Linwood, NJ is a little town outside Atlantic City, NJ with no claim to fame. It's about 4.3 square miles in size with a nice walking path and small botanical garden that you miss if you blink. So, it was a huge surprise to me to find culinary excellence.
Being a foodie, I am always looking for a cool, new dining experience, and friends suggested we try Luke Palladino's BYOB on New Road in Central Square. I had no trouble making a reservation for a Saturday evening even though I called the Monday before. Occasionally that can be one of those things that makes you go "hmmm", but truly I think it's due to being a hidden gem.
Now, I always scope a menu before I hit up a restaurant, and this one looked very exciting.
When we arrived we were seated right away. Outdoor dining was available, but unless I am in a major city, I find outdoor seating a little strange. When you are at a shopping area, you usually feel like your sitting in the parking lot. The energy in the restaurant was energetic and our waitress was quite friendly and very attentive.
Appetizers were amazing. I started with the Squash Blossoms. The zucchini flowers were stuffed with corn, ricotta and mozzarella and then lightly battered with a lemon tempura and fried. They just melted in your mouth when you took a bite. The sweetness of the corn was a wonderful compliment to the cheeses.
My next appetizer, yes I had two (well appetizers are my favorite), was Arancini. I love arancini. Crispy risotto fritters stuffed with truffled sottocenere cheese & scallions, what's not to love. You took one bite and the cheese came oozing out of the center. The risotto was excellently complimented by the savory flavors of the mild sottocenere and scallions.
My friend ordered the Tuna Carpaccio, an appetizer special for that evening.
And my husband was all over the Eggplant Tomato & Mozzarella Stack. The eggplant was perfectly fried.
On to the main course! The special entrees seemed interesting, but I went for the Chicken alla Piastra with potato croquette, balsamic onions, in a sherry jus. My chicken was perfectly cooked with robust flavors. Although I enjoyed it, there were a few too many onions on the top for me and although there was one piece of white meat and one dark, the dark meat tasted a little gamey.
My husband chose the sea bass special. He is a huge fish fan. I am not.
Nothing on the dessert menu really turned the four of us on, so we opted for nothing.
It was a great dining experience, and I look forward to going back. There was plenty on the menu I want to try. Or maybe we will hit up his other location on Passyunk Ave. in Philadelphia if I can convince my husband we will find a place to park.