Old Meets New: Nunzio’s Ristorante Rustico
706 Haddon Ave.
Nunzio’s Ristorante has become a South Jersey favorite for local diners, with most weekends requiring advance reservations. We stopped by this Mediterranean-inspired eatery back in 2008, and even then the restaurant had more than enough promise. And as restaurants have come and gone on Collingswood’s Haddon Avenue, Nunzio’s remains.
Chef and owner Nunzio Patruno’s passion has not changed since the restaurant’s inception; if anything he’s come to love the space even more. On one particular evening the chef could be found ducking in and out of his kitchen, always smiling and with an unwavering energy. He is known for stopping by tables, pulling up a chair to chat or—in my case—going so far as to walk customers to the front door. In an industry with more than its share of stress and cynicism, this overall friendliness is something that you just don’t forget.
Service remains strong, with a knowledgeable and professional staff that truly sets the scene for a successful evening. There’s more than enough assistance, with a team of servers and wait staff seemingly at the ready at any moment. But despite a full house, no table feels too crowded or overwhelming. It’s very easy to get lost in a conversation and drift through a meal without wondering when your next drink or dish will arrive.
While many parts of Nunzio’s menu remain untouched, there are a few additions that add a bright burst of flavor. Like the polipo alla Griglia con farro, or grilled Spanish octopus over farro, with sweet Roma tomatoes and arugula tossed in a lemon and olive oil dressing. It was an eye-opening appetizer that incorporated the sweet and sour elements of fresh lemon juice so seamlessly. Nothing on the plate was too overpowering, it was a collection of flavors that truly complemented each other.
The thinly sliced beef carpaccio featured lovely additions of bright lemon juice, arugula and crispy fried long hots, which added spice and heat at just the right moments. The dish would have sufficed even without the drizzles of white truffle oil. Gamberoni araganati alla Siciliana’s jumbo shrimp were marinated in olive oil and garlic, then broiled with breadcrumbs. The breadcrumbs added a lovely crunch, and the flavors were so simple and straightforward.
Some classic preparations are are perfectly undeniable. Take Nunzio’s pappardelle al sugo di coniglio—or rabbit pappardelle. The chef stays close to tradition, hand-making the ribbons of pasta before tossing them in a braised rabbit ragu that could have come straight from the kitchen of any Italian grandmother. The rich tomato paired so nicely with the soft rabbit meat, it was the perfect dish to warm a winter evening.
Nunzio’s has earned its rightful place in the South Jersey dining scene and remains worthy of the 4 forks we awarded the restaurant years back. And while food trends may come and go, this South Jersey mainstay seems to have figured out the formula to keep all sorts of diners coming back.
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 12 (March, 2015).
For more info on South Jersey Magazine, click here.
To subscribe to South Jersey Magazine, click here.
To advertise in South Jersey Magazine, click here.