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Pistachio Grille Serves Up Upscale Italian

Owner's son coins the name of Ambler-area restaurant.

Five years ago, Ray Moscardelli took over a dingy, moribund restaurant and personally made it over to his own design from floor to ceiling – new name, all new menu, new furnishings – and saw it doing a brisk business in a few short months. Moscardelli - called Ray-Ray by family and friends - created Pistachio Grille from what had been Hayeck’s Café in Maple Glen. 

The name stems from the fact that the pistachio is his beloved young son’s favorite, and the first four-syllable word he learned to pronounce, even before he could say his four-syllable last name.

Moscardelli “paid his dues” and learned his craft well. He trained at the prestigious Johnson and Wales Culinary Institute, and served as chef in such top restaurants as Il Gallo Nero, which later became the excellent San Marco in Springhouse. 

So he well knows what an attractive dining room should look like. The burgundy walls hung with colorful  French posters, white wainscoting, accented by black linens and candle holders, the dropped ceiling and recessed lighting, clean hardwood floors, shaded light sconces, tea lights on many ledges, combine to produce an attractive ambiance.

He knows what works with his customer base too, and has used his experience to design his relatively small, but well-selected breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus.

My many BYOB-loving readers and friends will be pleased that Pistachio Grille is still a BYOB.

The feminine touch is present in good measure from his partner and gracious hostess, the beautiful Statia, who can often be seen at one of the front room tables, having a meal with their son Ray Jr.

Living so close by, I found it most convenient to get there several times, at least once for dinner and lunch. I had also gone there for breakfast with family just after Pistachio Grille opened. Portions were consistently generous, and nicely presented.

On my first visit, I treated my love to dinner for Valentine’s Day. It was a snowy, cold and windy night, but we were warmly greeted by Statia. Sinatra was crooning soft love ballads over the sound system, easily heard in the low-noise ambiance though the room was full.

Complimentary roast green peppers, a basket of bread, and opening a bottle of pinot grigio preceded the welcome bowl of good hot and yummy crab and shrimp bisque ($5). A shared spinach salad ($7.50) with portobellos, dried figs, grilled goat cheese, croutons, sherry vinaigrette, and wonderful crunchy, candied pistachios - accommodatingly split in the kitchen - was truly inspired, one of the best salads in recent dinings.

Fettuccini with grilled shrimp, fresh asparagus, cherry tomatoes, in a rich, creamy saffron laced sauce ($18), displayed Chef Ray’s expertise with Italian pasta dishes. My entrée, tasty seared jumbo scallops ($19), though listed as over spinach, was mainly over fresh green beans, carrots, and potatoes (not mentioned), but was also elevated by crunchy fried shredded leek and a saffron-pistachio butter.

At one of my lunch visits, another excellent soup – creamy, hot, and deliciously crammed with a variety of mushrooms ($3), the cup large enough to be a bowl – was slow in coming, but well worth the wait. I positively recommend Olivia’s Grilled Chicken sandwich ($8), which features moist blades of mesquite grilled chicken breast with avocado, bacon, lettuce, tomato, Swiss cheese, and most importantly, on first-rate bread: a fresh wide baguette. 

The lunch menu also offers a raft of salads, wraps, and many other sandwiches, all at $10 or less. For my next midday visit, I have my eye on “Ray Ray’s Favorite” sandwich with prosciutto, capacola, and smoked mozzarella.

Based on two breakfasts, I suggest trying the “Maryland Omelette” ($9.50), made with crab-meat, tomato, and spinach; or the classic eggs Benedict ($8.50). These egg platters come with some really good, thick-cut country-style home fries.

My love praised the large bagel and nova lox platter, served with cream cheese, and fresh fruit. She had enough nova to take some home for her breakfast the next day. Breakfasts also feature the usual cast of a.m. favorites, including pancakes, French toast, breakfast meats, a “Hungry Man” platter, etc., and good, non-stop coffee.

We were well overdue for an update on Pistachio Grille, and paid a visit on a warm evening last week. Happily, not much has changed, not the attractive décor, nor Statia and Ray-Ray's welcoming hospitality, and especially not the quality of the food which was quite high. Although, in this case, prices have increased somewhat.

Once again a complimentary dish of roast green peppers in olive oil, a basket of fresh Italian bread, and the opening of our chilled bottle of pinot grigio got things started nicely. A special appetizer, the seafood trio ($14) of fresh oysters – large Long Island Bluepoints in a classic mignonette, mini cubes of raw Ahi tuna in a superb light ginger-carrot-pineapple-soy dressing, and sliced scallops ceviche hit it out of the park.  A bowl of cream of wild mushrooms soup ($7.50) – with button, shitake, portobello, and truffles – was tagged, “Delicious!” 

Entrees of veal scallopini ($21.50), and of chicken and jumbo shrimp Francaise ($25) were both large and very tasteful. Only their presentation was amiss. Both dishes used the tiresome vertical tower style arrangement, where each ingredient is piled atop the other. Why not show the plump shrimp, chicken tenders, and veal cutlets off, instead of burying them en masse in a formless heap?

A freshly made Key lime pie tart with strawberries ($8) and a parting touch – a dish of pistachio nuts - ended the dinner on a pleasant and sweet note.

Overall Rating: mmm 3/4 (out of 5 ms) pleasant ambiance, quality dishes at mid-range prices.          

Location: 521 Limekiln Pike, Maple Glen (Ambler area)

Phone: 215-643-7400

Cuisine: Contemporary upscale Italian/American

Hours: Tuesday – Friday, lunch and dinnerSaturday, breakfast and dinner.  Sunday, breakfast only.

Dinner entrée prices:  $14.50 - $25, except specials.

Ambiance:  Clean, pleasant new look.

Reservations: Strongly suggested on weekends.                       

Credit Cards: All major accepted.           

Alcoholic beverages:  BYOB.   

Wheelchair Access: Yes          

Smoking: Non-smoking

To contact Mitch Davis, you can e-mail him.

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