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The pristine and predominantly white dining room of Le Castagne may seem intimidating to diners at first. But once the scent of fine Italian cuisine began wafting through the air and the friendly servers announced the evening's specials, I knew that the Chestnut Street establishment would not only provide a delicious meal, but a comfortable one as well. Throughout the evening, the staff checked to make sure everything was to our liking. Their genuine interest proved that Le Castagne truly cares. To start off, my guest and I chose from a selection of titillating appetizers. I opted for the Delizia ai funghi ($9), a pastry draped with mushrooms and a four cheese sauce. The combination of flavors was delicate yet rich. A lovely way to begin what would prove to be an all-around enjoyable meal. My guest opted for the soup of the day ($6), a Tuscan onion soup, which was hearty, creamy and in a word, fantastic.

Le Castagne 1920 Chestnut Street (215) 751-9913 Fare: Italian
For our next course, we chose from a selection of a half dozen pasta options. The gnocchi di patate alla sorrentina ($11), served with mozzarella, fresh basil and tomato sauce was outstanding -- simple yet bursting with flavor. The cheesy ravioli alla robiola ($14) in cream sauce held true to its description -- the cheesy flavor could not go unnoticed. While I was already feeling full, I nevertheless indulged in the entree special of the evening, striped bass in a basil sauce ($23). The fish was tender and mouthwatering, and the simple vegetable garnishes were the perfect compliment. My guest opted for the Carre d'agnello, the roasted rack of lamb ($27). The meat, prepared with a shallot and port wine reduction, was exceptionally tender and overflowing with taste. The sweet potato side dish served as the entree's perfect counterpart. Luckily, my guest and I saved just enough room for dessert. The delectable concoctions did not disappoint. The torta di ricotta e cioccolato ($7.25), a ricotta and cheese tart ornamented with rum ice cream and vanilla sauce was superb. The tart was spongy and light and the ice cream brought out its best. Each bite was a refreshing explosion of zesty sweetness. The tiramisu della casa ($7.25) was also excellent. The dessert's traditional preparation and perfect texture would satisfy even the most finicky of diners. When our meal came to an end, I knew that our dining experience at Le Castagne would be one to remember -- I'll never have to think twice about where to go for mouthwatering Italian cuisine.
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