Jarrettown Hotel
This historic Montgomery County restaurant provides a fitting backdrop for indulging in exceptional Italian cuisine
by Bill Donahue

People often speak of “summertime sadness,” the melancholy that arises when the hot-and-sticky months come to their tragic and inevitable end. I am not immune to this feeling, as the dying embers of summer always cause a certain degree of gloom to well up within me—the days growing shorter and cooler, the memories of time spent with friends fading into the ether.

The sadness reached its regrettable peak recently, when I realized the outdoor patio at the Jarrettown Hotel will soon cease to be my sanctuary on sunny weekend afternoons. I can think of few things more relaxing than losing a few hours amid good company beneath the patio’s umbrella-like canopy, all while enjoying a glass or two of Montepulciano a’Abruzzo and some of the best Italian cuisine in all of Montgomery County. Thankfully, there is still some time left; the patio will be in use well into October—weather permitting, of course.

Even so, I take comfort in knowing that the Jarrettown offers much more than just an exceptional backdrop for alfresco dining. The main dining room, with its many distinctive nooks and crannies, provides a perfect environment for celebrating something special, while the festive bar area—often further jazzed up by live entertainment—is a fitting “third place” for enjoying a Stella, a glass of Chianti or a well-made mixed drink with friends.

The character of the building alone is well worth the trip. First erected in the 1800s, the stone skeleton that houses the Jarrettown has been modernized and beautified under the capable stewardship of owner Giovanni Agresti. Make no mistake, however: As charming as the atmosphere may be, the food is the true star of the show here. Well known for its famous crab cakes and other artfully crafted seafood dishes, classic Italian specialties and burgers—yes, burgers—the Jarrettown delivers with confidence.

If you’re anything like me, your order might change depending on where you choose to sit. For a recent meal on the outdoor patio, for example, I chose to start with an arugula salad—the lemony pepperiness of the leaves balanced by the sweetness of diced carrots and Parmigiano shavings—with the remarkable bruschetta as an encore.

The bruschetta is, in fact, remarkable. It’s one of those dishes that too many restaurants neglect or, at best, treat as an afterthought. Placed on a bed of greens, each square of lightly charred Italian bread comes heaped with garlic-and-onion spiked tomatoes, topped with a disc of milky mozzarella. My dining companion and I fought for each of the four servings, so much that we contemplated a second order. The attention to detail here, on a dish as simple as bruschetta, speaks volumes about the attention to detail paid by a kitchen staff—led by executive chef Scott Crabill—that puts a lot of love into its work.

When sitting (or, in my case, standing) at the bar, the Margherita pizza is a no-brainer. Simply seasoned and topped with sprigs of fresh basil, each “personal” pizza is big enough to share, though you probably won’t want to—and no one would blame you for being selfish in this case. It’s clear that pizza is near and dear to Agresti’s heart; in nearby Maple Glen, his casual eat-in/takeout hotspot, Gio’s Pizza Rustica, quickly became a crowd favorite after opening in 2012, and there’s no mystery in pondering why it continues to amass new fans.

In the main dining room, the Jarrettown offers multiple seating options. On another, more formal visit, my dining companion and I sat in a booth in an area abutting the bar. We enjoyed a windowed view overlooking the road on one side, and the building’s exposed-stone appeal on the other: intimate yet appropriately jovial, considering the proximity of the tables around us. Here I ordered the homemade gnocchi Sorrento for my main dish, and I was hardly disappointed. Too often gnocchi arrives at the table either underprepared or overwrought, but that’s far from being the case here, each pouch swimming in a flavorful broth of marinara and threads of melted mozzarella. The dish was, in a word, superb.

The same can be said of the desserts. My dining companion and I ended a recent meal with the chocolate soufflé and the raspberry sorbet. Separately, they were excellent; together, even more so. The soufflé had more in common with a molten cupcake, simmering in a bath of warm, rich chocolate sauce. Talk about happy accidents; that slightly bitter chocolate sauce balanced each sweet spoonful of sorbet in perfect form.

Although summer has more or less come to an end and the Jarrettown’s beautiful outdoor patio will be barren by the time the surrounding trees have shed their fall foliage, I take solace in the fact that I can settle in at the bar or find a table in the main dining room and enjoy an equally superior experience. There I can recall memories of afternoons spent on the patio, taking in the joys of sunshine, a warm breeze and, of course, that glorious, glorious bruschetta.  

Jarrettown Hotel Italian Restaurant and Bar
1425 Limekiln Pike, Dresher
215-654-6880 | jarrettownrestaurant.com

Photograph by Rob Hall