Although 555 Lagiola on Butler Ave. in Ambler has been open for 8 months, Around Ambler’s first visit wasn’t until last week. After meeting with Head Chef and Owner Antonio Rondinelli and sampling some of the cuisine, we can say with authority that we were 8 months too late!
Born in Cortale, Italy, Chef Antonio always wanted to be a chef. He made his first pizza at 11 and by 13, he was already working at La Fossa del Lupo (Italian for: The Hall of the Wolf), in Jacurso, Italy. Chef Antonio intimated that the great Tenor Pavarotti would frequent La Fossa during his tenure (Pavarotti was partial to the Porcini Mushrooms and Wild Boar).
After plying his trade all throughout Europe, including stops in Spain, Switzerland and Paris, Chef Antonio found himself at Filipo’s in Spring House in 2003. He fell in love with the area and after a trip to Washington D.C., he found his inspiration for opening 555 Lagiola at a Tapas restaurant called Jaleo, one of the first Tapas restaurants in the United States.
For the uninitiated, Tapas is Spanish for small plates which can be served hot or cold. We were lucky enough to be able to try some of these small plates on our trip including the Carne Curate Mixta, Jamon Iberico, Jamon Serrano, y Chorizo which is an appetizer tray of cured Spanish meats. All the Jamon (Salt-Cured Ham) comes from Spain and is hand carved. At 555 Lagiola, there are no machines for carving as Chef Antonio and his staff carve everything by hand.
“It’s not just carving to us, it’s an art form”, Chef says, “and we the only place in the Philadelphia area that does it this way”. Quite a boon for Ambler!
After the appetizer tray, we weren’t done. Associate Chef Hayden Szuch prepared us Pulp de Gallega (Octopus sautéed with garlic and fresh parsley). As with most of the fine ingredients from Lagiola, the Octopus is imported from Spain. We love Octopus at Around Ambler and can say that this was the best we’ve had. We also enjoyed the Beef Empanadas (Stuffed pastry that can be ordered with Beef, chicken or vegetables) which were out of this world and for dessert, Queso y Dulce de Membrillo (Manchego Cheese and Quince Jam) that also came with a cactus pear. We’ve never had a cactus pear before but after trying it, we can’t wait to have it again. Evidently this dessert traces its origins to 1800’s Spain.
“I want to please people with new things that they’ve never seen before…I want them to walk in and feel like they’ve traveled to Europe”, Chef Antonio said.
It’s definitely an otherworldly experience at 555 Lagiola, but Chef made sure to let us know the real driving force behind the restaurant – “This restaurant is dedicated to my kids”, he said. “The name Lagiola is a mixture of their names – Lola and Giorgio!”
After dining at 555 Lagiola, we want to thank Chef Antonio for the wonderful meal and experience…we also thank Lola and Giorgio, too!
555 Lagiola is located at 10 E. Butler Ave. in Ambler, PA. Call for a reservation – 267-460-8842.