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Andrew Margulies

Red, green and white adorned awnings welcome diners to a little taste of Italy in Kristian's Ristorante, a small and quaint restaurant in the heart of South Philadelphia.

Located at 1100 Federal Street, Kristian's provides its patrons with an elegant meal from start to finish.

The restaurant's single room is adorned with floral paintings, white-washed brick walls and tables complemented by wooden chairs. The room's cozy atmosphere was completed by an influx of Frank Sinatra tunes. But Kristian's proved that it can jive with the best of them as the music switched throughout the evening to more traditional '60s melodies.

Upon entering the dimly lit restaurant, my companion and I took our seats and were immediately presented with an enticing menu. While it boasts appetizers, pastas and fish, the majority of the restaurant's selections appeal to those with a penchant for meat. Meat entrees range from veal to rack of lamb to chicken and range in price from $17 to $36.

After much contemplation, I opted to start my meal with the Spinaci salad, a delicate blend of spinach leaves, granny smith apples, sundried cherries, gorgonzola cheese and walnuts drizzled with a fruity vinagrette ($9). The combination of textures and flavors created a zesty explosion on my palette. The apples were crisp and tart and a nice complement to the sweeter cherries.

My companion took a more traditional Italian route and ordered a pasta appetizer special. The dish was filled with luscious tomatoes, chunks of fresh crabmeat and homemade pasta.

I was careful not to fill up on my generous portion of salad because I had a feeling that something delectable was in store for my entree.

My intuition proved correct as I was presented with a plate of salmon, artichoke hearts, mushrooms and mashed potatoes in a white wine sauce ($22). The dish was a potpourri of colors and flavors and the combination of vegetables, starches and fish was nothing shy of excellent.

My companion feasted on the restaurant's most expensive entree, the Bistecca ($36), a dry-aged 18-oz. rib eye steak served with herbs and natural juices. The large steak had a butter flavoring that my companion said caused the meat to simply melt in his mouth. He was also quick to compliment the mashed potatoes that complimented his dish, calling them "wonderfully chunky."

While dining, it became apparent that the restaurant's intimate setting was filled with several regular diners. Conversation abounded throughout the room and attentive waiters capitalized on every opportunity to serve us better -- the energetic staff even took the opportunity to refolded the napkins of diners who happened to leave their seats. Ah, sheer elegance.

No meal would be complete without dessert, and Kristian's knows this. Dessert options ranging from sorbets to extravagant pastries amazed our senses. Our friendly waiter presented the options to us personally, and after stumbling over the Italian name of a flan-esque dish, I was presented with panna cotta, a cooked custard ($7). I must admit that I do not normally opt for the avante garde, but something about the panna cotta compelled me to give it a try.

The dish was displayed simply in a circular dish -- half of the dessert revealed it's white tone, while the other half was lightly brushed with a berry sauce. Four cherries sat on top of the custard. The panna cotta slid off my spoon and into my mouth, revealing its rich taste and unique texture.

Overall, our evening at Kristian's proved delightful. And with prices a bit too steep for the average budget -- and definitely my college one -- I'll have to settle for reliving the experience in memory, because I don't know when I'll have a chance to go back.

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