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Standing the Test of Time

by Nancy Donovan; Photography by Alison Dunlap

Caffe Aldo Lamberti
2011 Route 70 W. | Cherry Hill
(856) 663-1747

Caffe Aldo Lamberti has become a bit of a South Jersey dining institution. With 25 years in business, Lamberti has managed to craft a restaurant—and restaurant empire, for that matter—that has become highly embraced in the area.

The restaurant—from the front face of the building to the dining rooms and décor—has an upscale, modern vibe to it that’s both elegant and inviting without being too over the top or cliché. And with a menu that is fresh and innovative while still paying homage to traditional Mediterranean flavors, it’s easy to see why this place still buzzes.

One of the first options to hit the menu is a selection of carpaccios, ranging from seafood varieties to top cuts of beef. Spanish octopus carpaccio featured paper thin slices of tender octopus meat drizzled with olive oil and lemon on a bed of peppery arugula. The delicate pieces of octopus burst with flavor with a touch of the complex Aldo Lamberti olive oil, imported and bottled as one of the restaurant’s many specialty ingredients.

A starter of herb-crusted artichoke took the fresh heart—at the peak of artichoke season, no less—battered and fried it in a crispy breading. The whole artichoke heart was then plated on a creamy serving of rich spinach béchamel sauce that was brightened up by a squeeze of fresh lemon juice that tied everything in together quite nicely.

Diners can choose from a selection of pastas as an entrée, or can have them made as a smaller serving for a second course. Either way, they are not to be passed by, especially the pennon alla Nonna—house-made miniature penne sautéed with crumbled pork sausage, diced onion, spinach and potato and tossed in a creamy garlic sauce. The whole plate was topped with smoked mozzarella and was decadent enough to stand alone as a hearty main course, but was the perfect mid-meal indulgence, thanks to the salty pork and melted cheese.

The rack of lamb came crusted in a blend of Kona coffee and cinnamon, grilled to medium rare and served with sautéed broccoli rabe and roasted potatoes. The spice blend on the outside created the most unique, roasted flavor that had a light hint of chocolatey flavors, forming a lamb dish that was memorable for all the right reasons. The rich seasoning brought out the light gaminess of the lamb, and well prepared but modest sides helped the protein stand alone as the star of the plate.

Meanwhile, pan-seared Chilean sea bass came topped with a citrus wine sauce and caramelized leeks alongside spinach and potatoes for a more harmonious plate that could be combined or eaten individually. The white fish was flaky and was the perfect canvas for a variety of subtle flavors, like the leek, which added a whole new taste without overpowering the lemony sauce.

The evening ended with a selection of chef-made desserts, including a Frangelico cake with rich chocolate cake layered between mousse that has been flavored with Frangelico hazelnut liqueur. Hazelnut and chocolate are two flavors that are meant to be combined, but this cake took things to the next level with its light and fluffy consistency.

Between an elegant, upscale and modern space and a unique and artisanal menu sits Caffe Aldo Lamberti’s commitment to quality. It shines in everything that gets brought into the restaurant, and everything that comes out of the chef’s kitchen. We’re not sure what the next quarter of a century will bring, but the future certainly looks promising.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 1 (April, 2016).
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