Laid-back atmosphere characterizes scene at L2 restaurant

· October 5, 2004, 5:00 am

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Old-timers in the neighborhood just east of the Schuylkill near South Street might remember a restaurant named Linoleum. But for those who are new to the area, L2 is owner Nathan Dolente's second try at a restaurant in the same spot.

Laid back is the only way to describe the atmosphere at the 2201 South St. location, which features faux-unfinished brick walls and red crushed velvet-covered seats. The hanging lamps set the scene for a pleasant meal at a reasonable cost.

Throughout the meal, the restaurant was serenaded by live music performed by a two-piece band in the bar in the front.

My guest and I started with a cup of French onion soup ($4.50) and a plate of calamari ($5.50). The calamari was lightly battered, and the food was not chewy, which made for a pleasant surprise for a non-calamari lover.

According to our waiter, the soup is one of the restaurant's top items, and with its light mix of pureed onions and heavy cheese, it was easy to tell why.

The casual atmosphere and comfortable seating allowed us to sit and enjoy our meal with a mixed-age crowd, which ranged from college students to professors to older residents. Dolente, who called the restaurant his second home, seemed to recognize nearly everyone in the place, and greeted them as regulars.

Though the kitchen had run out of a few of the menu listings, including the cold seafood plate, the options that remained were more than satisfactory for any type of taste.

For our main course, my guest had a serving of partially boneless duck ($15). The meat was cooked to her liking; she described it as "very good."

For my main course, I had a crab cake plate ($18) that was flaky and light and cooked as well as any I've had.

As good as the meal was, though, nothing could beat the dessert, which the restaurant served to us on a platter of four. The platter came complete with tiramisu, key lime pie, flourless chocolate cake and a caramel cake in a graham cracker crust.

If looking for a sure bet for a nice meal near campus, L2 is a good bet for anyone in the Penn community.

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