Once inside, it's clear why snagging a table is so hard - there are a fewer of a dozen in them crammed into this South Philly corner storefront. The low lighting does give it an air of intimacy, though it gets a touch loud when full of diners enjoying themselves.
The concept behind August is "Italian with a twist". The menu is a relatively short one, perhaps befitting the small open kitchen, and most of the Italian influence is concentrated in the three or four pasta entrees offered (and the "Italian-style meatloaf"). Prices are very reasonable with all starters under $10 and most entrees comfortably under $20.
Things started off well with L's pan-seared scallops, served with a lovely pan sauce on a bed of mixed greens. The scallops were perfectly cooked and very flavorful. I went with the beet salad, which was 100% beets with ricotta salata, pistachios and a balsamic vinaigrette. The only disappointment here was the ricotta salata, which was shredded rather than in chunks, depriving me of the salty kick I was hoping to get out of the cheese. Our dining companions M and C shared a simple arugula salad that was nicely done as well.
My entree was a pork chop, bone-in served with mashed sweet potatoes and sauteed broccoli. After taking the first bite of the pork, I feared it was overcooked, but once I got into the thicker center of the chop I found it to be cooked just right. The sweet potatoes had a really excellent
creamy texture to them. L got the filet mignon special which (maybe a little oddly) came pre-sliced with sides of mashed potatoes, sauteed zucchini and a mushroom demiglace. The beef was flavorful and perfectly cooked, and the mashed potatoes seemed to have a nice Parmesan-provided kick to them.
Our friends both had pastas: C had the farfalle with crab, porcini and sun-dried tomatoes in a cream sauce. M went for the penne with shrimp and white beans. We had small tastes of each and thought they were both decent.
For dessert, we split the deep-dish pumpkin pie. The pumpkin filling was good - not too custardy, but rich with a touch of what seemed like brown sugar or molasses.
The verdict? I think if you're in the neighborhood, it's definitely worth a visit. Though the menu is not terribly inventive, execution is very solid, and the prices are more than fair. I would be happy to go back, but maybe not for a little while, as August doesn't offer much that I haven't seen before. That said, we can always use places like this: predictable, affordable, friendly spots where the owners' and chefs' care is evident in the food. In these respects, August proves itself an august example.