Italian comfort food the Mina's already known for.
The spotless, light-filled, cozy, 44-seat dining room is attractively appointed with olive stucco walls set against black and white checkered tiles, and hung with dozens of old family photos. There is a partially open view into the kitchen at the rear. Tables are dressed with white linen cloths covered with paper, maroon napkins, a fresh flower bud on each table, and full bottles of Coluccio extra virgin olive oil.
In two earlier visits, the soups, antipasti, insalata and pasta we had were uniformly good.
A lunchtime Di Tonno salad ($11), which we shared as a main course was somewhere between superb and fabulous … just right for summer… tossed with chunky Italian-style tuna, grilled, eggplant, zucchini, chopped cherry tomato, green pepper, baby spinach, purple onion, chopped lettuce and purple cabbage, and served in a large square porcelain bowl.
A large bowl of Pasta Fagiole soup ($6) had a medium-thin, tasty broth with a good proportion of pasta and beans, but could have been hotter, and needed a sprinkling of salt & pepper to liven it up.
The sautéed Asparagus Rollantini ($9 @ dinner) was expertly made: two bundles of asparagus wrapped with proscuitto and topped with shaved fontina cheese and a Romano sauce (herbs, white wine & olive oil). It was a flavor medley from heaven; the delicious sauce compelled me to dip slices of Italian bread.
The chilled Gazpacho ($7), a soup of the day, was a refreshing delight that was brought to new heights with the addition of two fresh, sweet jumbo shrimp, still slightly warm from the pot they had just been cooked in, beautifully presented in a cone-shaped crystal bowl and topped with a sprig of mint.
All of the pastas except the penne are homemade. My main course of Pappardelle Bolognese ($15) was a very generous portion of a hearty, deep dish of fresh wide flat noodles in a meat-rich, light tomato sauce that is the pride of Bologna. Shavings of pecorino-Romano cheese topped the plethora of meatball-like nuggets. I like a Bolognese sauce that has more tomato sauce, though this very meat-focused version is probably closer to the classic Northern Italian style.
On our most recent dinner visit, we shared a cold antipasto of meats, cheeses, grilled veggies and dinner plates of chicken cacciatore with hand-rolled pasta called “filei calabresi,” lobster ravioli, and a special of the evening, pappardelle pasta in a rabbit ragu sauce: a light, creamy broth – different and delicious!
We passed on desserts, though the selections of flourless chocolate tart, tira misu, profiteroles, et al were tempting.
We were pleased to see that Mina's Cucina Rustica, after it first year in business, is still a thriving, busy place, as many regulars streamed in that midweek evening, greeted warmly and cheerfully by Lisa with her constant smile, as she had greeted us.
To contact Mitch Davis, email him at MdavisMainCourse@aol.com.
Overall rating: mmmm (out of 5 m’s)
The Main Course at Mina Cucina Rustica
Location: 805 N. Bethlehem Pike, Spring House
Cuisine: Homestyle Italian
Hours: Lunch and Dinner Monday through Saturday; Dinner only 3 - 9 p.m. on Sunday.
Dinner Prices: Appetizers, soups and salads, $6 to $14; Personal Pizzas $12 - $14; Pastas $14 - $20; Entrees, $18 - $20.
Ambiance:: Cozy, spotless single, storefront dining room
Special Features: Whole wheat and gluten-free pastas
Credit cards: Major accepted
Alcoholic beverages: BYOB