Sometimes Bigger Is Better!

Original plans had us dining at the home of Peruvian-born Guliana who we met (along with several of her visiting family members) as a guest at a graduation party hosted by friends Paula and Mike Graham. A few weeks later we got the invitation to come enjoy an ethnic cooked meal prepared by Guliana herself—all we had to do was supply beverages. Unfortunately, Guliana got called away to Peru due to a family emergency, but the rest of us all had that Saturday evening open so we went to Plan B…

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The place is so new that they don’t even have their sign up yet!

Arpeggio is an Italian/Mediterranean BYOB which opened in July, 1995 in Spring House, Montgomery County, PA, about 10 miles from the Graham’s home in Oreland. The original cozy 12-table space and the Spring House area were a perfect fit for restaurateurs Mary Cullom and Chef Hamdy Khalil and they thrived there for seven years. Then the larger space next door became available and since they were bursting at the seams, Arpeggio was lovingly expanded.

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Restaurateurs Mary Cullom and Chef Hamdy Khalil.

In May 2003, they reopened with a new state of the art kitchen and a transformed décor. The kitchen sported a second wood burning oven in the back for the preparation of special entrées. The dining room featured a two-sided fireplace in the center, private wine lockers and an outdoor patio that is partially covered with a large gable.

But they relocated and enlarged once again! The latest location, which opened very recently, is roughly 75 yards across the parking lot, and the new space — which was designed by revered Philadelphia architectural and design firm DAS Architects — is a massive 4,550 square feet inside with 24-foot high soaring ceilings, an upscale upgrade from the previous 2,800 square feet!

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An interior view of one of the dining areas.

It was already after 8:00 by the time we arrived, and we figured since it was a summer weekend, many folks would be out of town. Wrong! The place was absolutely booming (they don’t take reservations) and we were told there was an hours wait time! Oy vay. But since it was a BYOB—and we carted a few good reds with us—we asked for some wine glasses and moseyed out to the large deck—which was not up and running for business yet.

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Russ, Mike and Paula discuss where to wait…

Yes, it took pretty much the full hour before our names were called. But we secured a nice corner table which allowed for easier conversation. And that conversation was, what were we going to order for starters?

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Most everything on their extensive menu is homemade and made to order with the finest and freshest ingredients available. They do not use any preservatives or trans fats in the preparation of any of the dishes. BTW, they also have full dairy-free, vegetarian, and gluten-free menus…

Back to the appetizers. We opted for the combo platter and beef skewers, described below.

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MEDITERRANEAN COMBO PLATTER: Sampling of humus, baba ganush, tabbouleh, falafel, stuffed grape leaves and feta; served with tahina and two fresh colossal pitas!
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IMG_2830MEDITERRANEAN BEEF SKEWERS:
Lean and tender flank steak skewers in a Mediterranean style marinade; served over a bed of crispy onions.

Then we needed to get serious about entrées. After much back and forth, Paula opted for the Sea Bass, which she gushed over; Lynn selected the Mixed Grille; and the guys both chose the Chicken Taouk. What the heck is that? Shish Taouk is a traditional marinated chicken shish kebab of Middle Eastern cuisine. And since they offer a wide variety of Mediterranean offerings, it made sense.

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SEA BASS ATHENA:
Wood oven baked Australian sea bass in a delicious sauce with marinara, fresh tomatoes, onions and kalamata olives

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MIXED GRILLE:
 Scallops, jumbo shrimp and filet mignon, grilled; served with Tahina sauce, brown rice and grilled seasonal vegetables

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CHICKEN TAOUK:
Grilled tender and juicy chicken skewers marinated in Mediterranean style yogurt; served with rice, grilled veggies and toum (a delicious emulsified garlic sauce)

We are hoping that our next visit—yes, we plan to go again—they will reconsider taking advanced reservations. In the meantime, just plan on chilling on the large covered back deck until your name is called…

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