William Carroll

Executive Chef

Varalli Restaurant

William Carroll - Shrimp Pasta Salad

When regulars bite into one of Upstares & Sotto Varalli’s specialties and their taste buds come alive with flavors reminiscent of Northern Italy and the Mediterranean, many of them know that Head Chef William Carroll is responsible for their contentment. Carroll has been the head chef at Varalli Restaurants since the opening of Sotto Varalli, in 1999. In his ten years heading up the kitchen, Chef Carroll has been a major reason why this restaurant, on the corner of Broad and Locust, has emerged and established itself as a primary go-to spot for arts-loving diners on the dash to a matinee, and for those city-dwellers and tourists in search of a menu plentiful with fresh fish and gourmet Italian classics.

Today, he oversees the kitchens at both Sotto Varalli and its older sibling restaurant, Upstares at Varalli (open since 1989), creating a conjoined menu that combines fresh fare from the coast with hearty pastas, tender meats, and tasty vegetables in a flavorful array of delicate sauces and spices that alternate from season to season that keep even the most habitual of regulars on their toes. His favorite things to do in the kitchen include braising meats and working with fresh fish – the menu is known for its superior underwater fare and the décor, at least at Sotto Varalli, speaks to the same theme. Chef Carroll has mastered the menu so adeptly in fact that he has become a defining fixture at the restaurant. Just as the dramatic, winding staircase connects diners in the two restaurants, so too does Carroll connect diners to an epicurean adventure through an array of familiar and exotic Mediterranean and Northern Italian tastes and texture in the dishes he creates.

Although Chef Carroll has been masterfully cooking up fish in Varalli’s kitchen over the past ten years, his culinary roots extend back to when he was a teenager from Philadelphia who just loved to cook. “It was a progression,” he said of his career. “I’ve been cooking since I was about 13 or 14.” With his passion for cooking formed early in life, and a desire to learn more about it, Carroll headed to the Culinary Institute of America right after graduating high school. Graduating from the institute in 1988, he grasped the skills necessary for his present day feats. After venturing out to take on other culinary adventures, such as serving as the executive chef at the Lafayette Inn and exercising an entrepreneurial spirit by opening up a few chain restaurants, the Torresdale native eventually brought his culinary talents back to his hometown.

The fact that many diners flock to the two story gem for Carroll’s culinary creations is proven by the recent and widely celebrated “20th Anniversary Menu” featuring items that are significant to the restaurant’s history. Many of these selections were introduced and made popular by Carroll’s culinary know-how and highlight appetizers, pastas, and entrees from past menus that have been in high demand over the years, and others that have never left it. “There are some things on the menu that customers just won’t let me take off,” Carroll said. For instance, the Roasted Free Range Duck, which is currently featured on the entrée section of the special menu, and the Lobster Ravioli, a 20th anniversary pasta, are two dishes that have been consistently complimented and been in high demand throughout the years.

While some menu items remain unchanged due to popular demand, Carroll and Special Events Coordinator Brian Datesman both said the restaurant’s menu aspires to constantly evolve. “We always like to move forward,” Datesman said. “While not being trendy, we try to satiate people’s tastes.”

Keeping to that theme, Carroll’s creations change slightly from season to season based on what ingredients inspire him to highlight the time of year in his dishes. For example, the spring and summer months invite somewhat earthy spices and citrusy flavors to play into his dishes. Coupled with meaty hunks of fresh underwater fare like lobster, crab, scallops; Chef Carroll’s seasonal inspirations this time of year are more often bound to be successful than not. Arugula is an ingredient that Carroll often evokes during the warmer months in dishes like the Rocket Salad (rocket is another name for arugula), and the refreshing zest of the ingredient and Carroll’s craftiness with it is highlighted amid seasonal fresh berries and meaty pieces of juicy shrimp and crab.

Carroll said his seasonal ingredients shift about three to four times per year. With a summer of fresh tastes to look forward to, diners’ taste buds can only yearn for what will emerge as the seasons turn. And if they find something they like, they can bet that, even if it goes away, it will one day come back when Upstares & Sotto Varalli celebrate another successful 20 years.

Restaurant Info

  • 231 South Broad Street
    Philadelphia PA 19107
  • Restaurant: Varalli Restaurant
  • Address: 231 South Broad Street, Philadelphia PA 19107
  • Cross Street: Locust Street
  • Location: Center City | Washington Square West
  • Cuisine: Italian |
  • Cost: $$ | Inexpensive | $25 - $50
  • Category: Fine Dining
  • Reservations: Recommended
  • Dress Code: Casual Elegant
  • Meals Served: Dinner |
  • Parking: Street | Public Lot |
  • Payment Options: VISA | Amex | MasterCard | Discover | Diners Club |
  • Corkage Fee: N/A