At the conclusion of South Jersey Restaurant Week, Borough Beeswax checked in with Collingswood restaurateurs on the strength of their businesses during the promotion.
Lizz Tooker, who waits tables at the Tortilla Press, said that her employer “had a lot of good fall choices” for restaurant week.
“I think people choose Tortilla Press because we’re a little more upbeat, more colorful,” Tooker said. “We did a lot of harvest-y things,” including a center-cut porkloin stuffed with chorizo and apples and a pumpkin bread pudding, which was served with salmon ice cream.
Unfathomably, she said, even with all the choices on the menu, entire parties will sometimes order identical meals.
“The pork is great but all of you don’t have to get it,” she said.
Tooker said that Restaurant Week this year was “quieter” than in years past in terms of customer turnout. She blamed the economy in general, but added that the guests on whom she waited gave her lots of positive feedback about the food and the restaurant in general.
Gina D’Andrea, a server at That’s Amore, says she thought Restaurant Week brought in a lot of new customers.
“You give people an opportunity to taste what we have to offer,” D’Andrea said. The most popular dishes on the four-course, fixed-price menu were the chicken Giambatta, which is served with sausage, potatoes and artichoke hearts; the eggplant rollantini; and goat cheese bruschetta.
D’Andrea also said that the restaurant offers a daily Chef’s Table multi-course meal at $25, $35 and $50 tiers, which feature salads, hot and cold appetizers, entrees and desserts.
“It’s a good time for everybody,” she said.
At El Sitio, Carolina Cabrera confessed she had had greater expectations for the amount of business the week might bring, and wondered whether additional publicity might have driven additional traffic to Restaurant Row.
“Other times they’ve done it the impact of the publicity has been higher,” Cabrera said. She believes that the concurrent timing of the Philadelphia Restaurant Week might have cut into business in South Jersey.
Still, she said, she and her staff received “lots of positive comments” from restaurant-goers.
“I think a lot of people left happy,” she said, especially those who ordered the most popular dish on the menu, the llapingachos montados rustic steak.
To capitalize on the groundwork laid by the promoters of Restaurant Week, Cabrera says that El Sitio will continue to offer its four-course meal at the $30 per person promotional price through Nov. 4.
Likewise, Oct. 30—Nov. 4 is Nunzio Restaurant Week. Angela Patruno, the head chef’s daughter, says it is customary for her father to tag on another week of specials after Restaurant Week.
“It’s a featurette for the epicurious,” Patruno said, with highlights like the braised beef short ribs with pumpkin gnocchi in gorgonzola cream sauce.
Patruno said that even in a down economy, she didn’t note attendance as having been down from that of Restaurant Weeks of years past.
“I think it helped a lot of people come out,” she said. “It also gives a chance for local farmers to participate” in the promotion, as her father insists on using local meats and produce in his cooking exclusively.
Server Troy Reif and chef Jared Frazer at Blackbird said that having Restaurant Week “in the heart of town” instead of at the prior location of the restaurant, on Collings Avenue, drove increased business.
“On the last night, we did 140 tables between Blackbird and [the adjacent] West Side Gravy also owned by the proprietors of Blackbird, Reif said.
“I thought it was pretty successful,” he said, citing the popularity of dishes like his breaded roulade of chicken stuffed with tomato, mozzarella and broccoli rabe and served over herb risotto with basil pesto.
“I think we were pretty spot-on,” Frazer added.