Those who have frequented Collingswood have no doubt stumbled upon .
Its tiny corner location right off Haddon Ave is just one of the endless Italian eateries that flood the Collingswood dining scene, offering informal,
home-style Italian cooking.
Kitchen Consigliere Café—it’s a quaint name, isn’t it? The word “consigliere”,
Italian for “counselor,” is a title usually designated to the high-ranking mafia official who sits as an adviser to the boss. There’s a reason for the designation.
Angelo Lutz, the head chef and overall brains behind the Kitchen Consigliere, has something of a criminal past, and he isn’t shying away from it. The South Philadelphia native was convicted in 2001 of gambling and extortion, and received a sentence of nearly nine years, of which he served more than seven.
Since his release, Lutz has been pursuing his real passion: cooking (he
was dubbed “the Kitchen Consigliere” by Fox 29 reporter Jen Frederick during his 2001 trial). He began an online cooking show in 2009 that he eventually parlayed into his Collingswood restaurant.
By his own admission, Lutz isn’t trying to do anything fancy. The menu advertises “peasant dishes” and describes the place as a “not over-the-top eatery for the entire family." You could say it sits firmly on the casual side of the divide that separates Italian restaurants in Collingswood.
This isn’t to say modesty is a weakness. On the contrary, much of what I
liked about Kitchen Consigliere Café was the strength in simplicity that comes across on the plate.
Ordering a pasta dish couldn’t be any easier. Choose a pasta, choose a sauce,
bada bing, bada boom. The real test would lie in the execution, which was performed quite nicely. The pasta was cooked perfectly, and while I thoroughly enjoyed the pesto and marinara sauces, the meaty Bolognese was what will bring me back.
Unfortunately, Kitchen Consigliere Café doesn’t open until dinner service during
the summer, which means I won’t be able to have one of their delectable-looking paninis for lunch for a few more weeks.
My first time eating there, I erroneously sauntered in on a Wednesday night
without a reservation because I figured, how busy could they be on a week night in the middle of July?
It was a mistake I won’t make again; I was lucky to get a table. The restaurant was packed, wall-to-wall, a testament to both the quality of the food served at Kitchen Consigliere Café as well as the friendly atmosphere provided by employees.
Customers who arrived during my visit all seemed to be regulars, judging by the genuine enthusiasm emanating from the wait staff. Everyone was greeted on a first-name basis. That’s pretty cool.
It shouldn’t take long for newbies to become regulars, either. Mr. Lutz has a
reputation for spending service hours drifting table to table, happily speaking with all of his guests, ensuring they’re satisfied. Kitchen Consigliere Café is the kind of place you go for the atmosphere as much as the food.
- Collingswood has been absolutely killing it with accolades lately. Inside Jersey magazine named Collingswood one of the best dining towns in New Jersey (in case you didn’t know how good you had it).
- South Jersey Magazine named five Collingswood restaurants Best of the Best 2012, including as “Best New Kid On The Block”. If you haven’t eaten at Zeppoli, make it a priority. If you’re not satisfied, I’ll pick up your check.
- The other three restaurants honored by South Jersey Magazineare for its tasting menu, Little Louie's for its barbecue, and for its cooking classes. Fantastic restaurants, all.
- NJ Monthly editors love and , which, duh. If you haven’t been to either, shame on you. Philly Mag also loves Zeppoli and Sapori.
- Follow me on twitter @davevaliante. I’ll make it worth your while.