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(DeLuca’s) Villa di Roma – Italian Market – Philadelphia, PA

(DeLuca’s) Villa di Roma – Italian Market – Philadelphia, PA

Hey everybody did you know the Pope is coming to Philly? Yep, that is right; Pope Francis is taking a trip from the Vatican to visit the “City of Brotherly Love” for the World Meeting of Families 2015 and the city has been in frenzy for months. Millions of people are descending upon my hometown and they are all going to have to eat somewhere. Even though Pope Francis is from Argentina, and maybe because I am not Catholic, I always relate the Pope to Italy first and foremost. With Italy on my mind, I decided a trip to the Italian Market was in order. The place I decided was worth a try was (DeLuca’s) Villa di Roma (VDR). VDR is old school. You know immediately not to waste your time here unless you are paying in cash. The lights were dim, the staff Italian, and a certain atmosphere that can only be described as hipishly outdated. I would start out with their clams casino.


I do not know if holy moly is the best way to describe the dish, but there was defiantly something holy about what I was served. This was hands down the BEST clams casino I have been served EVER. The generous sized clams were squirting full of juice while still intact in the shell and topped with an amazing combination of herbs, spices, and bread crumbs all cooked to perfection. They were blessed indeed. Up next would be a meatball parmigiana sandwich.


The roll appeared to have gotten a little too close to the fire pits of hell as it was burnt pretty bad, but GLORY GLORY to the gravy and meatballs inside as they were righteous and angelic. The meatballs were huge, yet moist in every bite and firm enough that they did not crumble or fall apart at all while eating. The sweet gravy poured inside was topped with just the right amount of mozzarella cheese made the sandwich exult in all of its tasteful glory.

I do not know how I will feel once Pope Francis arrives, but I can tell you that my experience at VDR was heavenly. I really enjoyed my visit and will certainly be back. AMEN!


Four out of Five Stars


Osaka Sushi Hibachi Steak House – Collingswood, NJ

Osaka Sushi Hibachi Steak House – Collingswood, NJ

When you visit Collingswood, New Jersey, the one thing they really have going for them is for the most part any combination of food you could be in the mood for that day, it is a good probability that you will be able to find it in this town. Now if they could just get a Jamaican restaurant I just might have to move to Collingswood. While strolling around the streets with my two year old son and me not being in the mood for Pop Shop even though I am sure he could never bore of that place, I decided to take a gamble and see if he could sit through an entire meal at Osaka Sushi Hibachi Steak House (OSHSH). The day we visited for lunch they were just opening up, and I figured our best bet to keep him entertained would be with the Hibachi, but was worried I would have to wait for others to arrive as I have encountered at other hibachi restaurants. The friendly staff laughed at me even saying that and loved seeing my son and me wanting to take him in the back for hibachi. I would go with the steak and shrimp hibachi.


They started things off with the usual clear soup. It was better than average and the size of the mushrooms were really nice. My son loved the ladle spoon and enjoyed his soup as well. Once we were finished with soup, the show began. The Chef asked me if I minded if he just focused and performed for my son since no one else was at our table. Since I have seen the hibachi performance more times than I care to remember, I happily agreed and thought that it was a great idea to even ask this way he could really do a good job keeping my son entertained and engaged instead of having to worry what I thought of him. Well the chef put on a show indeed and my son squealed with joy and delight throughout the entire meal preparation, and seeing the flaming onion volcano through the eyes of a child really reminded me of how much we as adults take for granted the small things in life and how hibachi really is an art form of sorts. Well the moment of truth finally arrived and it was time to eat.


OSHSH hit the mark. The shrimp were jumbo sized and cooked to perfection. The steak was medium rare as request and melted in my mouth with the accompanying sauces to dip into, and the veggies were spot on fresh and delicious as was the rice. OSHSH is huge, but the interior is modernly decorated, clean, crisp, and the service was superb. The tastes and flavors at OSHSH are what you expect from hibachi so no surprises in the meal served here. If you want a better than average hibachi experience to bring your friends and family then OSHSH is a good option, and if possible bring a child how has never been to one before and just sit back and enjoy the show.


Four out of Five Stars


Hope Lake Lodge, Conference Center, and Indoor Waterpark

Hope Lake Lodge, Conference Center, and Indoor Waterpark



Planning a family vacation can be stressful. You want to make sure the kids are happy but you also do not want to eat junk food and be a part of kiddie activities all day everyday when you are supposed to be getting that long awaited break from the daily grind yourself. While looking to have family fun and eat well,  I happened to come across Hope Lake Lodge, Conference Center, and Indoor Waterpark. Hope Lake Lodge sits at the foot of the famed Finger Lakes section of New York and it is a very serene and beautiful setting. The lodge was bustling with families, while having a very comfortable atmosphere for everyone there and I enjoyed all my meals at their on-site dining options Acorn Grill and sister restaurant Trax Pub. To top it off we all had an amazing time with all of the things to do at their  for all ages, walking the trails around the lodge, and very fun filled days at their Cascades Indoor Waterpark which is attached to the lodge. I highly recommend going there.











Official Summer of 2015 Atlantic City Report

Official Summer of 2015 Atlantic City Report


To many the Jersey Shore is the go to destination for summer vacation success. I was lucky enough to visit The Wildwoods, Brigantine, Ocean City, Cape May, and my latest stop Atlantic City all this summer. I saved my visit to AC last this way I could experience well established successful shore points before I gave this supposedly struggling city who is trying to become a family resort a try without spending one single dollar gambling.  


This much is for sure. Ocean City, Cape May, and for most intents and purposes The Wildwoods have all the facilities, businesses, feeling of safety, and the science of providing a good time down to a science. Brigantine was very enjoyable as well, but this city provides a whole different beach scene then the others with no boardwalk to highlight so I will leave them out.


Now on to Atlantic City. It has been at least a decade since I have stayed overnight in this city, let alone an entire week. Many things have changed. Some for the good, some not. First the good. Their are more high end dining destinations around town since the last time I was there. Gordon Ramsay’s Pub and Grill’s meal was fabulous and the Beef Wellington is a must paired with a few Innis and Gunn Original pints to wash it down. Landshark Bar and Grill was a joy to visit, had better food than expected and the margaritas were the perfect way to wash it all down while watching the waves. Eastwind at Resorts provided a very personable service experience with better than average Asian food with a front row seat of the boardwalk’s hustle and bustle while eating. The Irish Pub was the perfect getaway from the glitz, glamour, and neon signs for a down home hello, affordable meal, and pint served with a smile. I noticed more families than I have ever seen walking the boards and in the casinos. There seemed to be a nice shopping experience at the outlets. The Atlantic Ocean was clean and clear, and the beaches were utilized much more than in the past.




Now the bad. Family friendly dining spots, destinations, accommodations, or things to do besides the Steel Pier were almost non-existent. The boardwalk would benefit from a stronger police presence. Aggressive panhandlers and those with substance abuse issues permeated public areas leaving visitors with a sense of diminished safety. Sadly the beach was completely littered with cigarette butts. The much publicized revival of a pier now called The Playground had more empty retail and dining space than occupied. I was refused service when I asked for it at a restaurant because I sat myself, even though I stood at the entrance for ten minutes while they just looked at me. The sight of so many empty casinos and tasteless boardwalk vendors was a bummer.




You could say the negatives sound terrible, but even with Atlantic City’s flaws, the entire family had a great time, made the best of every situation, and I had one of the best times I have ever had in AC without spending one cent gambling. I think we all know more casinos is not the answer for this town. If they work hard, put their minds towards transforming into a true family tourist area, push politics to the side, and spend money wisely, I see no reason why they can not be one of the East Coast’s premier vacation destinations. In fact I’d bet on it!



2nd Annual South Jersey Bacon and Beer Fest

(The following is a special series on written by guest contributing writer William Knowles. He highlights his passions of of trying something new whenever the opportunity presents itself, or possibly something old, but new again since it has been a while. I hope you enjoy his very special perspective that I am sure many of you can relate to. Follow him on his exciting journey “Around Town”)


The Collingswood Grand Ballroom at the Scottish Rite Auditorium was the setting, on the night of August 20th, for the 2nd annual Bacon and Beer Festival.  This is an event that is held for a great cause and inspires local chefs to get creative with one of culinary’s finest offerings.

Over 15 local restaurants took part, some presenting more standard recipes while others used imagination to involve bacon in any way possible.  The Tortilla Press, located right down the road from the ballroom in Collingswood, put a twist on their normal fare with bacon flavored guacamole.  Local BBQ notable Famous Dave’s presented a barbecue burger wrapped in bacon and soaked in beer; another favorite, the Pop Shop, doled out bacon wrapped fried pickle.  The Robin’s Nest, located in Mount Holly, supplied some delicious potato, cheddar and bacon soup.  And Trattoria Figaro of Mount Laurel had an awesome desert prepared – chocolate cake with homemade buttercream and bacon on top.  Other local participants included Aunt Berta’s Kitchen, Bistro DiMarino, Braddocks Tavern, Kitchen 519 and Ott’s Tavern.

Beer, the other wonderful thing about this night’s party, was abundant with the presence of numerous local breweries.  Evil Genius, Flying Fish, Neshaminy Creek, Saucony Creek, Smuttynose, Troegs and Weyerbacher all had a nice selection of their craft suds to try.  Evil Genius previewed their Trick or Treat Chocolate Pumpkin Porter, a must try if you haven’t already…

The most important accolades for this event go to the job well done by Michael Snyder, the CEO of Crossroads Programs, and his team.  The non-profit organization frequently hosts fundraisers in Southern New Jersey to help run homeless shelters for abandoned and abused teenagers, and in turn try to provide them with a fulfilling life by finding them foster families.  The beer and bacon event is one of their biggest money makers, and I encourage you to visit their website to learn more about their fine work.

See you at the 3rd annual Bacon and Beer Festival next year, and much sooner than that “around town”…

Jalapenos Grill – Haddon Township, NJ

Jalapenos Grill – Haddon Township, NJ

I must admit that Mexican cuisine is not one of my strengths at ordering or eating something I like, so sadly I usually skip this type of food. It is odd because the seven or so odd times I have visited Mexico I have enjoyed my meals quite a bit there, but struggle finding the same at home. After enjoying a family show at The Ritz Theatre Company situated right next door to Jalapenos Grill (JG) I decided to give JG a try. The staff was extremely welcoming and warm the second we stepped foot inside JG. Language was a slight barrier, but was able to manage. Things started off with a complimentary basket of chips with dip.


JG was off to a very good start, as I enjoyed the dip and the chips were nice as well. Taking baby steps, I decided to try their pork carnitas taco, plain and on a hard shell.


Again JG shined with pork that was seasoned beautifully, moist, a generous serving, and very affordable. Feeling a bit more adventurous, my next order would be Pollo borracho drunk chicken served with rice and chipotle fries. (sorry for the blurry picture, the camera was not cooperating)


Let me start by saying the chipotle fries at first glance just seemed like run of the mill potatoes, but they were fabulous. They were cooked nice and crisp and seasoned to perfection. I always enjoy being surprised while dining. The rice was nice, but could have used a little more of a serving of it and a few more veggies possibly. The chicken sauce was very powerful. It was a mix of sweet and sour flavors with a punch of tequila in every bite. It was good, but overpowered the chicken completely. Also, the chicken was a bit on the dry side. The dish overall was good, just not grand. I enjoyed my time at JG and I will certainly be back to try more things on their menu.


Three and Half out of Five Stars


Delaware Burger Battle 2015

Delaware Burger Battle 2015:
17 Burgers Enter, No Burgers Leave (Uneaten) 
Contestants include three returning champs, three food trucks and six newcomers
(August 20, 2015—Wilmington, DE) Fire up those grills and find your stretchy pants – we’re only a few weeks away from Delaware Burger Battle 2015, the end-of-summer competition that will determine once and for all (for 2015, anyway) who has the best burger between the buns in the First State.
The Delaware Burger Battle, benefitting Ministry of Caring’s Emmanuel Dining Room, will take place on Saturday, Aug. 29, from noon to 3:30 p.m. on the grounds of the Cauffiel House, 1016 Philadelphia Pike, Wilmington.
Competitors this year include 8th and Union Kitchen, At The Rail Wine Bar & Grill, Cantwell’s Tavern, Chelsea Tavern, Crave Eatery, Deer Park Tavern, Drip Café (The Brunch Box), Ernest & Scott Taproom, Home Grown Café, I Don’t Give a Fork, Kelly’s Logan House, Maiale Deli & Salumeria, Matilda’s/Mad-Macs, Pizza by Elizabeths, Redfire Grill + Steakhouse, The Meat House and Ulysses Gastropub.
Can Redfire Grill, Deer Park Tavern and Ulysses Gastropub continue to wow the judges and win the hearts of attendees as they have in the past? Who will win the face off of the food trucks (Brunch Box vs. I Don’t Give a Fork vs. Crave)? How will newcomer At The Rail Wine Bar – a finalist in Philadelphia Magazine’s Battle of the Burger – shake things up? 
All questions will be answered, all tales will be told, and all meat will meet its maker on the last Saturday before Labor Day weekend. Restaurants at the battle will offer unlimited samples of their best burgers; a panel of expert judges will select the Critics’ Choice and Alternative Burger Winners, and guests will vote on the People’s Choice Winner.
In recent years, national media including Business Insider and have referenced the winners of the Delaware Burger Battle when discussing each state’s best burger.
Last year, the Delaware Burger Battle raised $10,000 for the Ministry of Caring’s Emmanuel Dining Room. Over three years, burger battles have raised more than $21,000 for the Ministry of Caring.
All Burger Battle attendees enjoy all-you-can-eat burger samples; beer (including Blue Moon White IPA, Yuengling Summer Wheat, Twin Lakes Pale Ale and more) and wine are included in the ticket price for adults, while soft drinks are available for children and designated drivers. Tickets are $49 through Aug. 28 and $60 at the door. Tickets for designated drivers and teens (ages 11-20) are $17, and tickets for children 10 and under are $7. The event is rain or shine.
For more information, visit or

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