Nunzio Ristorante Rustico, Collingswood, NJ
Meal: Weeknight / Dinner / 8 People / 7pm
Price: $365 (20% Gratuity Automatically Included)
It’s been a few months since I’ve been to Collingswood, but it’s sure a nice area. Plenty of walking room, trees, and great places to eat. I was part of a very large group looking for some ‘gourmet’ on a weeknight, so we decided on Nunzio’s right on the well-traveled Haddon Ave. It’s still easy to miss, and, with all Collingswood downtown restaurants, parking is usually metered and rather a pain. We recommend you try the public lots or maybe sneak into one of the bank parking lots (as long as the bank is closed) and get some exercise. To preface the kind of group we had, it consisted of two teachers, a programmer, a writer, a college student, a firefighter, a network administrator, and a network technician – clearly a very diverse group.
The interior of Nunzio’s is an Italian-terrace feel with hanging baskets, mock windows, and ornate wall features. It’s pretty, but by no means large. Our group of eight was more or less ‘sheep herded’ in the corner and if one of us needed to move, it was likely another of us had to get up to provide the room. There were maybe a dozen tables in the building, and as-arrived the restaurant was near capacity. I thought that if I were slightly more claustrophobic I would have been really uncomfortable. Thankfully no one in our group was.
We started with the calamari, sushi, and scallops. Of the three, the scallops were superior and perfectly tender. We liked the lightly-breaded calamari, but one in our group commented that they thought it was slightly on the salty side, which upon (repeated) sampling could indeed be confirmed. The sushi was sliced deli-thin, which made it really hard to actually enjoy. I love sushi, but I wouldn’t order that appetizer again personally. The gorgonzola salad was tasty, with a light, flavorful dressing, small blocks of gorgonzola, walnuts, and field greens. If you want alcohol, you’ll have to bring your own. The in-house bread was kinda lousy, and a retail-italian place like Carrabba’s blows them out of the water in this category. Yes, we did say w-a-t-e-r.
After the appetizers, we got to experience just how much the service was lagging. We waited nearly an hour, yes, an hour, before getting refills on our water. We watched the wait staff refill other waters and service other tables, but we were strangely the red-headed stepchildren in the room. It got so silly that some of the group started raising their glasses and speaking very loudly to get the attention of our waiter. This issue was the single-most damaging to the restaurant score by far.
Our server was a bit of a wise guy who didn’t fit the atmosphere of the restaurant. Although we were a pretty laid back group, he tried a little too hard to be funny and, for me, came off a bit obnoxious. More on that later. Overall, the service was inefficient, and for a price tag in the vicinity of $400, we expected a whole lot more. With the service dragging it down, our scores became reliant on the main entrees. We tried the sushi-grade tuna, whole bass, gnocci, salmon, chicken cutlet, some pasta dishes, and a veal parm. Overall, everything was good, but there were certainly disappointments.
The sushi-grade tuna, ordered rare, was complained to have been overcooked. The gnocci was regarded to be mediocre, and many of us agreed that the accompanying potato wedges to many of our meals were too raw. The other pasta dishes had mixed results. Scoring better points were the whole white bass ($32), delivered whole and filleted table-side, the salmon topped with crab meat ($30), and the chicken cutlet ($19). Nothing was so amazing to justify the price, and the chicken cutlet seemed the most offensive from an economic standpoint.
As a side note, when the waiter was filleting the bass table side, there was a table discussion going on about the ‘humanity’ of veal. Essentially, one of the group believed industry practices to be cruel and another believed the claims to be blown out of proportion. The waiter took it upon himself to interject an opinion, however, that veal was ‘still food and it’s still good’. Regardless of your personal opinions and preferences regarding what you eat, it was probably in poor taste to make such a statement to a guest that may believe deeply against something within a conversation that was clearly not directed, or intended for comment from, the waiter.
After dinner, we decided to hemorrhage the checking account a little further and get dessert. Everything was $8, and we tried the tiramisu, cream puff, mixed berries with cream, and canoli. In order, the tiramisu was a good cake in itself, but a disappointing tiramisu. It had virtually no coffee flavor whatsoever (certainly not ‘soaked’), and far too much chocolate powder on top. The cream puff was good, larger than expected, with fresh berries. The mixed berries and cream and canoli were enjoyed without specific comments to share, but they sure looked good!
The auto-gratuity was a minor inconvenience as I’m not sure we’d have given a full 20% for the lack of service we received. Still, it’s near standard practice and I understand their reasons for doing so. It’s accurate to say Nunzio underperformed for its price class, and there’s an awful lot of good competition in the Italian category to probably keep us from coming back. Perhaps a dinner for two would be more fitting, because they seem to dislike any larger group.
Our group was polled for scores, and they were as follows: 2.5, 2.75, 2.75, 3.0, 3.0, 3.0, 3,0, 4.5..
– Pretty interior
– Good appetizers
– Good fresh fish entrees
– Good desserts
– Some of the worst service speeds we’ve ever encountered
– Two sushi orders (appetizer & entree) with poor results
– Cramped space not friendly to groups
– Unlikely availability of close parking
– Some entrees really overpriced ($19 small chicken cutlet)
Combined Group Score: 3.06 Chews
Subjective rating: Decent enough score, but disappointing for the price.
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