a’ PIZZE TUSCAN GRILL – SWEDESBORO, NJ
a’ Pizze Tuscan Grill is the successor to the infamous Barone’s Tuscan Grill in the Center Square Shopping Center in Swedesboro, NJ. As I have mentioned many times on this blog, Barone’s Tuscan Grill, which was at best a mediocre dining spot, was far and away the most read review in the history of South Jersey Wine and Dine. To this day, I have no clue as to why there was such interest. Most of the comments about Barone’s were of a negative nature and I doubt that many tears were shed when they closed their doors permanently about eight months ago.
Chef Mimmo from Toscana in Mullica Hill has opened a new eatery in Swedesboro. a’ Pizze has been open for about a month now and it’s a BYOB, which is great news. For those who arrive without wine, there is a JB Liquors just a few feet away providing many choices of beverages to accompany your meal. We (my wife, Kathy and I) arrived early last Friday night with my son Brian and his wife, Jenny and their three young children, Drew, LeighAnn and Braydon. The place was just starting to fill up and became increasingly crowded over the next 90 minutes. The menu is quite similar to what is served at Toscana, in fact, Chef Mimmo was there to greet patrons at each table so the place is very reminiscent of Toscana.
My wine was a 2009 Schild Estate, Barossa Shiraz. I have had the Schild Shiraz in the past and always thought it was an excellent example of Australian shiraz. This particular vintage didn’t do it for me. It wasn’t a bad wine, it simply didn’t offer much other than some dark brooding fruit and a hint of black pepper. The finish was simple and not very lengthy.
The menu at a’ Pizze, as I mentioned before, bears a strong resemblance to that of its sibling, Toscana. That means that The Wedge might prove to be every bit as good as a starter here as it is there. It did not disappoint. A big fresh quarter of crisp, iceberg lettuce with tomatoes, bacon, hard-boiled egg and just the right amount of blue cheese dressing. I was going to order this as a $4.99 appetizer but virtually every entree comes with a smaller version of the same wedge. Kudos, Chef Mimmo, we are off to a good start.
Brian and Jenny ordered the Caprese Tower, home-made fresh mozzarella, layered with ripe tomatoes, basil, oregano, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar served on a bed of greens. This dish was nicely constructed and both of them enjoyed their appetizer. I ordered the mozzarella sticks which were nothing special although the grand kids seemed to enjoy the stringy cheese.
For my entree I selected the Chicken Siena, served with sun-dried tomatoes, and arugula on a bed of capellini. The dish was nicely presented. It was a decent sized portion of chicken but in proportion to the mountain of capellini it was nowhere near sufficient for someone like me who likes to have a bite of each on all forkfuls. I left enough chicken to take this home and have enough for another meal. The flavors were pretty good.
My wife had the Chicken Risotto and my son had the Chicken Alfredo. Both enjoyed their meal and had enough remaining to box up for the next day. My wife felt her chicken was a little over-cooked, my son had no complaints.
We passed on the desserts although a large plate showing samples of each treat offered did look appealing.
Overall, I felt that a’ Pizze has potential. The service needs some work. They use the team concept with various servers bringing you each course. They didn’t always clear the table of empty dishes and this sometimes led to not being able to find a place to put down what they had brought out from the kitchen. It appears that everyone wants to do a good job and with some additional training and a display of consistency that Chef Mimmo may possibly have another nice restaurant. This one is located in an area where the folks are dying to find a go-to dining spot that they can frequent on a regular basis. I wish them “buona fortuna”.