Francisco’s on the River, Washington Crossing, PA – A Review

by artfuldiner on October 24, 2017

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Pennsylvania, Review, Wining and Dining

Francisco’s on the River

1251 River Road

Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania

(215) 321-8789

Francisco's on the River - ExteriorIn various travels along River Road, in hot pursuit of my latest restaurant review, Francisco’s attractive low-slung building had always piqued my interest – but not enough, apparently, to assuage my curiosity. New Hope/Lambertville always seemed to hold more promising gastronomic possibilities.

Recently, however, in search of a suitable dining spot while visiting old friends in Yardley, PA, Francisco’s once again began sending significant blips across my culinary radar screen.

Francisco's on the River - Interior 2Just glancing at the exterior, you’re not quite sure what decorative revelations might lie within. Once across the threshold, however, you are pleasantly surprised to find three simply & tastefully appointed diminutive dining areas. A one room affair would undoubtedly have constituted an acoustical nightmare. But the present arrangement, awash with trattoria-like closely spaced tables, reverberates with just enough conversational buzz to keep the noise level convivial without becoming cacophonous.

Chef/owner Francisco Argueta, a native of El Salvador, arrived in this country over 30 years ago, and learned to cook in an Italian kitchen. He rose up through the ranks and quickly became a skilled chef and then a restaurant proprietor (he also owns Florentino’s in Newtown, PA). In the nearly eight years that his restaurant has been in existence, Francisco’s has succeeded in building a loyal local clientele. Mr. Argueta has stated that something like ninety percent of his customers are regulars – and I certainly have no reason to doubt his word. Take a quick look around. The tourist bus doesn’t stop here. No, this is a comfy hometown crowd, loose & gregarious, with first-rate bottles of vino in tow (Francisco’s is a BYOB restaurant).

So the moment you’re seated at table, don’t be shy about getting down to business and ordering a basket of Francisco’s fabulous whole wheat garlic bread. It’s downright sensuous and guaranteed to get those gastric juices flowing for the good things to come… namely, hearty, old-fashioned Italian cuisine supplemented by innovative daily menu additions.

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LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

In my opinion, salads are the best bets appetizer-wise. On one occasion, you may be treated to the delights of a Blueberry and Pear Salad embellished with goat cheese and white balsamic vinaigrette; on another, Fennel and Mushroom served over arugula, adorned with shaves of Parmigiano Reggiano and tossed with a lemon/olive oil dressing. Other possibilities include a first-rate Caesar Salad (which does contain raw egg), Mixed Greens with a balsamic vinaigrette, and the House Salad with julienned vegetables and fresh crumbled blue cheese dressing… But the table favorite – on two separate occasions – was overwhelmingly the incomparable Caprese Salad (pictured). Marvelously ripe and juicy plum tomatoes are pillowed on mixed greens. But rather than adding the usual basil leaves and splash of olive oil, the chef adorns the dish with a fabulously flavorful basil pesto.

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LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

As you move on to the main course, Francisco’s pasta-driven entrées take center stage. And those utilizing beef – or various combos thereof – tend to be on the rich and savory side. The Fettuccini alla Bolognese, for example, incorporates ground beef, veal & pork in a meat stock tinged with red wine and cream. A benchmark effort. But even more addictive is the Filet Pasta con Gorgonzola (pictured). Chef Argueta pan sears diminutive portions of filet mignon and places them on a pillow of fettuccine tossed with an extravagantly decadent Gorgonzola cream sauce that is guaranteed to send your cholesterol count straight into orbit.

If you’d prefer to match your favorite pasta up with seafood, a number of appetizing options present themselves. The Pasta alla Cioppino, for instance, combines sautéed shrimp, salmon, tilapia, mussels and clams with diced tomatoes in a saffron white wine sauce served over fettuccine. The Linguine al Frutti di Mare Fra Diavolo is a variation on the theme with a bit more heat. Shrimp Scampi swims to table in either a white or red sauce… ditto the Littleneck Clams. In this latter presentation, I much prefer the littlenecks in the shell served in a luscious garlic white wine & lemon sauce over linguine.

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LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

If Francisco’s has a house specialty, it is most assuredly Chef Argueta’s brilliant take on the two ultimate paradigms of Neapolitan comfort cuisine. His Eggplant Parmigiano, which usually suffers from plebian overtones, is deliciously picturesque and decidedly upscale. Fourteen (14) layers of wafer-thin sliced eggplant (undoubtedly the product of a mandolin) are bathed in the restaurant’s red sauce and enhanced with a sprinkling of parmesan and basil. Equally pleasing to both eye and palate is his Lasagna (pictured), luscious layers of perfectly cooked pasta interspersed with ricotta cheese & Bolognese supplemented by porcini mushrooms, smoked bacon, mozzarella cheese, and more of that irresistible red sauce. This is comfort food taken to an entirely new level.

Entrée specials vary, depending upon availability and the whims of the chef. On one occasion, diners may be treated to Herb Crusted Cod; on another, Herb Crusted Halibut, both adorned with fennel and a saffron orange sauce. Seafood-wise, however, Bob’s Plate – salmon, scallops, shrimp & crabmeat served over fettuccine in a pink vodka sauce – appears to be a menu constant.

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LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

Meatier matters are well represented by the Rack of Lamb with fresh mint and lamb demi-glace one evening, Rack of Veal with a beef demi-glace on another. The Prime Pork Chop (pictured), however, appears to be another permanent menu resident – and with good reason. This is Kurobuta, or “black hog” pork, which comes from the famed Berkshire pig. The meat is incredibly juicy, tender… yes, and more expensive than regular pork. But if you’re a true pork fan, this is one chop – served up with some fabulous smashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables – that is worth every succulent bite.

Francisco's on the River - Lemon TartDesserts – if you still have room – are worth sticking around for. Chocolate lovers can revel in a first-rate Chocolate Torte and more intense Flourless Chocolate Cake. And for those who like it really sweet, there’s the classic Crème Brûlée. The Coconut Cake is the house favorite; and, in my estimation, it is certainly worthy of that accolade. The cake itself is marvelously moist; the icing appropriately sweet… but not cloyingly so. Right on the money, in every respect. On the other hand, after a hearty Italian dinner, a light, citrusy, palate-cleansing dessert might be just the ticket. And, when it is available, the Lemon Tart (pictured) will fill the bill quite nicely.

As noted above, Francisco’s is a BYOB restaurant… and a good bottle of Italian vino is certainly called for. But if you also happen to be in search of an enjoyable preprandial libation, allow me to suggest the cozy, comfortable, and extremely casual Bowman’s Tavern, just down the road.

Bon Appétit & Cheers!


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