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Joseph’s Restaurant and Bar Philadelphia Joseph’s on the Avenue is gone, but its spirit survives in Joseph’s Restaurant and Bar on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. This Joseph’s is housed inside the Hotel Windsor, in the former digs of Venus & the Cowboy, which was a Marabella’s before that. Joseph’s is the latest restaurant created by proprietor Joseph Tucker. Tucker, who grew up around South Philadelphia’s Italian Market, has been involved with the restaurant business since the age of 12, when he began serving as busboy and apprentice to various South Philly eateries. Tucker opened the first restaurant to bear his name in the early 1990s in South Philly. Despite Tucker’s restaurant experience, the newest Joseph’s hasn’t caught fire yet. In fact, on the night my guest and I arrived for dinner, we were the only patrons, except for an older gent at the bar. We had made reservations; it only took a few moments to be seated. As we were escorted past the bar, I noticed that it was a thing of beauty — cherry wood and brass. I longed to stop there on a more lively day. The dining area is small but uncluttered, and our seats were close enough to the open kitchen to hear our chef listening to Luther Vandross. The room, not noticeably changed from its Venus & the Cowboy days, suffers from the same flaw it had under its previous stewardship: a lack of windows to break up the enclosed feeling. Joseph’s has an extensive wine list, although it favors red, with more than twice the number of bottles of red as white. Ten wines are offered by the glass. Since I wasn’t the wine connoisseur that my guest was, I declined a sample when she requested a glass of the Ruffino “Santedame” Chianti ($6), which she informed me was adequate, if unremarkable. Though the new Joseph’s offers an antipasto bar ($6.50 per person), I went with a traditional Caesar salad ($6.50) instead. Served on a large white platter, the romaine was just crisp enough, with only a hint of dressing — the way I prefer it. My only complaint was that the croutons were just a fraction too large to eat in one bite — and they didn’t take well to attempts to cut them, crumbling all over the plate. My guest opted for the salad of the day — consisting of roasted red and green peppers and creamy mozzarella rounds drowned in olive oil. My guest felt that the oil was overwhelming and was disappointed that the tomato slices were not of the plum variety that the waiter had mentioned when describing the salad. Other salads available include the insalate di mare ($9.50) — calamari, shrimp and mussels marinated in lemon and olive oil and served over leaves of Bibb lettuce — and the tasty-sounding Florentine ($8.50) – spinach, arugula, mushrooms, Romano cheese and marinated beef in a light vinaigrette. I am disappointed in retrospect to have not tried one of the platini (small dish) appetizers such as the mussels ($7) steamed in a white wine and black pepper broth. It could have been a treat; I only eat mussels at fancy restaurants — too many bad memories of home-cooked meals. Joseph’s offers numerous seafood items and has two varieties of calamari appetizers — calamari Joe ($7.50), served in a marinara sauce with spinach and mozzarella cheese, and grilled calamari ($7.50). For my entree, I opted for a special of the day: veal medallions in a rich cream sauce, served with a side of surprisingly un-Italian potatoes. The veal was served with splayed asparagus, giving the dish a tactile motif. The veal was tender but not to the point where I could cut it without the assistance of a butter knife. The rich sauce had an exorbitantly buttery taste, and I knew within a few bites that I was not going to be needing any dessert that night. My guest settled on pasta Santino ($16), a dish of distinct ingredients: three plump shrimp resting on a bed of onions, artichoke hearts, asparagus, capers and sun-dried tomatoes, all of which lay atop al dente penne coated in a light white wine sauce. My guest felt that the distinct flavors and textures created a confused buffet of tastes that did not balance well as a main course. A wide selection of entrees are available, from seafood — such as the zuppe di pesce ($19), a seafood stew served with garlic bread — to lamb rib chops ($21) prepared in an olive oil and garlic marinade, and chicken cacciatore ($17). Other possibilities include New York strip ala Nicola ($20) — sirloin sauteed with broccoli rabe and garnished with hot and sweet peppers — and the all-encompassing Lucia ($17) — chicken and shrimp sauteed with shittake mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and asparagus in a Chardonnay sauce. Having dined at the Broad street rendition of Joseph’s, I must admit that the new one seems a bit of a disappointment. But the robust flavors of the evening hinted at a potentially great meal with some refinement. Perhaps given enough time and helpful hints, the new Joseph’s can become the hit that the short-lived establishment on the Avenue of the Arts failed to be. The support of the hotel should at least give the restaurant enough time to find an appreciative audience. Restaurant: Joseph’s Restaurant and Bar Location: 1700 Benjamin Franklin Parkway (inside the Hotel Windsor), in Philadelphia, Pa. Hours: Open for lunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner is served 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Telephone: 215-972-8211.

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