210 Barclay Center
Route 70 East
Cherry Hill, N.J.
Credit cards accepted
Wheelchair-accessible (bathrooms on ground floor)
Open for lunch and dinner
Authentic Italian cucina
It is always a delight to discover a new restaurant by accident. On yet another rainy day, Edward and I, with my sister, Sandy, and mother, Berthe, in tow, set across the Ben Franklin Bridge for dinner at Buca di Beppo.
The restaurant opened last month on Route 38, across the highway from the long-ensconced Olive Garden. When we learned Buca di Beppo was estimating a 90-minute wait, we piled back into the car.
"How about trying the Italian restaurant in the Barclay Center?" I suggested. We have driven by Trattoria Barone many times and I confess I always thought it was a pizzeria or part of a chain.
You can imagine our surprise when we entered this enchanting restaurant. The dining rooms were nearly filled to capacity with happy patrons sipping the wines they brought and tucking into delicious food. I cannot tell you what a rarity a full house is today. Within the past four or five months, the majority of restaurants I have reviewed (and a handful I have not reviewed) have been empty.
Trattoria Barone is owned by chef Guido Barone, who was born in Naples and worked as a lad in his father’s Neapolitan restaurant. Now his sons, Vincenzo and Giovanni, assist him in the kitchen.
The restaurant has exposed warm red-brick walls and a brick-colored tile floor, and is decorated with huge rust-colored Etruscan vases. Tables are covered with crisp white linen and napkins. Two Italian gentlemen took care of us with the aid of an assistant. Although we didn’t know the restaurant was BYOB, New Jersey wines are available at inexpensive prices. We sipped a fruity Chambourcin ($24) and perused the authentically Italian menu. For the quality of fare, the prices were hard to beat.
A pretty metal basket was filled with warm, dense Tuscan-like rolls shaped into triangles. The extra-virgin olive oil with fresh herbs created a tasty tango with these handmade treats.
We sampled four antipasti and each was a winner. Asparagi Trattoria ($8) consisted of about eight slightly crisp spears of fresh asparagus, neither thick nor reed-thin, wrapped with pale, razor-thin slices of imported prosciutto di Parma and warm provolone, and napped in a garlic wine sauce. A mound of perfectly cooked broccoli di rabe ($8) was quickly blanched and saut�ed with olive oil and garlic, with an added tasty touch of sliced sausages that may have been homemade. The broccoli di rabe was not at all bitter.
Involtini di melanzane ($6) was a colorful wonder that immediately tempted the eye. Barone makes his own mozzarella and this one was slightly smoked. He grilled slices of eggplant and rolled them with this refreshing cheese, then topped the stack off with sweet red roasted peppers. A touch of olive oil was added, and we all agreed the dish was delicious.
Insalata Trattoria was no ordinary house salad ($6), either. Mixed fresh greens were simply tossed with a lemon vinaigrette and topped with shavings of slightly salty Parmigiano-Reggiano.
From the "Paste," Edward and I shared the best pasta with Bolognese sauce ($14) we have enjoyed in recent memory. I’ve sampled so many dreadful versions; this one was just superb. Fresh tagliatelle, the perfect foil for rich meaty sauce, was obviously made in-house. These egg noodles were napped with Bolognese that was properly reduced, rich in flavor and texture, and not a bit salty. Our waiter brought over a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano and began to grate this king of cheese onto my pasta.
Although lobster ravioli are on the menu, Mom likes plain cheese ravioli. Our delightful waiter inquired in the kitchen to see if there were any available. He politely said they were not but ecco –when our entr�es arrived, Mom received a plate brimming with homemade cheese ravioli ($14), which were so light they almost floated off the plate. The rich reduced tomato sauce was neither sweet nor salty.
Linguine alle vongole ($16), pasta with clam sauce, is made all over town. Some places just dump a can of clam sauce on top of pasta and call it a day. This version was uncommonly good. I think Barone first pan-roasted about 18 littleneck clams with a bit of wine, olive oil and garlic, then added them to the pasta, which was finished with bits of pancetta, garlic and olive oil.
I’m often in the mood for good old-fashioned eggplant Parmesan. Melenzana Parmigiana ($15) was a huge portion of lightly fried slices of tender eggplant, topped with the homemade fresh mozzarella and napped with marinara. It was piping hot, neither bitter nor salty, and half of it was packed to go home with me.
Finally, Edward was able to enjoy authentic vitello Milanese ($17), one of his favorite dishes. Several slices of fresh veal, pounded thin, were dusted with slightly seasoned bread crumbs and quickly saut�ed. The veal, quite tender, was topped with baby arugula leaves and shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
If an award were given for service, Trattoria Barone would come in first. Staff watch the tables and the place was full. They served and cleared and brought fresh silverware for each course.
The cucina here is so well done, none of us reached for the salt or pepper. Fresh herbs, garlic, lemon and an instinctive hand at salt and pepper allowed each dish we savored to speak for itself.
It is obvious that members of the Barone family have taken great pains in the preparation of their simple creations. It is also obvious that the three chefs are tasting the food.
Three tips of the toque to Trattoria Barone.