Archive for Cherry Hill NJ


Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, Mirabella Cafe, South Jersey BYOB Reviews, Wine Dinners with tags , , , on May 31, 2010 by ballymote


Mirabella Cafe, in the Barclay’s Shopping Center on Rt. 70 in Cherry Hill was the scene of a last-minute, pre-movie dinner on Saturday evening. The evening did not start well as I had neglected to remove my flash card from my computer where I was downloading photos taken earlier in the day at the USA – Turkey soccer match at the Linc in Philly. Consequently, for the first time since I started this blog, I would have no pictures from our meal. Fortunately, Mirabella’s web site had a few photos that I can use. As you can see from this photo. outside seating is available. We opted to eat inside as we were a bit pressed for time.

The menu at Mirabella Cafe is fairly extensive and they have a few specials which are shown to you, plated as they would appear, on arrival.

There was the usual bread and olive oil for starters. Joe and Carol were not in a wine mood so Kathy and I shared a 2008 Marquis-Phillips “Sarah’s Blend”, Australia. We have both had this wine through several vintages and tonight’s was drinking well with crisp blackberry flavors mingled with peppery notes and some licorice tones. This is, in my estimation, one of those wines that you can always count on. It might also be noted that the wine glasses at Mirabella are great; large Bordeaux-style stems.

Kathy, Carol and Joe split the Grilled Fiorella’s Sausage and Broccoli Rabe. I tried a little and thought it was just OK. They liked it more than I did. I had the bruschetta. It wasn’t that impressive. I’m not a fan of the very crisp croutons that the toppings fall right off as you attempt to bite through it. As the meal progressed, it became apparent that our server, Mark, might have a career in politics when his table waiting days are over as he was a true expert at promising things on which he had trouble delivering. Joe is still waiting for his coke that never arrived and each request brought an enthusiastic “Excellent, I will make that happen immediately.” Too many times we had to remind him of what we had requested. I thought it might be that he had a preponderance of tables but Joe said he just seemed to head to the nearby computer after each brief stop at our table.

Salads preceded our entrees. Fresh greens with feta and pecorino cheese with a lemon flavored olive oil dressing were tasty enough to the others but I found it a bit bland. 

I chose Chef Joe’s Spaghetti and Meatballs, a nice portion of pasta with two large meatballs. I found the sauce fine, the meal hot and the meatballs delicious. I would prefer my spaghetti slightly less al dente but that’s just me. The portion was large enough that I took home enough to provide another meal.

Kathy ordered the Whole Wheat Pasta Primavera which came topped with fresh seasonal veggies. She ate what she could and also brought home enough to make another decent sized meal. Carol had the Eggplant Rollatini and thought it was good. Again, the serving provided enough for another meal. Joe was the only one who finished his entire meal and that may have been because he selected the Pesto Crusted Tilapia, broiled and served with warm lentil salad and sauteed escarole in a light lemon citronette.

Joe Palombo’s Mirabella Cafe serves good food at reasonable prices in a bright, cheerful location. The service on this particular night was less than stellar but the meal was fine.



Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, Maggiano's Little Italy, South Jersey BYOB Reviews with tags , , on January 23, 2010 by ballymote

It’s not often I arrive at a restaurant without my wine carrier containing one and probably two bottles for consumption with my meal. Last night was one of those exceptions. Our regular Friday Night Eight (I guess a better name for a dining crowd like this would be Friday Night ATE) ventured away from the BYOB venues of South Jersey and made our way to the totally revamped Cherry Hill Mall environs to dine at Maggiano’s Little Italy. This is one of three locations in our area for this national chain. The other two are at 12th and Filbert in Philly and King of Prussia. I had forgotten that Maggianno’s offers Family Style dining. For a fixed price ($26.50 per person, in our case) the table chooses two appetizers, two salad types, two pasta dishes, two entrees, two desserts and choice of two clergy to perform last rites.  Plates of those items are then brought to the table, shared by all, more can be ordered, left-overs from each group boxed and bagged for take home, resuscitators provided for any who collapse from over-eating and pretty much every other type of service you would expect from those presiding over a food orgy. Truth be told, it’s NOT a bad way to eat. Sure, I missed my wine but I had a Samuel Adams draft and I was quite content. Here’s what we had:

For salads we had the Caesar and the Maggiano. On a four star basis I give 2 to the Caesar and 3 and a half to the Maggiano. I’m not a big salad fan but this one was VERY tasty. For appetizers we had the Bruschetta  (crust a tad too crispy) and the Crispy Zucchini Fritte. I didn’t think I was a zucchini fan either but these were terrific. The crispy strips were coated with Japanese bread crumbs and served with a lemon aoili sauce that was a perfect addition. So far, I’m semi-impressed. Now I am awaiting the REAL food. One of our entree choices was the Eggplant Parmagian, which I don’t eat,  so I picked the Chicken Parmigian for the other entree figuring that was a safe bet. For pasta they chose the Chicken Pesto Linguine, Linguine pasta tossed with roasted chicken, pesto and pine nuts in a parmesan broth with a hint of lemon. The other pasta was the Chicken and Spinach Manicotti, savory crepes filled with chicken meat, ricotta aglio spinach, asiago cheese, covered with a house cheese and baked to a golden brown. The chicken parm was good, the linguini pesto was excellent, although I didn’t realize the chicken in that dish was hiding at the bottom and now resides in containers at Jerry and Sue’s house. The manicotti was wonderful. It was a really good meal made better by the fact that I went there with no expectations. Now, for the desserts:

That little item to your left is called Chocolate Zuccatto Cake. I vote we change the name to something more appropriate like Huge Mountain of Rich Food Just in Case You Can Squeeze in Another Morsel .  We liked it.  Here is the other concoction that appeared among the rubble at the end of the meal.

This one was called Apple Crostada, Caramel Sauce
Warm apple filling of Granny Smith apples, sugar, butter, nutmeg, cinnamon, baked in a pastry crust dipped in cream and crystallized sugar. Served with caramel sauce and a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Garnished with mint. We managed to finish this one just prior to the call going out to the local EMT’s to get here quickly with their paddles. It would have helped if we could have left the cars and walked home but that didn’t happen. Happily, although Maggiano’s made every attempt to kill us with too much food, we survived to eat again.

One final note. It was actually surprising that with this much food the quality was excellent. I could do this again…..hey, we doin anything tonight???