by  Mary Price Lee & Richard S. Lee

The new glow that TreVi Pizza Pasta BYOB brought to 21 East Glenside Ave., Glenside, when it opened on April Fool’s Day (no joke), starts with the inviting décor in blues and whites. It just shouts “Come on in!” And the interior doesn’t disappoint. Simply-set tables fill two dining rooms and seat up to 85, in a homey split-level pattern with the kitchen taking up the lower level rear. Two murals, one in each room, set the tone for casual family-oriented and kid-friendly dining that is elegant in all but price.

Both murals are by noted artist, Murrie Gayman. The original, of the canals of Venice, was painted over 50 years ago for TreVi’s predecessor, the near-legendary Rizzo’s Pizza, and was restored when Gayman painted its companion, the Trevi Fountain in Rome (made famous by the movie and song, “Three Coins in the Fountain”).

But the real glow of TreVi comes from its 25-year-old owner-chef, Joe Burke. Joe’s enthusiasm, talent and dedication, we predict, will make him an ever-growing presence in the area’s culinary community over the years. (Remember, you read it here first!). He is as proud of TreVi as he is of his wife, April, and kids Angelina and Joseph.

Joe comes from a foodie family on both sides. His father, Joe Sr. — who is often in the kitchen with his son — owned Piazza Pizza in Northeast Philly for many years and for 15 years operated J. Cabot Café in the Curtis Building downtown. His mother, Gina, runs J. Cabot Catering, now based at TreVi. Mom is also in the kitchen, as needed.

The pizzaiolo (pizza maker) is John DiSalvo, a cousin. Bob Williams, former sous-chef at Ambler’s upscale Dettera, is also aboard in the TreVi kitchen. As if that weren’t enough food bona fides, the whole family, 15 on both sides, recently toured Italy, where Joe took down recipes while enjoying the scenery. To ice the cake, he graduated from The Restaurant School in Philadelphia where, as a student, he visited Paris, Dijon and Burgundy, learning all the way.

Nice as Joe is, all this praise wouldn’t be worth the paper it’s printed on if the dining experience didn’t glow, too. Believe us, it does. For starters, the menu is varied enough to please any taste; this isn’t just pizza and pasta in the too-often-encountered red gravy sense.

These are thin-crust, New York-style pizzas, crispy and light. “I spent time in Grimaldi’s and Lombardi’s in New York,” Joe said. “Now, those are pizzas! I once ate 24 different [New York-style] slices at once,” he went on. “Know how I felt? Tired!”

Other menu highlights include five antipasti ($7.50 – $11), four salads ($6 and $7), four panini ($8.50 – $9.50), five pastas ($12 – $17) and seven small plates ($6 – $10.50). Also, there are 10 gourmet 12” pizzas ($12 – $16) and 16” classic pizzas with lots of toppings ($13 with some toppings slightly higher).

From the so-called small plates, we chose Crispy Calamari ($8.50). The generous, lightly breaded portion came with a fra diavolo dipping sauce that was assertive but not “whoo!,” an excellent opening to a memorable meal. Next, we shared a gourmet pizza that actually was gourmet: a crispy thin crust with spinach and tomato graced with a light cheese sauce ($11). One of us chose a Penne Rigate, served in an egg and cheese sauce with peas and the delicious heft of paper-thin slices of prosciutto ham, a very generous serving for $13. The other opted for a daily special, fresh pan-seared Scottish Salmon on a bed of orzo, sun-dried tomato and spinach, a nifty value at $14. The salmon was perfectly done, seared enough to add a touch of crunch on top, leaving the body tender and moist.

“I was worried we wouldn’t have this dish tonight,” exclaimed Joe. “I kept waiting for the fish purveyor to show up. Believe me, it’s fresh.”

“I know,” one of us replied. “The fish truck almost blocked Glenside Avenue as we were coming in.”

Joe also commented that the idea of charging a corkage fee for customers who bring their own wine is “ridiculous.” He has selected his servers well, too; our lovely waitress, Teresa Fitzpatrick, a longtime Glenside resident who had also worked at Rizzo’s, brought everything from coffee to Tiramisu, and personified service at its best. And the Tiramisu ($6), a TreVi-made version of this Italian classic, was the best we’d ever had.

“When we opened, a lot of the Rizzo family came,” said Burke, “and they really loved what we’re doing. What a compliment! And even though we’re still pretty new here, we’re getting lots of repeat customers.”
One thing is for sure: we will be among them.

TreVi Pizza Pasta BYOB, 21 E. Glenside Ave. (just off Easton Road), Glenside. Reservations, 215-884-9100 or www.trevibyob.com. Open Tue-Fri, 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Sat. 4 – 10; Sun 4 – 9. Closed Mondays. Take-out available. Metered street parking and adjoining municipal lot, free after 6 p.m.