It’s always nice to discover a new BYOB in the area. It’s even nicer when the place is within walking distance. Arugula opened recently in the same location once occupied by San Miguel, a Mexican eatery which we all liked a lot prior to it moving to Voorhees and eventually closing. Six of us converged on the neighborhood’s newest dining spot last night to give it a try. First impression on entering was that the room looks nice. Bright green walls, lots of wall decor and an open, uncluttered look to the room and it’s approximately 50-60 seats. The service was friendly and Andrea, our server, was enthusiastic and helpful (I am excluding her photo because I took a picture of her that wasn’t one of my best). A first glance at the menu revealed some interesting choices in both the appetizer and entree sections. There were lots of tempting Italian dishes and even a few specials.  We had our wines with us and a lot to talk about as four of us had just returned from Napa and the other two were just back from a vacation in Germany.

Joe and Carol were drinking a 2009 Folie a Deux, Menage a Trois, a red blend that I often tell my kid’s to buy when they can’t think of anything else (knowing they are smart enough to remember a Menage a Trois). I had the 2006 Stefania, Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah and although I have enjoyed this same wine in the past I think this was the best I have seen it showing. It was delicious and my wife, Kathy, agreed. Jerry and Sue quite fittingly had a German wine, a Dornfelder, Rheinhessen, low alcohol content and much on the sweet side of the wine universe.

Let me start with the only two flaws we found in the meal, both minor, so that I can concentrate on the multitude of good points. We all ordered the Harvest Soup, a pumpkin, squash brew that sounded enticing. It must have sounded just as good to many others because we were informed that they were all out of the soup. The only other “quibble” was that Carol’s pork was too salty. Now for the good stuff.

left to right…my Crab Crusted Diver Scallops, pan blackened, sweet roasted pepper sauce, arugula, grilled corn and bacon. Scallops were perfect, the blackening added great flavor and who doesn’t like bacon? Joe’s Prosciutto Wrapped Mozzarella, pan seared with smoked tomato, baby arugula and a balsamic fig reduction. He loved it. Jerry and Sue split the Antipasto di Arugula, an assortment of cured meats, cheese, olives, fruits and vegetables. The plate was fresh with an interesting variety of items that they both enjoyed.

Although the picture on the left does not do it justice, Carol’s Eggplant Parmigiano, crispy white eggplant, sheep’s milk ricotta, tomato puree, basil pesto cream, freshly shaved prosciutto and parmigiano reggiano, was deemed delicious. Jerry had the Pear Salad in the middle and Kathy went with her usual Prince Edward Island Mussels, braised fennel, pancetta in a spicy tomato sauce with grilled bread. She thought the sauce had a nice tangy bite to it and the mussels were properly prepared. We were off to a good start and it was now time for our entrees.

I went back and forth on a couple of tempting items until I finally, with prompting from Andrea, chose the Capellini e Granchio, Colossal Crab Meat in a blush wine sauce with basil, garlic, and imported plum tomatoes over house made capellini. I loved the sauce, it had a slight sweetness and the dish was very good. I might point out, and I trust I am not being picky, but the dish was incorrectly named as the pasta was definitely NOT Capellini. If this was “angel hair” pasta then the angel’s have put on some weight recently.

On the left, Joe and Sue went with one of the “Specials” the Orange Roughy, pan seared served over pumpkin risotto with baby spinach and a hazelnut brown butter sauce. Jerry ordered the other “special”, the Chestnut Floured Papardelle with braised rabbit ragu, shitake mushrooms and butter nut squash.

On the left Kathy’s 14 oz. New York Strip with broccoli rabe, purple and sweet potato hash with bacon and caramelized onions in a chianti syrup. It looked good and tasted better. Carol had the Pork Tenderloin Medallions, pan-seared with a dried-cherry-red wine sauce, mushroom bacon risotto, spinach and baby carrots. She liked the dish minus the over salted pork.

When we had finished our dinner we were informed that our desserts would be comped as an apology for running out of the Harvest Soup. It’s gestures like this that separate the people who know how to run a restaurant from the pretenders. It made a great first impression and, along with the quality of the food, assured a return visit.

Carol had the Chocolate, Banana, Peanut Butter Cake, a tasty little low cal item (cough). Two of the group had the Raspberry Cheese Cake, which I snuck a bite of and give my seal of approval.

Sue topped off her meal with the inappropriately named Chocolate-Chip Cannoli which was totally devoid of chocolate chips. It could be that they are hiding somewhere in the kitchen with the capellini. I had the Pumpkin Tiramisu. It was nice and light but I think, given the choice, I’d stick with the original Tiramisu.

Overall, it was a very nice experience at Arugula. They feature a menu with so many tempting entrees it can be difficult to settle on just one. My guess would be, with the large local population here in Washington Township, it will quickly become difficult to secure weekend reservations once the word gets out. That is why I hope that Chefs Nicholas Tomasetto and Stefan Gervasi remember all the nice things I just wrote about their new venture and keep that table for six reserved with our name on it!

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