CYAN YELLOW MAGENTA BLACK
Arts & Entertainment
Photo Courtesy of Ralph’s Restaurant Michelle H. LePoidevin for The Westfield Leader and The Times
CERTAINLY NOT ROTTEN... Rotten Ralph’s or Ralph Jr. ’s in Old City, Philadelphia serves the freshest mussels and the most savory lobster bisque I’ve ever sampled. WELCOME TO HEAVEN... While you won’t find St. Peter standing at the
doorway, heaven is abound at Ralph’s Restaurant in Philadelphia. Ravioli, calamari, and delectable delicacies are sure to please.
PHILADELPHIA – We were weary travelers when a hospital worker decked in aqua scrubs seeking a break outside of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia’s Wa s h i n g t o n Square District inadvertently misdirected us away from the Italian Market when we were indeed headed in the right direction.
The next afternoon, determined as we were, we followed Locust Street to 9th Street in search of the Italian mecca I’d heard so much about.
When we finally arrived, we stumbled upon a small brickfront restaurant named Ralph’s and I found Heaven in a plate of ravioli.
I soon discovered that my patronage joined that of Frank Sinatra, Al Martino, Michael Keaton, Heather Locklear, Yogi Berra, Ann Jillian and Sammy Davis, Jr. (to name a mere few). They have also dined there. Not to mention a pretty famous fellow named Theodore Roosevelt who stopped by on June 19, 1900 when he was seeking solace from the Republican National Committee at the time.
Ralph’s 100yearold history is impressive beyond its years. Four generations stemming from restaurant pioneer Francesco Dispigno have caused Ralph’s to be known as the oldest familyowned Italian restaurant in the country.
Ted Taylor, Ralph’s Publicist, told The Westfield Leader and The Times of Scotch PlainsFanwood,
“We’re so glad you liked Ralph’s. We try to treat everyone as if they were family, it’s why we’ve lasted for 100 years.”
While we eagerly anticipated our seating, our eyes poured over the bountiful display of awards and “Best of Philly” certificates mounted at Ralph’s, as well as the menu which is saturated with traditional Italian fare and delicacies.
Our waiter, John, defined courtesy and attentiveness. When we were overwhelmed and awed by the menu’s selection and needed a couple of minutes to decide, John politely informed, “Please, take all of the time you need, ladies.”
Spacious seating is not an issue at Ralph’s. While some might be irked by the fact that tables are juxtaposed closely, such seating is the allure of a traditional Italian restaurant. You can make friends with the table next to you, inform those just seated that, yes, the calamari is as good as it looks. And, even couples can make a cozy nook for themselves
at Ralph’s. Although a traditional Tossed Salad is offered, take advantage of other salad offerings such as
the plentiful Antipasto, Tomatoes & Anc h o v i e s , Greens, Oil & Garlic, generous Hearts of Artichokes or tangy Italian Salami before
getting ready for your entree.
R a l p h ’ s serves up plates of sumptuous and fresh mussels in a sinful red or white sauce. Two young love birds at a table nearby seemed to let only one thing distract them from gazing into each others eyes – the Escargot Au Gratin. It was a must, they explained.
A testament to any authentic Italian restaurant is knowing that the waiter or waitress can place a dish of ravioli in front of a customer, knowing it is simply the best around. It may seem like the most common entree, but if it is done correctly, it becomes a delicacy.
Six plump pockets swimming in the most delectable marinara sauce I’ve experienced outside of my own home were wrapped like gifts upon a steaming plate. A blend of luscious ricotta cheese and mozzarella flow endlessly from the fresh pasta pockets.
Spaghetti, which may also be served with Jumbo Lump Crabmeat, Sausage Sauce or Shrimp Sauce (to name a mere few) is simply delicious when topped with Ralph’s Calamari. Tender and tempting, the portion was bountiful and served piping hot.
Other Italian specialties worth sampling include Linguini Pescatore with plentiful helpings of Shrimp, Clams, more of those plump Mussels, and Crabmeat in a red or white sauce.
Don’t forget to save room for the Sausage & Peppers, Pork Chops Pizzaiola or Lobster Tail Fra Diavolo upon a bed of al dente spaghetti.
With attention to each and every detail and an atmosphere that spans generations, everyone feels like part of the family at Ralph’s.
Your experience is guaranteed to be simply phenomenal.
If you would like a sneak preview of Ralph’s, the restaurant will be profiled on The Food Network’s “Best Of” series on Wednesday, August 16, at 9: 30 p. m. on The Food Channel. Marc Silverstein, the host of the program, and his crew spent about seven hours at Ralph’s on Good Friday.
Area Residents Plan Performance Tomorrow, July 28, at Paper Mill
MILLBURN – Paper Mill Playhouse Musical Theatre Conservatory will showcase local residents tomorrow evening, Friday, July 28, at 7: 30 p. m. in New Voices 2000: The Bard on Broadway at the theater in Millburn.
Kassy Ciasulli of Mountainside, Ryan Aspell of Scotch Plains, and Westfielders Tara Deieso, Matteo Guasconi, Colleen Kirk, Josh Leiberman, Allison Siko and Nicole
Vendetti are scheduled to perform. Young artists from the Paper Mill’s Summer Conservatory and the outstanding nominees from the Rising Star Awards 2000 will perform in this musical celebration of the great musicals inspired by William Shakespeare including
The Boys from Syracuse, Kiss Me Kate and West Side Story.
Tickets are $20, $20, or $18. For more information on this one night only event, please call (973) 3764343.
The Dining Table
By MICHELLE H. LePOIDEVIN
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times
Highest Rating: 4 chef hats Ralph’s Italian
Restaurant “The Oldest FamilyOwned Italian Restaurant in America,” 760 South Ninth Street, Philadelphia, Pa., 19147 (215) 6276071, www. ralphsrestaurant. com, ralphsrest@ aol. com.
Town Book Store Plans August 8 Book Discussion
WESTFIELD – The Town Book Store of Westfield will hold its next Book Discussion Group Meeting on Tuesday, August 8, at 8 p. m. in its store at 225 East Broad Street.
The August book selection is “The Red Tent” by Anita Diamant.
These meetings are open to the public, but it is desired that attendees read the book in order to participate.
“The Red Tent” may be purchased at The Town Book Store at a 20 percent discount.
For more information, please call The Town Book Store at (908) 2333535.
Nifty will do. So will snazzy. The same goes for cool. Which brings to mind that one’s choice of adjectives in praise of a film can certainly date a body. Let alone identify him. And that could be dangerous in these times of unregistered, freeroaming mutants in search of gosh knows what. So I won’t advertise my generational subset by further noting that XMen is groovy.
Instead, I will chime in with the legions of kindred spirits I have made by experiencing this classic comic book transformed into a movie. Director Bryan Singer’s scifi drama is the bomb.
While seeing this witty, sociologically astute actionfantasy won’t literally transport viewers to the fountain of youth, there is joy in being reminded what pure entertainment a wellconceived comic book is capable of delivering. Imbuing his liveaction metamorphosis with practically all the whim, wonder and speculation that made the source material so popular, Mr. Singer proves that the leap from comic panel to big screen is possible, so long as the essence of good storytelling remains intact. Kudos for their artistic restraint goes to screen scribes Tom DeSanto and David Hayter.
Coming on the heels of news that scientists have just about completed their mapping of the human genome, this genetic tall tale brings us to “the not too distant future,” where the ongoing debate concerns mutants — folks who have made an unexplained, sudden jump forward in the evolutionary process. They possess all manner of special talent — some manageable, some terrifyingly amuck. And because they have sixth, seventh and eighth senses, there are those normal humans who would register them.
Some mutants are psychic. Others have great physical strength. But the most mindboggling and intriguing news is that no two mutants are alike. Besides sharing this unexplained Xfactor, they have only their differentness in common. And the extent of these super powers is limited solely by the imaginations of the writers.
For example, Logan (Hugh Jackman), also known as Wolverine perhaps because of his brooding, lone wolf persona, just might be related to Edward Scissorhands. To complement his penchant for the martial arts, scythelike blades spring from his knuckles like claws from an angry cat’s paws. On the desolate road deep into Northwestern Canada, where he meets the wayward Rogue (Anna Paquin), he confides that this selfdefense reflex hurts with each activation. Also known as Marie, she entrusts that her hidden power is the unharnessed ability to weaken anyone who shows her affection. No doubt, this literary nod to the melancholy of forbidden love puts a damper on her social life. Nonetheless, they commiserate, the frozen backdrop a proper metaphor for their mutual isolation.
Suddenly, they are whisked from their exile and brought to the crucible of their being when they become the bones of contention in a battle between two rival camps of mutants. There are the apparent forces of Good, led by the enlightened Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart). And then there is his not quite so good but worthy adversary, Magneto (also known as Eric Magnus Lehnsherr), admirably portrayed by Ian McKellen.
On the eve of a very important summit of world leaders specifically called to deal with the mutant question, their philosophical differences are dramatically highlighted in both word and deed. Suffice it to note, there is kungfu fighting aplenty — maybe too much.
Professor X, who runs a posh educational sanctuary/ think tank dedicated to studying and aiding mutants, harbors the belief that man kind is capable of eventually embracing
its specially gifted brethren. But it will take education. In short, he’s the intellectual liberal — sort of a scifi version of Adlai Stevenson in a wheelchair.
The good professor is the founder and commanderinchief of the XMen, an elite squadron of freedom fighters dedicated to highminded principles. Had they existed in the 1930s, they would have fought in Spain. Escadrille and all that. They even have neat uniforms and a special aircraft that jets them to their worldsaving missions. Exhibiting Kiplingesque amaraderie, they chat and chide eloquently along the way.
Featured players among this illumined force include: Storm (Halle Berry), who can whip up a northeaster on a moment’s notice; the ironically named Cyclops (James Marsden), equipped with special glasses and the ability to emit highly destructive rays, and Famke Janssen as Dr. Jean Grey, allaround brilliant physician, psychicintraining and Professor X’s pet protege.
Lining up behind Magneto, whose credo contends that there will be no peace until everyone on Earth is a mutant, are equally potent but less glamorous sorts like Toad (Ray Park), whose destructive use of a tongue the length of a garden hose stretches matters a bit.
Tyler Mane as Sabretooth, a brutish throwback to the caveman days, is an Igor to Magneto’s mad scientist. But the most frightening and potentially deadly of them all is Mystique, the ultimate invasion of privacy. Her venal insinuation is worthy of a nightmare drawn from the collective subconscious of both Freud and Kafka.
You see, Mystique (Rebecca RomijnStamos) has the power to be you.... or you, or you, and even you. How will your compatriots in arms know who the real you is? And you were just worried about s o m e o n e g l o m m i n g your social security number.
Mr. Singer’s film is preachy and instructive, but only in the very innocent way that primers with a humanistic bent can be. And XMen
is entrancing without being demanding; you don’t have to join the cult and learn every nook and cranny of its lore in order to enjoy the saga. The super special effects glibly surprise and amuse without obfuscating the scifi essence.
Of course, the musical score could have been more memorable. It would have been nice to have some of the twodimensional characters fleshed out a bit more. And a slight blossoming of the very subtle love angles might have pleased some vicarious interests. But these are small objections. After all, how often does a film put you back under the bedcovers, place a flashlight in your hand, and eagerly invite you to experience its colorful adventure as if for the very first time?
* * * * *
XMen, rated PG13, is a 20th Century Fox release directed by Bryan Singer and stars Patrick Stewart, Anna Paquin, and Hugh Jackman. Running time: 93 minutes.
By Michael S. Goldberger
One Popcorn, Poor • Two Popcorns, Fair • Three Popcorns, Good • Four Popcorns, Excellent
Reggae Group, Circus Star Set Village Green Performances
SCOTCH PLAINS – The Scotch Plains Cultural Arts Committee will clear the Village Green stage for Sasha the Circus Star and Port Au Spain reggae group this evening, Thursday, July 27.
Beginning at 7 p. m., Sasha the Circus Star will present a 45minute show geared toward children. A veteran of 24 years in the Moscow Circus, Sasha has traveled throughout Europe, Asia and the United States. His show includes a combination of mime, juggling, magic and audience participation.
Port Au Spain will perform after Sasha, beginning at 8 p. m. The group will perform soca beats.
Free birch bear will be served compliments of Alfonso’s Pizza. The committee will also vend glowinthedark necklaces for $2 each. Spectators are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets for their comfort.
In case of inclement weather, the concert will be moved to the auditorium of Scotch PlainsFanwood High School. For more information, please call the Recreation Office at (908) 3226700.
Fanwood Library Sets Book Discussion; Marks Upcoming Closing Date
FANWOOD – A book discussion has been slated by at the Fanwood Memorial Library on Thursday, September 14, at 7: 30 p. m. Librarian Ruth Ahnert will discuss “I Know This Much Is True” by Wally Lamb.
To best participate, it is asks that the book is read prior to the meeting date. Copies are available at the library.
Beginning August 12, the library will be closed for renovations. Interested patrons should pick up the book anytime before that date.
For more information, please call the library at (908) 3226400.
Air Conditioned Donation $4.00
FORTYEIGHTH ANNUAL 8
450 Park Ave • Scotch Plains (908) 4901200
Sunday meals were specialziti (prime piatto), braciola e piselli per secondo. I loved ziti so much that my nickname became “ziti.” Once I asked my mother why she never substituted the piselli with another legume or vegetable. The answer was, “Perche I piselli si sposano bene con la braciola,” loosely translated, “Because the peas go well with the braciola.”
At Mezzogiorno we offer braciola (rolled top round beef with Pecorino cheese, parsley, salt, pepper and a touch of garlic) with rigatoni (they hold the ragu sauce better than the ziti) and, of course, peas.
Per piacere, come to Mezzogiorno and taste the fragrance of our tender braciola happily married to the rigatoni and the peas.
Arrivederci a Mezzogiorno! Francesco
Ample parking in rear • Open 7 days for lunch and dinner Available for parties on and off the premises
P. S. “Ziti” is still my favorite pasta.
Covering Fanwood, Mountainside, Scotch Plains and Westfield, Union County, New Jersey (NJ)