Osteria in Moorestown
Was anyone else there last night for the preview party?
Marc was manning the pizza oven and the pies were certainly the star of the night (along with the salumi) much as it has been for me at Osteria in Philly. The space looks great, the bar looks like a fun place for a drink right across from the open kitchen. Also loved the liver crostini and the cannoli filled with semifreddo for dessert.
Definitely looking forward to getting to try the full menu and interested to see how it develops. I admittedly had mixed feelings about Osteria in Philly, but this certainly was promising for South Jersey...
Friends of ours went there last week and thought it was as good as the original, so if you didn't love the original, maybe you won't love this one. Although, as you live in SJ, if you think about restaurants as I do, you are more forgiving of places that are close by and just OK.
Well, I liked the preview in Moorestown and I had very mixed feelings about the Philly location of Osteria, so I'll leave final judgement until I go back for a full dinner. (Basically in Philly I liked the cured meats and pizza, was disappointed in everything else.) It seems like Brad Spence is heavily involved in this new location which may be why I like it, as I liked his work at Amis quite a bit.
We went there last night with our NJ friends who are regulars and know all the managers/maître d's. We shared all:
Veggie plate - Ok, but excellent peppery arugula
Butternut squash and pine nut topped pizza - a freebie. Not as good as the Vetrie pizza behind the Philly main library
Boar Bologenese - my favorite dish of the evening. Love Bologenese made properly with no tomato. The homemade pasta remained al dente through a leisurely course under a heavy sauce.
Some kind of ravioli freebe. Not memorable except that it was too sweet.
Artichokes - tied for my favorite dish. Really Roman style, crisp and delicious.
Ribs - again, too sweet, but OK.
Steak - our friends wanted it. Plain grilled steak is not something I would ever order in an Italian restaurant unless we were sharing. OK, but why bother?
Gelato - two nut flavors, one excellent, but overpowered the pistachio, which I could not taste. They may have given us all of the one flavor.
I wanted a Nebbiolo. One of the managers suggested 2, one a full bodied 2008 and the other a lighter style 2007. I wanted to go with the 2007, but our friend really wanted the 2008. It was OK, not great, but at $50, decent.
Espresso was done perfectly. Service, considering how crowded it was, was quite good. Our server moved up from Broad St and is our favorite there.
The menu has so many choices, I will definitely go back. Based on just one visit, I think the kitchen is the equal of Broad St.
Hey, we were there yesterday too!
After reading Craig LaBan's review, I just HAD to try that Lobster spaghettini dish, despite the drive...my first ever visit to Moorestown Mall (why it exists, when Cherry Hill is only 10 minutes away, I don't understand).
In case you have trouble finding it (we did), Osteria-Moorestown is located to the right of the main mall entrance, with Boscov's on the left and Sears on the right as you face the mall.
There are 4 seating areas: the bar with your back to the open kitchen; the front room with windows out onto the parking lot (fortunately the windows are not that large); a glassed-in side room (where they were holding staff training when we arrived); and outdoor seating (obviously not open, but it doesn't look appealing). We were seated in the front room, but if I had my choice, next time I would sit at the ~15 seat bar.
The net effect of these separate, relatively small seating areas was that the restaurant is significantly quieter than Osteria-Philly, which I've always felt was way too noisy for comfort anyway. So that is a BIG improvement.
IMHO, service was also improved relative to Philly. Our server was actually pleasant not Osteria-Philly snooty, although I was a little jealous of the server the table next to us had, who explained every dish in great detail (we didn't get this, unless we asked).
Started off with the Pirata Punch, which was excellent (rum and citrus, but I don't remember the ingredients), then a nice glass of red Dolcetto (given the not terribly long list, they use the same pointless iPad that we are used to in Philly).
The appetizers were all excellent:
~Wood-grilled octopus, cured lemon, potato & chives--Tender octopus, with a nice smokey flavor
~Gulf shrimp with fennel salad & citrus--My favorite, a beautifully balanced dish. You could definitely eat well just on the apps alone.
~Robiola Francobolli "Postage stamp ravioli" with royal trumpet mushrooms & thyme--as good as the same dish in Philly
~Spaghettini with lobster, basil & tomato (photo)--The plat de résistance, this is apparently a dish from Vetri back in the day. Hopefully they keep it on the menu, since I would come here just for this dish. The lobsters are cooked in the half shell in olive oil, then the meat is souped out to make the thick sauce of tomato with small chucks of meat, and then the shell serves as the base for the whole dish. As LaBan acurately described:
"My ultimate Osteria splurge, though, is the $36 lobster spaghetti, a dish so intensely infused with lobster-ness - the sauce enriched with tomalley and roe, plus a stock fortified with shells - that casual seafood pasta eaters might not love it at first. But with the tender meat from a 11/2-pounder twined up in the al dente strands, a flicker of spice, brandy, and basil lighting the sauce, it was soon impossible to resist. (Plus, it's no longer available in Philly.)"
Not an inexpensive dish, but worth the drive.
~Bomboloni (sort of a Zeppole, I think one is yeast dough and the other isn't, but I'm not clear on the details), 4 served in a bag, sugar-glazed and stuffed with vinsanto pastry cream, and almond cantucci stuck in gellato containing small pieces of biscotti--Very nice, but not as good as Zeppoli's zeppoli or Blackfish's beignets
When it comes to malls and mall food, there isn't usually much that distinguishes one mall from another. For my usual mall shopping destination, King of Prussia, it's pretty much Capital Grill vs Season's 52 vs Legal Seafood vs not much else worth eating. This changes the equation...admittedly it's a bit of a drive to Cherry Hill Mall, but the new Osteria maybe makes it worth the excursion (Cherry Hill is only a 10 minute drive away).
This isn't your average mall food.