Another post-vacation bonus: a review of Sophia by Ellen Hughes, who for years was the perpetrator of Desert Island Discs on WITF.
I’m neutral about Sophia’s. My friend Kathy Wildauer, who has a pretty good palate, loved it when it opened. To me, well, that’s some pretty pricey pasta.
Here’s what our guest reviewer has to say:
“We have friends who visit Sophia’s Seafood Restaurant often and rave about it. That’s not the case with us, but we were there for our third visit last night. They’ve acquired a liquor license since our last time, so our carefully chosen bottle of white wine, for which they would have charged a $15 corkage fee if we’d chosen to open it, had to be put aside in favor of a delicious and reasonable prosecco. Two of our party of 5 were not drinkers, so we’d intentionally chosen a place we thought was a BYOB.
“The welcoming gentleman who I believe was the owner said if we’d come more often, we would have known about the change. He apologized about the corkage fee but explained that it was necessary because of the expense of his liquor license. The prosecco was good, so there are no complaints there.
“We ordered a range of items, some good, some a little bit of a disappointment. My husband loved his overly huge portion of fried smelts. The bruschetta was also much admired, and not so overwhelming. Delicious hot bread, not quite Italian, but most acceptable (and unfortunately, filling.) Salads were from a bag of field greens topped by three thin, marinated tomato slices in a nice but possibly excessive amount of balsamic vinegar.
“Main courses ranged from a chicken breast with peppers and sun-dried tomatoes, again a ridiculously huge portion, to a big dish of fusilli with not very many of the promised sausage pieces, all in a bland, cream-based sauce. I ordered what I would if I were to have a last meal on earth, clams with spaghetti. The sauce was close to perfect, completely balanced between the sweetness of the clams and the sharpness of the garlic, but it was, for some reason, light on the pasta, so there was a lot of sauce left over which I borrowed (OK, took) several of my husband’s fusilli to soak up.
“It was probably my fault as I declined the breadcrumbs on the pasta, but having a sawdust-like carb topping on a carb eludes my understanding, even though I know it is traditional, and at least one fabulous restaurant in Harrisburg they even use the correct Italian name for this incomprehensible add-on.
“The clams were in their shell, which I know grosses some people out but not me; they were fresh but unfortunately one of the shells had shattered, so I had an interesting time picking out shards from the clams and pasta, some of which made the journey to my mouth undetected.
“As we left, we noticed the hopping jazz club next door which we observed had been sucking up potential diners, every other couple who came in chose to get up and go next door to eat while listening to what looked like a really impressive jazz ensemble. I couldn’t help noticing on the sandwich board outside (after the meal, you understand) that my clams with spaghetti were offered at half the price we were charged in the restaurant, so I understood the attraction diners had for next door.
“I think Sophia’s has to be careful to provide a completely different range of selections for the bar food than for the restaurant, because nothing turns the full stomach sour more quickly than feeling that you’ve been charged double for the same exact dish that was available on the other side of the wall.
“At the risk of sounding negative for what was in fact an OK evening out, I’ll say that the service was friendly, knowledgeable and well-paced, and at least we have a bottle of white to drink at home that we hadn’t expected. We’ll try Sophia’s again, but I can’t say that we’ll rush back based on last night’s experience. Maybe we should go with our enthusiastic friends so we can have what they have and possibly experience their pleasure at eating there.”
— Ellen Hughes