Luke Palladino Seasonal Italian Cooking

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"Marubini" ravioli, center, crimped into shapes of bottle caps and postage stamps with brass presses from Italy, are filled with a ragu of braised flat-iron beef and leg of lamb, with shaved truffled Moliterno cheese. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)

Luke Palladino is back in casinoland with a large space in Harrah's, but thankfully, he has also kept this intimate 30-seat BYO on the mainland as his jewel, where his truffled grissini, fried cauliflower, and hand-stamped ravioli remain one of South Jersey's most compelling dining draws.

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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.

MENU HIGHLIGHTS

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.

DRINKS

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.)

Reservations recommended.

Free parking lot.

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