Half of our Friday night dining group were unable to make it last night so it was only Joe and Carol B, my wife, Kathy and myself who made reservations at Villa Barone, one of what I refer to as “The Collingswood 20″. We had been there before, as we have with most of “the 20″ which flood Haddon Ave. with good to great dining options.
There wasn’t much on street parking available so Joe dropped us off at the door and eventually found a spot nearly four blocks from the restaurant. We were well into our bottle of 2005 Earthquake, Petite Syrah and halfway thru the waitress reciting the evening specials when Joe got back. The warm bread with choices of butter or olive oil was enjoyed as we looked over the fairly extensive menu.
Joe and I split an order of Bruschetta, party because it sounded good and partly in honor of our missing diner, Jerry (The Bruschetta King). Kathy and Carol split a broccoli rabe with sausage appetizer. Both were good without being truly exceptional. Salads were crisp and the basic ingredients were fresh. Salads come with a house dressing which was ok.
For an entree I chose the Pollo Vesuvio, breaded chicken breasts with homemade gnocchi and tomatoes in an Alfredo sauce (my wife described it as a “heart attack waiting to happen”). This turned out to be a dish that sounded better than it was. The chicken lacked flavor and the alfredo sauce over-powered the bland chicken. It really is a dish you can only eat so much of at one sitting and so better than half of it sits in my refrigerator for another meal. This entree was reasonably priced ($18.00, I believe) but overall it was a little disappointing.
My second choice was ordered by Carol.
The Manicotti Barone featured two large pasta shells filled with lobster and cheese in a rose or blush sauce. Carol was nice enough to let me sample her dish and we both agreed that although they were tasty enough the sauce was a bit overpowering. A good portion of this meal also made it into a doggie bag.
My wife, Kathy was happy to hear that Villa Barone offers whole wheat pasta and she opted for the pasta primavera. The only pasta that they have in the whole wheat variety is the penne and that was fine with my wife as she likes eating healthy whenever she can. The portion was large and a good amount found its way into another doggie bag for another meal. It should probably be factored into rating a restaurant when the serving size is such that one can have another meal from the leftovers. That would certainly give the place points for value.
Joe B. ordered the linguini with spinach and crabmeat and he totally enjoyed his entree which had a nice portion of crab sitting atop freshly cooked spinach. Joe was the only one of the four of us to finish his meal.
Our second bottle of wine was one of my stand-bys which goes well with a wide variety of foods. the 2005 Sainte Leocadie, Les Clauses, Minervois. One of the few wines that I bought by the case.
Overall the dining experience at Villa Barone was ok. I felt the sauces were a little overpowering and the chicken lacked real flavor. None of us were blown away by our choice of entrees. Prices are very reasonable with most entrees in the 16 – 20 dollar range with specials a few dollars more. Villa Barone has a nice atmosphere and I’m going to chalk this one up as a slightly off night for this usually fine Collingswood location. I would have provided a link to Villa Barone’s web site but there does not currently appear to be one .