Archive for the South Jersey BYOB Reviews Category


Posted in DiPaolos Italian Ristorante, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , on March 31, 2011 by ballymote

 Penns Grove, NJ could be the poster child for South Jersey’s blue-collar, working class neighborhoods. Nestled close to the Delaware Memorial Bridge (Exit 4 off of Rt. 295 South) it is not a town that comes to mind when thinking of where to dine on a Friday evening. Consider too, that it is a 45 minute drive from where we live, and that this particular Friday is part of South Jersey Restaurant Week and that our destination of DiPaolo’s Italian Ristorante is NOT a participant, and it becomes almost bewildering as to why the six of us were there for a 7:45 reservation. Based on some favorable recommendations that Carol and Joe had heard from several friends we had all decided to give this place a try. Actually, the truth is, we weren’t even quite sure of the name of the place, only that it was Italian and “down south near the Delaware border”. My wife Kathy called the Italian Kitchen in Pennsville to make reservations and the befuddled woman who answered the phone asked if she was serious about making reservations at a place that had no seating and made hoagies and cheesesteaks. The woman did say, “you may want DiPaolo’s in Penn’s Grove.”

 On our arrival we were greeted by Karen, our server for the evening, and we were all happy to see we had a rare round table which is so much more conducive to conversation. We were presented with menus which we opened and discovered that DiPaolo’s may be in Penns Grove but their prices would be right at home in downtown Philadelphia or even New York City. While trying to shake off this culinary version of sticker shock I jokingly suggested that perhaps three of us could share a crab cake. Kathy and I had a glass of the XYZinfandel at $8.00 a glass which was reasonable and unlike last week at Catillo’s, a generous pour.

 A basket of warm bread was delivered to the table along with a nice complimentary plate of Grilled Italian Vegetable Antipasto, a nice selection of cheese, roasted red peppers, olives, eggplant, chick peas and other savory goodies. Each meal also includes a house salad. It was enough to enable us to skip appetizers and focus on our entree selections.

 Kathy and Carol each chose the Eggplant Parmagiana, lightly breaded and fried then layered with melted mozzarella and topped with a plum tomato sauce. An ample portion of pasta accompanied the dish. I heard Kathy mention that the eggplant was excellent, among the best she has had. Carol also seemed pleased with her choice.

 Sue went with the Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Rigatoni, tossed in a creamy alfredo sauce with sliced shitake mushrooms and pieces of parma prosciutto. Joe had the Cheese manicotti, fresh crepes stuffed with ricotta cheese, rolled and baked, then topped with homemade tomato sauce served with meatballs or sausage. Joe chose one of each and thought the dish was well done.

Gerry and I each picked the Salmone alla Griglia, fresh salmon grilled on an open flame then topped with a delicate Limoncello sauce and jumbo lump crab meat. It came with garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus spears. As with all of our entrees, the price is high but there is no question the product served is first class. My salmon was cooked perfectly and the Limoncello sauce was one of the best sauces I have ever had on fish. I ate half and took the rest home for dinner the next evening.

As much as the prices for appetizers and entrees shocked us, and remember, we eat out virtually every weekend, the fee for wine and desserts was not in the same league.

 I know that’s a cheesecake topped with fruit on the left but I’m not sure what the tempting cake is on the right. It did have lots of creme and raspberry filling.

 Kathy had the cannoli and I selected something called Coppa Spagnola, vanilla and amarena cherry gelato swirled together and topped with cherries. It was nice and light and provided an appropriate ending to a very good meal.

If you go on to DiPaolo’s website you can review their menu. You won’t find any prices listed next to any of the items and I’m not going to list them here, either. Suffice to say, it’s a nice place for a special dinner and the food might  possibly justify the prices. I’m still thinking about that Limoncello sauce on the salmon.


CATELLI’S – (2nd Review)

Posted in Catelli's (2nd review), Wine Dinners with tags , on March 30, 2011 by ballymote

 Catelli’s in Voorhees, NJ got a jump on South Jersey Restaurant Week by starting a week early. Six of us took advantage of their premature participation and cancelled our Saturday evening reservation in South Philly to take part in the four-course Prix Fixe. I enjoy Catelli’s but it’s not a BYOB so each visit there carries mixed emotions. I miss bringing my wine.

Kathy and I each had a couple of glasses of Ravenswood Zinfandel at $8.00 a glass. The price is OK but the pours are a bit stingy. I would be willing to bet none of them were the normal 5oz. pours.

Among the appetizers that we selected were the Eggpant Rollatini, filled with riccota, mozzarella and basil in a marinara and basil cream sauce and the intriguing Tomato Sampler consisting of a tomato water shooter, Jersey tomatoes with mozzarella and roasted tomato sorbet. Both of theses starters passed with flying colors.

Jerry went with the Roasted Beet Salad, goat cheese, Granny Smith apples, spiced walnuts, baby arugula and a beet sorbet. I selected the Crab Bisque with a floating crab cake. My soup was nothing special and may have been saved by the idea of the crab cake in the middle which added some taste to the soup.

For our second course, those who didn’t choose a green salad selected the Shrimp and Lobster Salad, fried green tomatoes and Remoulade aioli or the Veal Bolognese tossed with rigatoni pasta.

I almost went with the veal dish but decided to join Carol and give a try to the Pulled Pork Slider.

The only thing that could have made this tasty little sandwich better was if there were two more sitting right next to it. This was served on a soft-pretzel roll with a spicy provolone cheese sauce and a salsa made from long hots.  Excellent rendition of something simple made with flair.

Five of the six of us chose totally different entrees for our third course. On the left is the Veal Skirt Steak, grilled and sliced and served with asparagus, mushrooms, hand-made gnocchi in a white truffle cream. On the right is the Filet and Crab Oscar served with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, asparagus and topped with a garlic and parsley béarnaise. I didn’t hear any complaints on these two.

The nice looking dish on the left was the Chilean Sea Bass served over maple horseradish mashed yams, roasted pepper lobster sauce and oven-roasted tomatoes. The other taste-tempting item is the Lamb Loin Chop served over Yukon mashed potatoes and asparagus.

 Joe and I were the only duplicates as we both ordered the Stuffed Breast of Chicken Francese, with a spinach and Boursin cheese filling, scalloped potatoes, asparagus and lemon-leek cream. It all combined nicely to make a very nice entree. Ahhh, if only they poured more wine in the glass the dinner would have been top-notch.

Our server, Tom, was attentive as servce at Catelli is team-based. There are people replacing silverware for each course and others making sure that water glasses stay filled. We had no complaints about the service on this busy Saturday night.

 Although we had plenty to eat we all had just enough room in our tummies for some dessert, our fourth and final course. We all shared the rice pudding, lemon crepe with berries and the apple cake with vanilla bean ice cream.

Overall, it was a good experience. I think we all expect Catelli to be good every time we go and for the most part, those expectations were met. Just do me one favor, pour another ounce in each wine glass. It’s just not classy to scrimp on wine.


Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, Red Room Cafe, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2011 by ballymote

 There are some restaurants that you enjoy because of the food. There are others that stand out for other reasons. Ten of us enjoyed our Saturday evening dinner at this Ventnor, NJ BYOB because the food was good and an outstanding server named Frankie Fish not only entertained us but made us feel like part of the family.

Frank and Jill made a great tandem and with all of our wines and extra glasses we kept them hopping all evening. They handled each request with skill and professionalism. It didn’t hurt that Frank does a pretty good imitation of Robert DeNiro.

We were lucky that the Red Room Cafe had decided to extend Atlantic City Restaurant Week for a few more days and thus our three course meals including an appetizer, entree and dessert were available for the fixed price of $33.11.

 As usual, we had a nice assortment of some pretty good wines including, but not limited to, those shown here. A 2003 Chateau Molinet Lasserre, Pomerol started off the evening and was a nice solid Merlot based wine that had nice tobacco, red plum and chocolate notes with the earthy hints as well. There was also a 2008 Thumbprint Ramazotti Vineyard, Zinfandel and we always enjoy the unique wines from this California producer who we have met on both coasts. Joe B. chipped in with a very nice 1999 Castiglione del Bosco, Brunello di Montalcino, Campo del Drago. This 92 pointer from Wine Spectator took a few minutes to find itself but then the smooth flavors of crushed berries and soft tannins revealed nice hints of a well-made wine that had grown in stature during its decade in the bottle. It went well with many of the dishes served. I went with a 2007 Bella Vineyards, Alexander Valley, Dry River Ranch, Syrah. Bold flavors of rich blackberry and licorice with a combination of power and finesse made this a great match for a wide range of hearty foods. Although not pictured we had a few other wines, most notable among them was a 2007 Lost Canyon, Morelli Lane Vineyard, Pinot Noir. Great nose of lilac and mint and soft flavors of ripe cherries made this wine perfect for some of the lighter meats.

It would be virtually impossible to review all of the items and course that the ten of us enjoyed but I will focus on mine and a couple of others that I recall.

Several of our group began with salads, the House Caesar, a Roasted Beet Salad and on the right my choice of a Classic Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese dressing on the side. All were tasty with the beets drawing the most attention.

Some of the others chose items like the Eggplant Rollatini, the Sausage and Broccoli Rabe and the Manhattan Crab Chowder. All of these were met with total satisfaction

 There were lots of tempting entrees to choose from and the ten of us managed to sample quite a few. Ange and Arlene both chose the Vitello con Funghi Salavaticci, veal medallions, prosciutto and a trio of wild mushrooms sauteed in a Marsala wine and veal demi-glaze sauce. It looked great and they both totally enjoyed their selection.

 Gerry went with the Bronzino fillet served, as were most dishes, with mashed potatoes and asparagus spears, I went with the fettucine Al Rubinio, toasted jumbo lump crab meat served over a bed of fettuccine in a roasted garlic cream sauce. My dish was very good. The sauce was subtle and not overpowering. I took enough home for a Sunday lunch.

One of the ladies ordered the Ravioli Aragosta, homemade ravioli stuffed with lobster and served in a rose Cognac cream sauce and another had the Gamberi Imbottiti, jumbo shrimp stuffed with crab meat in a wine sauce.

Val opted for the Pollo alla Parmagiana served over a bed of spaghetti in a rich marinara sauce. Kathy chose the Salmon with a dijon mustard sauce. Her dinner was delayed for about eight minutes and it made for some slight tension. She thought the fish was good but that the sauce lacked flavor. A common complaint amongst several in our party that although everything was fresh that the sauces and flavorings left a little to be desired. This wasn’t a major complaint but it would have been nice if the entire meal matched the warmth and charm displayed by our server, Frankie Fish.

The tray of fresh desserts looked terrific and I know we sampled almost all of them. By this time we were in a bit of a rush as we had show tickets and the start time was quickly approaching. Overall, it was quite a fun night. The food was good and the service was top-notch. I would strongly suggest adding The Red Room Cafe  in Ventnor to your list of BYOBs to visit during your trips to the Jersey shore this summer.


Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, Joe Pesce, South Jersey BYOB Reviews, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , , on March 13, 2011 by ballymote

 Joe Pesci is a New Jersey actor who starred in Goodfellows, Casino, My Cousin Vinny and countless other major films. Joe Pesce is a restaurant in Collingswood. There is no connection between the two. Six of us ventured into Collingswood for a visit to this restaurant last Saturday night. We had been there before but it has been a couple of years and we have not been there during the life of my blog.

 Aubrey, our server for the evening, had a great smile and she provided capable and attentive service throughout the meal, despite trying to avoid having her picture taken.

 My wine this evening came recommended by my Wine Guru friend, Vladi, who can be found most days and evenings prowling the well-stocked aisles at Wine Works on Rt. 70 in Marlton, NJ. This one was the 2008 Triton Zamora Tempranillo, Spain. This one had a very distinctive flavor of crushed berries and exotic spices. I thought it was good value for the money (mid-teens) but, as usual, my wife, although she enjoyed it, knew exactly where the price point for this wine was located. At any rate, a nice wine that went well with our food.

 Jerry started his meal with the Seared Scallops served over a bed of sauteed spinach and drizzled with a balsamic reduction. The scallops were done just right and the sauce added just the right tangy flavor to the delicate scallops.

A couple of the ladies went with the Eggplant Caprese which featured slices of fried eggplant between sections of creamy mozzarella cheese. They reported that the cheese was very good but the eggplant was a little bland.

 I had no trouble at all choosing my appetizer. It’s not often I get to have meatballs as an appetizer so when I spotted Joy’s Meatballs on the menu, I knew I would be trying them. Two nice sized spheres of beef, veal and pork were accompanied by a nice toasted crostini smeared with buttery cheese. The meatballs were in a tasty marinara sauce and I was delighted with my starter.

 There were a couple of interesting fish “specials” on the menu on this particular night and I was torn between the salmon and the red snapper. When Jerry chose the salmon and Joe selected the red snapper, I was more confused than ever. I decided to go with the salmon and I ended up quite happy with my choice. This was a pan-seared salmon stuffed with crab imperial and served in a scampi sauce of lemon butter, white wine, capers and sun-dried tomatoes. The fish was cooked to perfection, flaky and tender, the sauce was delicate and the side of potatoes made for a wonderful meal.

Joe’s red snapper was pretzel encrusted and served with a honey dijon sauce. The dish came with a side of broccoli rabe. It looked very good. Joe mentioned just a slight hint of the pretzel flavored coating and overall, I think I made a better selection in choosing the salmon though Joe certainly had no complaints.

 Sue went with an unusual choice for her, the lamb chops, while Kathy countered with a veal dish. Both items looked good and the women seemed pleased with their dinners. The same could NOT be said for Carol.

 Her dish sounded delicious. It was the Papardelle Aragosta. Fresh flat noodle pasta with chunks of lobster. When the dish was presented Carol began an ardent search for the elusive crustacean. She did find a small claw and some shreds of the succulent shellfish. She thought there surely must be more hidden away beneath the pasta. Rather than hire a private invesigator skilled in finding missing persons (or, in this case, absent lobster), she asked Aubrey to bring the dish back and add more lobster which she did. It still didn’t bring the dish up to par for Carol as even with the additional lobster pieces she found the sauce bland.

 Everyone agreed that all three of our desserts were first-rate. The Chocolate Cake was excellent. The Chocolate Chip Banana Cake was pretty special and the seven layer Carrot Cake was as good as you would hope. Each of these treats, which we passed around the table, was the perfect ending to the meal.


Posted in West Side Gravy - Food Bloggers Dinner, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2011 by ballymote

 Until now I had only met two other food and wine bloggers. A back yard late summer barbecue, hosting Paul and Stefania Romero of Stefania wines, at the home of Mark & Pam Jahnke, gave me the opportunity to meet F Scott & Zelda, who publish NJ Foodies. Making an appearance at this same event were John and Lisa Howard-Fusco creators of the very informative, John & Lisa Are Eating in South Jersey. Last night, that total of known bloggers climbed to six as John & Lisa arranged a dinner at West Side Gravy for several fellow bloggers. My wife, Kathy, and I joined John & Lisa, Colleen (JerzEATS), Lisa  (Jersey Girl Cooks), Jenn (NJEpicurean), and Wendy ( La PhemmePhoodie). Lisa was with her husband, John (making a pair of Lisa/Johns at the table), and Jenn was accompanied by her husband, Matt.   Mark and Pam could not join us, but they stopped by the table as they were celebrating Pam’s mom’s birthday in Chef Alex Capasso’s next door restaurant, Blackbird.  Mark generously dropped off a nice bottle of the 2006 Stefania , Haut TubeeBefore I get to the wine and food let me say that the company was first-class. It’s not always the easiest thing in the world to sit down to dinner with a large group where few know each other but the conversation was easy and it was great fun to learn about each and every one of our companions for the evening. A special thanks to all of you for making the night a great deal of fun.

 There were other wines present but it’s too difficult (for me, anyway) to recall all of them but, Kathy and I shared the 2008 Mauritson, Dry Creek Valley, Zinfandel. It took awhile for this one to open up and reveal good pepper and fruit flavors but it couldn’t hold a candle to the “Rockpile” offering, also produced by Mauritson. Our other wine was a 2009 Capa Blanca, Suena Profondo, Pinot Noir, Williamette Valley, OR. This one took some time too, but became much more enjoyable as the evening progressed and the dark cherry and spice flavors became more apparent.

 Our server, Troy, wasn’t big on smiles, but he was certainly efficient and with his team of assistants provided excellent and attentive service throughout the evening. Large tables are probably difficult and he remained focused and made sure we had extra wine glasses, Thanks, Troy!

 We started out by ordering double dishes of four different starters. This proved to be a good decision and just enough food to satisfy the 10 of us. The first item was the West Side Gravy Mac n Cheese, baby shell pasta, cheddar, gruyere, fontina cheeses and herb spices. This one is a tasty dish but I have to say that several other places I have dined have done an even better job with the mac n cheese preparation.

 Next came the Cheese Steak Egg Rolls and these were a real crowd pleaser. Shredded beef, fried onions, sharp cheddar, long hots and horseradish sauce. Can you spell Mmmmmmm??

 Fish Tacos were our third item. I passed on these but the group seemed to really like the ahi tuna, avocado salad, sweet chili sauce on flour tortillas. They disappeared quickly. Our final appetizer isn’t pictured but it was the West Side Gravy Fries with Pinot Noir sauce. Folks rave about these fries but in the world of great fries these are middle of the road although the sauce is a novel treat.

As the evening progressed and the conversation grew more interesting, it was time for some real comfort food.  Both Kathy and I chose items from the evening “specials”.

 I had the Pot Roast with mashed potatoes and peas. The meat was cooked nicely and shredded with the slightest fork pull. In fairness, I am always a little disappointed when I order pot roast. It just never seems to be full of the flavors I am expecting. I’m going to blame this one on myself. It all very good but not great.

 Kathy had the Roast Beef and Provolone Sandwich with house fries. She wasn’t crazy about her choice and even gave me half of the sandwich. I totally agreed. This was not a good sandwich, dry, and lacking flavor. The roll even seemed harder than it should have been.

I can’t speak for the others as I heard no one complaining about their dishes. Here is what they had……

Chicken and Rice, pan roasted breast of free range chicken, seasonal veggies and creamy parmesan risotto.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken, with smoked bacon dressing and house made cole slaw. This one looked very nice.

 Pork and Beans, braised pork shoulder, broccoli rabe, long hots and sharp provolone on Rosemary bread, with side of Tuscan white bean, tomato and escarole ragout.

Mushroom Sandwich, Grilled Portobello, baby arugula, grilled onion, lettuce, marinated tomato served on a seven grain bun with a side of macaroni salad.

 Burger and Fries, half pound of Angus beef, sesame seed brioche bun, cheddar, fried onions, tomato, lettuce and hand cut fries. I’m going to have to try this one next time as the burger looked very good.

What better ending to an evening of comfort food amongst comfortable people than some nice desserts.

 Kathy and I split the Red Velvet Cake which wasn’t on the actual menu but Wendy had been here last week and asked if it was available. It was and it was very tasty.

I noticed a few of our dinner companions devouring this one, the West Side “Snickers”, chocolate, peanuts, caramel and nougat with vanilla ice cream and dulce de leche. This was a true dessert winner.

One of the really nice things about eating at West Side Gravy is that you don’t need to arrange bank financing prior to dining here. The prices are very reasonable. The food is good but it just might be that my expectations must be too high. Chef Capasso’s Blackbird is one of the best dining spots in all of New Jersey and now it’s located in the next room from West Side Gravy. I realize comfort food is a different style from fine dining but there are just too many misses on the menu.

Thanks to all of our new blogging friends for a most enjoyable evening.


Posted in That's Amore (2nd Review), Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , on February 19, 2011 by ballymote


 Six of us head to That’s  Amore on Valentine’ s Weekend foolishly thinking that “Amore” means “Love”. We discovered that what That’s Amore really means is FOOD….lots and lots of FOOD. It may have been our fault for spotting the Chef’s Table portion of the menu. We had been here in early December and enjoyed a really good meal but didn’t realize that they offered a Prix Fix section where you get five courses for $25.00 and several more courses (an endless parade of courses may be a better description) for $35.00. We all opted for the $35.00 selection. Before we get to the onslaught of delectable goodies that this choice brought about, here are my wines for the evening.

My first wine was the 2008 Domaine du Seminaire, Cote Du Rhone. This was a Moore Brothers featured wine a couple of weeks ago and it’s a very nice value at $11.00. You will never confuse this with a $100 bottle but it delivers nice berry flavors in a well-balanced wine. I usually bring a second bottle but seldom open it but the abundance of food on this night had us popping the 2006 Owen Roe, Sharecropper, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington.  Not a great cab but it was certainly drinkable. I think this producer does a much better job with their Oregon Pinot Noirs. And then came the barrage of food…….

 First up was the Tuscan Field Greens. mixed greens, topped with goat cheese, dried cranberries and walnuts. We each had two salad dishes and while we were enjoying this first salad out came……

 The House Caesar Salad, piled high on a small boat. We each filled our plates with this one as we alternated quickly between the two salads. We evidently were not quick enough because before you could say, “I wish I had some tomatoes to go with this”, we were presented with…..

 Insalata Caprese, nice slices of fresh tomato with lovely mozzrella chunks placed atop each. There was one helping for each of us but, I believe that the way Chef’s Table works, had anyone wanted another helping that would have been OK, This dish was accompanied by a tasty dressing somewhat lighter than a balsamic that went very well with the cheese and tomatoes. As we alternated between our two salads and the tomato caprese we were shocked to see our hustling server, Tom, appear once again with yet another cold appetizer. It was beginning to feel like we were in a competitive eating contest or else another party of six had bribed them to get us out of the restaurant in record time. One of our party, (thank you, Sue) finally asked that the service slow down and Tom explained it would at this point since the next courses were hot ones and he simply wanted to get all of our cold choices to us quickly. I guess that made sense but perhaps he should have warned us that the first four items would be coming quickly. We ate what we could of the salads and welcomed the next course………

 the Pillow of Goat Cheese, this one was accompanied by some sun-dried tomatoes and a balsamic topping with crispy slices of crostini on which to spread the toppings. This was a flavorful dish but I was ready for some hot stuff.

First on the scene was the combination of Arancini di Riso, rice balls stuffed with mozzarella cheese and deep-fried and Stuffed Artichokes, also fried and both served with a red sauce for dipping. I would have liked more sauce. Not being an artichoke fan (although I did have a half of one….not bad), I concentrated on the rice balls and they were excellent. As we munched our way through this dish along came the second hot appetizer……

Fried Pizza, This dish was actually twice as big as the picture and I couldn’t get all six pieces into the frame. Hey, what could be bad about fried pizza? In this case, nothing, it was delicious and this one disappeared from all six plates very quickly.

  We took some time between courses to chat with our server, Tom, who really was kept busy the entire night as the restaurant was quite crowded. We also spoke with Chef/Owner Alfredo who now on both of our visits has ventured out of the kitchen to welcome us and inquire as to how everything was. I think this is an important quality in a chef that he mingle with the guests and hear feedback both good and bad, To me, it’s an indication that the restaurant cares about what it is serving and wants your return business.

 Our first entree was chicken with bow tie pasta in a pistachio cream sauce. The pasta was nicely done and each morsel of chicken was flavorful. The light sauce was an excellent choice in completing the dish.

 If the chicken and bow tie pasta wasn’t your thing then you could leave room for the Penne in blush sauce with veggies. It sounds simple but it was a nice addition to the meal. The sauce was great and the pasta, once again, cooked to perfection. Each of us loosened our belts a notch and prepared for yet another entree. This next one was….

 Chicken and Broccoli in a Lemon Butter Sauce. I’m pretty sure someone in our group made some slight change request to what was originally being offered but I liked this dish so I am not complaining. Some did mention that the chicken had been over-salted but it certainly didn’t ruin the dish. Alfredo apologized and offered to replace it but that was hardly necessary. The last entree of the evening was the fish. It is usually shrimp done in one of several different ways but we had a shellfish allergic in our midst so they substituted….

 Tilapia Puttanesca, topped with olives and capers and served in a rich, red sauce. This was a very good dish and a nice contrast to the chicken and pasta courses.

It was hard to believe that any of us had room for dessert but I guess we wanted to make sure we had sampled everything so out came….

 Quite honestly, I’m not even sure exactly what the desserts were. There is chocolate, whipped cream, some cannoli’s, a little caramel something. They were good and none of us exploded so, that’s a good thing.

When we first arrived the noise level at That’s Amore was almost deafening. I virtually could not hear Tom recite specials and I was two feet away from where he stood. As the evening progressed, the noise level became much more bearable.

The Chef’s Table at That’s Amore is an excellent value. I do have to warn you that the amount of food served would provide a great meal prior to sending out an army to do battle with hordes of invading warriors. However, you would be wise to put your money on the invading warriors, as the over-fed army would be in no shape to fight; but don’t take my word for it, make a reservation and find out for yourself.


Posted in Barones Tuscan Grill (2nd review), BYOB Restaurant Reviews, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , on February 9, 2011 by ballymote


This blog has been in existence since July of 2009. During these past 18 or 19 months I have reviewed over 100 restaurants all over the Delaware Valley and a few in California. We have had over 32,000 visitors in that time. No single review that I have ever posted has had as many readers as my first review of Barone Tuscan Grill in Woolwich Twp., NJ which I wrote during their opening week last summer. No other post has even come close to generating the readership that continues to this day for that one post. It is, and was, so befuddling to me that I was prompted several months ago to write a post titled The Great Barone Tuscan Grill Mystery. Even that post is high on the most-read list. The review itself was nothing special. Some in our group were not pleased, the majority, myself included, thought the meal was pretty good, in light of the “new opening jitters” that were to be expected at a time like that. Why it has generated so many readers is still something I can’t explain but, here we are for a return visit and it will be interesting to see what kind if response this one brings.

 Six of us on an early February Friday evening and the place is packed. Someone must like the food. We have a nice round table set up for us in the back and the place is buzzing with activity. Each couple has a nice bottle of wine to compliment the food and the menu at ‘ is so extensive that there would be little reason to offer “specials”. Joe B. ran across the Plaza to JB Liquors and picked up a 2005 Monte Degli Angeli, Barolo. This full bodied Nebbiolo had soft plum and cedar notes, a silky finish and was a good match for the food. Jerry C. had the 2008 Merum Monastrell from the Jumilla region of Spain. It showed flavors of forest floor and black cherry and provided a smooth finish. I brought along one of the La Posta Malbecs (there are at least three vineyards that I am aware of to date). This one was the 2007 La Posta, Pizzella Family Vineyard, Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina. A nice nose of dark chocolate and spice and enticing cherry and tobacco flavors on the palate. A Wine Spectator 91 rating.

Jerry started out with a plate of mussels in their classic marinara sauce and served with a toasted garlic crostini. I went with the Potato Soup with truffle oil and crisp pancetta. The zuppe was hot and thick and tasty although the sparse pancetta quickly disappeared beneath the surface. No complaints. No raves.

 Carol B. had the Broccoli Rabe, sauteed with extra virgin olive oil, veal sausage and roasted garlic. Carol wasn’t totally thrilled with the broccoli rabe but felt the sausage was good. Others had a small house salad.

Our server was Allan, and he did a nice job all night completing our orders. He had quite a few tables and worked hard in making sure that all of them were taken care of properly.

As I mentioned earlier, Barone’s menu has lots to choose from. There are about 14 different ways to have chicken or veal, lots of tempting pasta dishes most baked in terra cotta bowls and even a few House Specialties.

 One of those House Specialties was what I considered ordering before changing my mind. I was glad to see Jerry request the Polpettone Toscana, Italian style meatloaf stuffed with prosciutta and spinach, hard-boiled egg and slow roasted and served in its natural juices. Jerry wasn’t thrilled but thought it was decent. I’m not sure I’m totally comfortable with the hard-boiled egg propped in the middle of it.

 Joe B. went with another of my “almost” choices, the Pollo Scarpiello, chicken breast, long hots and sausage in a Rosemary wine sauce. It looked excellent and Joe said the chicken was cooked perfectly and was very flavorful.

Two of the ladies opted for the Pollo Vesuvio, breaded cutlets served over a bed of spinach, topped with fresh mozzarella and tomato and finished with tortellini alfredo. It wouldn’t be wrong to change the name of this dish to “heart attack on a plate” but once again the ladies agreed that the chicken was excellent.

Normally, with all those chicken choices on the menu my only task is to narrow them down to the one I want. On this night, I decided to try Mamma’s Sunday Sauce, two homemade meatballs over capellini pasta. The sauce was delicious, the meatballs big enough that I could find no fault with them and the pasta done just right. Once again, the portion was large enough that I was able to box up enough to make for a nice dinner the next evening.

So, another visit to the place that holds such interest to so many. It may be that Greenwich and Woolwich Township is just growing so quickly that the new homeowners are desperate for decent places to eat. That’s what Barone Tuscan Grill is, not a fabulous dining establishment, just a decent place to eat on a Friday night.