Last November, Chef Michael DeLone, a Manayunk resident, stepped into very big shoes at Nunzio’s Ristorante Rustico in Collingswood. The former sous chef of the legendary South Jersey Italian restaurant took over full ownership from former owner Nunzio Patruno, who owned and operated Nunzio’s for 18 years.
Nunzio by Chef Michael DeLone features a new menu of classic Italian favorites and sophisticated modern dishes with a particular spotlight on seafood. As Executive Chef, he not only leads and manages the kitchen, he’s hands-on and works the line daily.
The restaurant offers a la carte dining with weekly specials and a choice of two Chef’s tastings (5 courses for $65 and 7 courses for $85). There’s also a Chef’s table in the kitchen.
We were excited to accept an invitation to experience this legendary restaurant and sample the food by such an accomplished chef. We’ve been to most of the Italian restaurants in Collingswood, so having an opportunity to dine at the reimagined Nunzio’s was thrilling.
We arrived just as the restaurant opened and were greeted by the hostess and seated at a pressed white-linen-covered table, with all the fine dining accouterments, located towards the front of the restaurant by the big picture window, which still bears Nunzio’s name. Later, Chef Michael told us that the restaurant’s name would eventually change, but not what that name would be. Stay tuned for an announcement at a future date.
Our server Mustafa greeted us quickly and immediately made us feel welcome. He promptly provided us with the menus, including that week’s specials. He explained them in detail, making us feel like we were embarking on a culinary journey. He also took our drink orders. We selected sparkling water and iced teas. While the restaurant is BYOB, we chose not to bring our own during this visit. But a great bottle of red would have gone perfectly with our meal.
We spent some time perusing each detailed menu and were quite impressed with the offerings, which boasted several different “antipasti” (starters), housemade pasta, the “secondi” (entrees), and sides. It was hard to choose because everything sounded equally delicious. We would have been happy with anything we decided on the menu.
For the table, we received a lovely housemade bread with a divine zesty tomato-based dipping oil. It was spectacular and I would have purchased a jar of it, if I could! The picture I took doesn’t do it any justice.
We started with the Cucumber and Fried Basil Gazpacho that stood out on the evening’s special menu. We asked if we could share it. Mustafa was happy to oblige our request. This cool, light soup was a perfect start on a hot evening.
In addition, we ordered the Beef Carpaccio for our antipasti because it had been some time since we had this classic Italian appetizer. DeLone’s version blew away all others we had in recent memory. The dish of supple paper-thin raw beef topped with red onions, capers, arugula, and shaved Parmigiano, with a twist of lemon, was spectacular, and such a delicate balance of flavors all complimented each other.
Next, we indulged in a shared plate of an eye-popping Pork Shoulder Pappardelle. Chef DeLone’s housemade pasta was undoubtedly some of the best I have had in recent memory. These broad, flat noodles are one of my favorite fresh pastas, so it’s something I typically order when I encounter it on a menu. The slow-cooked, well-seasoned pork was exquisite and flavorsome, which melted in the mouth. The broccoli rabe was a great addition as it balanced the richness of the pork and saltiness of the prosciutto with some slight bitterness.
Mustafa promptly removed our antipasti dishes and replaced them with a fresh set of utensils, and we were ready for the main course. I chose the Duck Breast with Risotto, and he selected the Strip Steak with Potato Hash & Barolo Sauce. The steak, cooked immaculately to a medium-rare, was superb. The addition of gorgonzola with the red wine sauce was rich, yet balanced. I later learned that Chef DeLone is a big duck fan, so it was one of his specialties, and he nailed the medium cook on it, much to my total satisfaction. So tender and perfectly paired with the risotto. Both mains were showstoppers and come highly recommended by us!
We ended this already decadent meal with even more decadence; the Chocolate Torte and Salted Caramel Budino were the perfect sweet ending! I could’ve eaten a vat of that budino!
We thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience at Nunzio by Chef Michael DeLone and enjoyed Mustafa’s sophisticated service. He knowledgeably explained the preparations and ingredients. He has worked there for many years, and that expertise shows—his attentive and friendly service made for a consummate dining experience. Of course, everybody who took care of us that evening, were hospitality professionals of the highest degree. It’s always a joy when everything from food to service comes together and they didn’t skip a beat!
Nunzio by Chef Michael DeLone, must be on your list of restaurants to visit in Collingswood. Chef DeLone has successfully put his mark on the iconic restaurant and elevated the fine dining scene in Collingwood to a refreshing new level. More changes are coming. It will be exciting to see what else he has in store!
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