Archive for Villa Barone

BARONE TUSCAN GRILL – BYOB

Posted in Barone Tuscan Grill, BYOB Restaurant Reviews, South Jersey BYOB Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2010 by ballymote

Barone Tuscan Grill in Woolwich, NJ is new;VERY new. It’s the latest edition to the Barone Restaurant mini-empire. Their website has no information on this location except to say it is “coming soon”.  The Woolwich/Swedesboro area of southern Gloucester County is a fast-growing area for young families that was blossoming quickly before the real estate debacle took place. It’s evident even now that once the situation improves it’s an area that will continue to see explosive residential growth.

My son and his wife (Brian & Jenny) recently moved to this location from PA and we had dinner with them and our friends Jerry and Sue C. along with their son Tim, and his girlfriend, Kristen. We met here at Barone as a torrential summer shower drenched us on our run from the car to the shelter of the restaurant. Inside it was bright and cheery with a full house on this Friday evening. The front of the restaurant is lined with windows while the back features walls with large black and white scenes of Tuscany.

The strip mall that houses Barone Tuscan Grill also has a JB Liquors and I was able to pick up a couple of bottles for dinner.  We had the 2006 J Vidal – Fleury, Cotes du Rhone and it went very well with the rich, Italian foods. There were a few other bottles at the table, a German Riesling and a 2008 Falesco, Vitiano, another dependable inexpensive wine that JB’s sell for $11.99. We never did open the 2008 Erath, Pinot Noir, Oregon so that made the ride back home with us. Our server, Stephanie, confessed that she had not opened more than 8 bottles of wine in her short career at Barone Tuscan Grill so we gave her some assistance and told her that it’s a good thing that she admits that up front. She did a good job all night seeing to our needs.

We started with a few appetizers for the table, Mussels “Your Way” which in the case was in marinara sauce, Arancini, fried risotto balls stuffed with wild mushrooms and fontina cheese in a parmesan cream sauce and Parmesan Crisp, a flatbread Parmesan Crisp, herbed parmesan cheese with infused white truffle oil and melted provolone. The meal was off to a good start.

The rain was letting up and the late evening summer sun was beginning to peek thru the dark clouds which lit up the room. Several of our party mentioned that it was warm in the room. I’m not certain I recall what everyone had as an entree but I will do the best I can.

I wanted the meatloaf entree but was informed that it had been devoured by earlier diners so I went with my second choice, Pollo Rollatini, chicken breast stuffed with prusciutto, spinach and fontina cheese with a rich mushroom sauce. A nice portion of capellini accompanied the dish. It was tasty and a good-sized portion and I took half home and finished it for dinner just moments ago. My only minor gripe is that there were too many mushroom present but that’s just my anti-mushroom bias and many would take that news as a plus.

Kristen ordered the Ravioli Rosa, fresh lobster-filled hand-made ravioli in a pink basil cream sauce. This dish had beautiful color and Kristen thoroughly enjoyed what she finished before also taking some home for later.

Kathy can never pass up an eggplant dish so she predictably ordered the Melanzane Rollantini, eggplant rolled with ricotta and basil and served with mozzarella cheese. She chose the vermicelli as her side pasta dish and she also found the serving large enough to provide a second meal.

My daughter-in-law selected the pasta topped with crabmeat while my son had the Tuscan Alfredo, chicken in a lemon zest alfredo sauce. Both were a little disappointed in their meals feeling it lacked a lot of taste.

Sue had the Vitello San Angelo, egg battered veal with asparagus and mozzarella in a madiera demi glace. I thought her dish looked great and the ziti was a nice addition to the plate.

Tim was not in adventurous mood and he ended up with the old reliable Chicken Parmesan. For Kristen and Tim, the leftovers they took home will be there last American meal for three weeks as they left today for Australia and a fun-filled summer vacation diving off the Great Barrier Reef.

Because Barone Tuscan Grill (I want sooooo bad to called it Barone’s) is located so close to my son and his wife’s new home I am sure this is not our last visit to this place. They are experiencing the usual “new opening” pains but they are trying and the place certainly shows potential. The prices are reasonable and the portion sizes are good. There is a review of one of their other restaurants, Villa Barone,  in Collingswood, located elsewhere on my blog.

CAFE ANTONIO – BYOB

Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, Cafe Antonio, South Jersey BYOB Reviews, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , on May 1, 2010 by ballymote

Cafe Antonio is another of the plethora of Collingswood eateries that line Haddon Ave. It’s a couple of doors down from Joe Pesce and a few doors up from Villa Barone. I had mentioned in previous reviews of Haddon Ave. restaurants that part of the Friday night scene are the crowds gathered outside the various eating spots. These are composed of hopeful diners that did NOT make reservations. Sometimes, you have to wiggle your way into the place. That was not a problem last night at Cafe Antonio; there were no crowds, outside or inside. It might be noted (and you can see it in the photo of the sign), that the name is actually Cafe Antonio II. When I went to click on the link for this restaurant, up came a Cafe Antonio in Herndon, Virginia. Our party of six was comfortably seated and with the exception of two other tables, we had the place to ourselves. The interior walls are painted with those “faux” scenes of the Italian countryside. Our server, Lee (although it could have been “Leigh”) recited the evening specials and brought us a basket of warm rolls with a dish of peppers and garlic in a red sauce for dipping. Joe B. & Jerry C. split an order of mussels and the wives shared some broccoli rabe. Not being a huge fan of either of these items, I passed. Carol B. thought the broccoli rabe was frozen rather than fresh and the guys found the mussels “fishy” tasting. I reminded them that they did, afterall, come from the sea, so a “fishy” taste might be expected. They reminded me that I knew nothing about mussels. Touche!

I really liked the wine I had chosen for the evening, the 2008 Klee Pinot Noir, Williamette Valley, Oregon. I had read quite a bit about the 2008 vintage for Pinot in Oregon and how it may be the best in many years. This was my first opportunity to sample a 2008, as most have not yet reached the local shelves, and I thought it was delicious with bright cherry and plum flavors, well-balanced tannins and a smooth finish. It also got better with time in the glass. Sue C. brought a bottle of the popular Aussie granache, the 2008 Bitch. Her choice of wines naturally lent itself to a hundred comments that could be made right here but I will do the intelligent and civil thing and say nothing. It did make for a few laughs at the table and, it’s a very decent wine, anyway.

All entrees at Cafe Antonio come with your choice of soup or house salad.

Joe and Carol ordered the Eggplant Rollatini which came with a humongous side of pasta and was topped with a generous portion of mozzarella cheese. I didn’t hear any comments on how they enjoyed their choice so I have to assume it was fine.

Sue and Jerry ordered from the “specials” with Sue choosing the Tuna with peppers and Jerry having the shrimp in a brandy creme sauce that was very similar to an “alfredo” sauce”. His plate gave the appearance of  a heart attack waiting to happen. Sue sent her soup back as not being hot enough and I think I did overhear them in the kitchen say “she must be the one with the “Bitch” bottle.” Damn, I promised I wasn’t gonna do that!!

My wife, Kathy, has the Pollo Saltimbocca, big portion of chicken breast topped with spinach, cheese and prosciutto while I ordered the not very adventurous Chicken Parmigiano. Again, two large pieces of chicken with a generous helping of pasta with red sauce. I can safely say, you won’t leave Cafe Antonio hungry as the portions are quite large. We took home half of our chicken dishes. I think, overall, the food is ok, with nothing standing out and nothing delivering that “wow” factor. If Cafe Antonio was your local restaurant, a block from your house, it would be a safe choice for dinner. The prices for virtually all of their entrees are very reasonable. The problem is, it is located right in the heart of the Big League of South Jersey restaurants, and it is not a contender to win the pennant.

VILLA BARONE – BYOB

Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, South Jersey BYOB Reviews, Villa Barone, Wine Dinners with tags , , on October 4, 2009 by ballymote

IMG_3176Half 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”).IMG_3172 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.

IMG_3174

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 theIMG_3173 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. orderedIMG_3175 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 .

COLLINGSWOOD – THE BYOB CAPITAL OF NEW JERSEY

Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2009 by ballymote

classic-townsFor a town with a population of 15,000 and only 1.8 square miles of land, Collingswood, NJ has distinguished itself as the uncrowned Capital of BYOBs in South Jersey. Within the tiny radius of the town there are more than 20 excellent dining spots where you can bring a nice bottle of wine to enjoy with your meal. There are 16 BYOBs on Haddon Avenue alone and that’s not even mentioning Collings Avenue, home to Blackbird, which is listed among the Top 25 restaurants in ALL of New Jersey.

How do I love thee, Collingswood? Let me just name a few ways, Bistro di Marino, Casona, Il Fiore, Joe Pesce, Nunzio’s, Thai Basil, Tortilla Press, Villa Barone, Word of Mouth, well, you get the idea. We never tire of our visits to the BYOBs of Collingswood. Cherry Hill and Haddonfield may consider themselves the class towns of South Jersey, and they do have their share of fine BYOBs, and my own town of Washington Township may have a huge population (over 50,000 and growing), and a few BYOBs which do a nice job of turning out consistently good food, but for sheer choice and quality of those choices, it’s not even close.  Collingswood reigns supreme!

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