Luke Palladino Seasonal Italian Cooking
1333 New Rd. (Route 9), Plaza 9 Shopping Center, Northfield; 609-646-8189, www.lukepalladino.com.
Former Borgata star Luke Palladino took a brilliant gamble last summer when he traded in the high-volume glitz of casino dining for a 30-seat BYOB at a mainland strip mall. The uniquely intimate space, engaging service, and inventive Italian fare quickly became one of South Jersey's most compelling dining draws. One can only hope it remains this special once Palladino tries his casino luck again this summer, with the addition of a large new venture at Harrah's.
Truffled grissini; sweet and sour squash "agrodolce"; foie gras sformato; calamari; fried cauliflower; arancini; mushroom taleggio crespelle; sausage polenta; Umbrian bean soup; gnocchi; bucatini alla gricia; spaghetti alla chitarra Bolognese; "Marubini" ravioli; Sicilian mixed grill; whole fish "acquapazza"; flat-iron "braciole"; duck "saltimbocca"; bistecca alla Fiorentina; anise panna cotta; affogato.
BYOB. Think Italian and consider a splurge - a Brunello di Montalcino is ideal for the bistecca alla Fiorentina and garlicky braciole; for seafood, try a Fiano di Avellino from Campania.
IF YOU GO
Lunch Monday through Friday for take-out, delivery, and catering only, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Dinner Tuesday through Sunday, 5-10 p.m. Closed Mondays (until Memorial Day, when open nightly for summer.)
Free parking lot.