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Feb 2, 2010 06:47 AM

Looking for mom and pop type Italian restaurants in South Jersey

Growing up in the 80s, our stand by for Italian was the Spaghetti House down by the Marlton Circle in Cherry Hill. We always loved their garlic bread and ordered the Fra Diavolo - for $30 bucks we could feed 4-5 people with heaping servings of spicy seafood. Then it moved to its current location and for nostalgia's sake, I went back 5 years ago and it just wasn't the same.

So where can I find that casual type dining experience with good food and cheap eats vibe? I am so over the Olive Garden, Buca di Beppo and disappointing pizza joints. Don't care if it's in a strip mall but I want some good gravy, pasta done right and decent prices.

Looking for the Cherry Hill/Mt. Laurel/Moorestown area but willing to travel for some hidden gems.

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    1. You may soon get your wish. Since last winter I've been seeing a sign saying something like "Coming soon. The Original Spaghetti House. Back to the 80s with Franco Longo." (I think Franco was one of the original owners). A sign in the window now says it's opening August 30. The place is in a strip mall on Rt 73 in Mount Laurel, approximately across from the Sage diner, just south of the turnpike.
      I'm surprised there were no answers to your original post, since there are a number of pretty good inexpensive Italian places in the area (and a lot of bad ones). Here are a few that I like:
      Forno in Maple Shade
      Sal and Joe's in Maple Shade
      Maurizio's in Cinnaminson
      MaraVilla's in Medford
      Stefano's in Mount Laurel
      All the above are pizza parlors with restaurants; all are inexpensive; and all but Forno are BYOB.

      6 Replies
      1. re: johnpm

        Thanks for the list of new places to try. I can't believe some of the restaurants I grew up with are making a comeback - Athens Cafe was a favorite in high school as well as Spaghetti House so I'll be testing my older and wiser palate on them soon!

        1. re: johnpm

          Re. the "coming soon" location - it's at the intersection of Rt 73, Church Rd, and Ramblewood Parkway. I just wonder if there's something wrong with that location, though... seems like it turns over every 6-12 months! :o

          1. re: truman

            Looks like the jinx is still on at this location! A few weeks ago, the place was dark and there were signs saying "closed for renovation". Today it's still dark, the signs are gone, and the potted plants are turning brown.

            1. re: johnpm

              Something new (GioFano's?) is supposed to be opening there this week, IIRC.

              Maybe we should track the turnover rate??

              1. re: truman

                How's six months for a turnover? Giofano's is now closed and a note in the window says "Re-opening soon as Original Spaghetti House". Makes me dizzy!

                1. re: johnpm

                  Really? I still think it's amazing so many new restaurants are opening up in this economy - but I think this place will never truly be like the "Original Spaghetti House."

                  For now, I have decided we really like Sal and Joe's service and food. Friendly, casual and inexpensive.

                  I plan to try Stefano's soon since they advertise a gluten free menu and a friend who loves to dine out is always looking for that option.

        2. Has anyone gone to the Spaghetti House since it opened? I'm curious to hear how it was...

          4 Replies
          1. re: truman

            It hasn't opened yet!! However, I drove by there today and saw a food delivery truck being unloaded. So, still "coming soon".

            1. re: johnpm

              The Spaghetti House is aiming to open tomorrow night as long as everything is ready to go. If not then within the next week!

            2. re: truman

              It's open now. We went the other night and were pleased with it. Generous portions of well-prepared Italian classics in a bright, clean room separate from the take-out area. Good, fresh homemade bread, too. A cut above the average pizza parlor. We will certainly be going back.

              1. re: johnpm

                Wow, I'm so hoping the food is as good as I remember from the 80s. Will plan to go possibly this weekend and will report back about my impressions.

            3. As a gourmand Italian, one of the finest Italians in the STATE is a small storefront in Collingswood named Il Fiore.......believe me, I have been to many many Italians over the last 50 years, and this is a REAL GOOD one..........I think you'll thank me.

              2 Replies
              1. re: LEOFONT

                My husband and I went the other night. It was pretty tasty though not as great as I remember - but getting older will do that for you. First of all, I recall their garlic bread used to be sliced open Amaroso type long rolls, toasted well with olive oil, garlic and a hint of tomatos. Their bread basket on the table now comes with garlic knots, warmed sliced Italian bread, some of which were their new version of garlic bread.

                My husband ordered baked ravioli, served in a large bowl which my husband liked very much. I debated between the fra diavolo pasta from my memories versus chicken parm dinner. I decided on the chicken dish, thinking if that was done well, I'd try the seafood on the next go around. I had a generous chicken portion, nicely breaded with plenty of melted mozzarella cheese. I wish they had given me a slightly larger portion of pasta with it - although I made a point to save a portionof both for lunch the next day, there was barely enough. I also felt that although the red sauce was tasty, it seemed a bit thin - I prefer a thicker sauce.

                Husband finished off the meal with a triple chocolate cake which came with a few dollops of whipped cream. He finished that off as well, so I assume there were not complaints from that department.

                There was one other table filled with a father and 4 hungry kids. They ordered 20 wings and a large pizza to share. Their wings came quickly enough and everyone remarked they were good but their pizza took forever to arrive. It looked really good - thin crispy crust and plenty of cheese, too.

                So yes, I would go again and it certainly fills my criteria as a mom and pop Italian restaurant. I also give a thumbs up to Sal and Joe's and Forno's as well. I'll slowly hit the rest of the list in the next 6 months...

                1. re: IndigoOnTheGo

                  I'd give the thumbs up to Sal and Joe's as well...definitely fits the bill as a "Mom and Pop" place with very good Italian food for the price.

              2. I'd be very interested to hear of similar places in the New Brunswick - Edison area. Good and cheap italian with better (and different) food than your standard pizzeria, but not high-end and expensive.

                1 Reply
                1. re: chuck98

                  chuck98, since a location is mentioned in the Title of this post, you would probably get better and more replies if you create a new post, as for Mom and Pop Good eats Italian in the area you want. Just trying to help.