This past spring, I heard that Joey Baldino would be opening an Italian Restaurant in Collingswood, NJ. Joey Baldino has worked for top chefs such as Marc Vetri (possibly my favorite chef), Georges Perrier, Michael Solomonov, and Jose Garces. All summer I was really anticipating the opening of his restaurant. About two weeks ago his Sicilian BYOB, Zeppoli, opened! On their website they describe Zeppoli as:
… a small romantic and very intimate 35 seat BYOB located in Collingswood NJ. Our Restaurant serves Classic yet very simple, Italian cuisine with a strong focus on Sicilian. Combining New and Old World traditions, you can choose from Antipasti, homemade/imported pastas, grilled or roasted meats, and fish, as well as house made desserts and Gelati.
I was supposed to go the first weekend Zeppoli was open with Todd and his parents, but unfortunately I got trapped at my house, remember? Fortunately I was trapped with a batch of the best brownies ever, but I still missed out on an amazing dinner with Todd’s family at Zeppoli. Todd is awesome though and took me back later that week so that I could get to experience Zeppoli for myself! Todd and his parents raved about it so I had pretty high expectations.
Zeppoli is a very laid back, casual restaurant with simple, yet unique food. Bring along a bottle of wine or two (or three) and expect to sit down to a very delicious and authentic Italian meal. Once again, just like Marc Vetri’s restaurants, the pasta was my favorite part of the meal (along with dessert of course). Don’t get me wrong, everything else was fantastic as well, but there is just something so special about the pastas.
Shortly after Todd and I sat down and drank some wine, we were brought over the bread basket which was filled with fresh Focaccia and Semolina Bread, along with a little bowl of olives in olive oil. The bread was fantastic…especially the Focaccia.
For our first course, Todd ordered the Finocchi Salsiccia, Housemade fennel sausage served with broccoli rabe. Both Todd and his Dad have been talking about this sausage ever since they first had it, so Todd knew that the sausage was something he was definitely going to be ordering again.
Although a number of items on the menu caught my eye, I decided on the Gamberetti e Fagioli, Whole shrimp sauteed with garlic, parsley, lemon and chili served over cannellini beans. The shrimp were a great size and were flavored perfectly. They matched up so well with the cannellini beans.
In between our first courses and our entrees, we ordered two half orders of two different pastas. I love that you have the option to order a half or full portion of each of the pastas. Having this option allows you to try more of the offerings on the menu without ordering a ton of food.
The first pasta we ordered was the Gnocchi alla’ Argentiera, Spinach and ricotta gnocchi topped with Sicilian caciocavallo. There is no way that I could go to Zeppoli without ordering this dish. These gnocchi were by far, without a doubt, some of the best gnocchi that I have ever had. They definitely rivaled Vetri’s Spinach Gnocchi with Brown Butter. Absolute perfection.
The second pasta we ordered, which was another favorite of mine, was the Pesto Trapanese, Sicilian style fusilli pasta with almond-pistachio pesto from the town of Trapani. This was incredible! Although it sounded good on the menu, I was absolutely blown away by how good it actually was. The half order of this pasta was only $9. Yes, you can enjoy some of the best pasta for just $9.
For our entrees, Todd ordered the Fisherman Stew, Mixed Mediterranean seafood stew with saffron and Moroccan couscous. He loved this dish and thought it was simple, yet flavorful and amazing.
I ordered the Pesce Spada alla Griglia Marinated and grilled swordfish served with lemon, olive oil, fennel & orange. This swordfish was grilled perfectly and was absolutely delicious.
For dessert, Todd ordered the Nougat Gelato. He had ordered this the last time he visited Zeppoli and was bragging to me about how good it was. I didn’t believe him until I tasted it for myself. First, let me start by saying that I dislike nougat. My Dad is absolutely obsessed with nougat and his favorite place to get it is in the Italian section of New York City where they cut you a piece right on the spot and it is hard as a rock! Despite my dislike for nougat, I decided to give the Nougat Gelato a try and I found that I loved it. Yes, I did not just like it. I loved it. I couldn’t keep my spoon out of Todd’s bowl. There are bits and pieces of nougat throughout the gelato which gives a nice flavor and crunch to the gelato. I could only imagine how much my Dad would like this…I can’t wait to take him here!
I decided to take a little bit of a risk and I ordered the Biancomangiare. Not only did I have no idea how to pronounce that dessert, I also had no idea what it was. After talking to the server, who also had some difficulty pronouncing the name of the dessert, I found out that it was a dessert very similar to Panna Cotta. He said it was made with almond milk and was topped with a caramel. I decided to give it a shot since it sounded like something that I would like. I ended up being very, very happy with my decision which was great because I was able to keep my spoon on my plate instead of in Todd’s bowl.
Zeppoli was definitely a fun and delicious restaurant to dine at. The prices are extremely reasonable, especially considering the quality of food that you are getting. Although I live in Philadelphia now, I would come to New Jersey just to dine at Zeppoli…in fact, I did! That certainly says something about how great Zeppoli truly is. I cannot wait to dine at Zeppoli again. I really would like to take my parents and sisters there so they can share my love for Zeppoli!