Savona: classy thrills in the hills

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Planted on a picturesque hilltop outside Philly, Savona, is the kind of place you would imagine James Bond having a meal after bankrupting his enemies in poker games and foiling their nefarious plans.

Yes, it is that classy. No exaggeration. The place is sunlit and gorgeous during the day and even more alluring when candlelit at night, where the meticulous French and Mediterranean menu and attentive staff take center stage.

And then there’s the wine cellar. With a wine menu the size of a coffee table book (the menu by comparison is only one page long), it’s easy to see why this is the largest wine cellar in the state of Pennsylvania. And if we ever get “Wolf of Wall Street” or “Goodfellas” rich, our first stop to celebrate will be in the amazing and gigantic downstairs dining-table area, where you can spend the cost of a brand-new car on a bottle of wine. Don’t worry, until that happens, there are plenty of wines in their larders that fit our current meager budgets.

The menu at Savona seeks to equal the visual impact of the restaurant’s surroundings. The menu doesn’t stray too far from traditions, but focuses on presenting perfection on the plates. The charred baby octopus ($17) had some interesting textures that set it apart from similar dishes we’ve has elsewhere. The melted fennel and orange played in stark contrast to the crispy parsnips that garnished the dish.

The “escargot casseroula” ($15), with a faro ragu and roasted garlic, was a warm and inviting dish with complex and classic French flavors that gave it a hearty feel without seeming heavy or unrefined.

It was easy to see why the Hartley Ranch “Bistecca” is a favorite at Savona. When it hits the table, the aroma from the smoked onions seduces you right away. The sizable portion of steak rests on bed of asparagus, onions and salsa verde, creating a feast for all the senses.

The dessert menu at Savona has the usual suspects: tarts, soufflés, cakes and cheese plates to tempt you, and very well they should. But Savona could also build itself a considerable reputation as a high-end ice-cream shop if it wanted to. Its gelatos and sorbets ($7 for three healthy scoops) are decadent and mesmerizing, with flavors like salted-caramel cream cheese, lemon basil and raspberry-chocolate brownie.

Like its extensive wine menu, Savona is a dining experience you have to take in with all of your senses.