Guest Bite by Robin Shreeves.
Last Friday night, my husband Brian and I dined at Tutti Toscani in Cherry Hill. The restaurant had been recommended earlier that day by a friend when I told her that I was hoping to find a place with outdoor dining where we could get good food, sit, relax and talk for a while. She recommended Tutti Toscani, a BYO owned by Lamberti’s. I had never been there before. I made reservations and requested an outdoor table, ran to the liquor store and picked up some Sangiovese, and looked forward to actually talking to my husband for a few uninterrupted hours.
We loved this restaurant. I didn’t know it when I made the reservations but they have gardens surrounding the patio where food is grown to be used in their delicious Italian dishes. They are growing tomatoes, basil, figs (mid-July), Italian parsley, thyme, rosemary, 2 variations of peppers (banana and habanero), beets and they will be planting spinach this week. This is a restaurant that is in a strip mall, but they are using what garden space they have for edible plants so they can have some fresh veggies and herbs for their restaurant. Love it. This is the third year they’ve been doing this.
And, when they have extra, they give it to their guests to take home. Brilliant.
They also source some of their produce from local farmers like arugula from Giuseppe and butter lettuce and what other items may be in abundance from Inga both small farmers in Cherry Hill.
If their commitment to local food isn’t enough to get you thinking about stopping by this Italian restaurant in an area that is fairly saturated with Italian restaurants, then let me add this. The food is delicious. Brian’s mussels in red sauce were the best he’s ever had, and it’s one of his favorite dishes to order in a restaurant. I’m not crazy about mussels, but he made me try one, and it was good. His plate was clean when it was taken away because he couldn’t help but sop up the remaining sauce with bread. I had a roasted red pepper and provolone appetizer that was yummy (and so large that I took half of it home and happily ate it the next night with dinner). Brian had a pasta dish loaded with seafood that he enjoyed, and I chose lobster ravioli for my main course in a delicious pink sauce.
I can’t tell you about their desserts because in addition to our appetizers and our meals, there was good bread to dip in olive oil and Anna Maria, who I believe manages the restaurant, brought us some flat bread pizza type dish that she was having the customers try that night. There was no room for dessert. Our waiter was friendly and very patient with us when we explained that we were in no hurry.
The outside patio, as you can see from the pictures, is secluded from the parking lot of the strip mall. I must admit that when I first walked out onto the patio and saw the plastic chairs and tables I was concerned they wouldn’t be comfortable, but they were fine. In fact after a minute I forgot all about it.
Brian and I will certainly be back to Tutti Toscani on another one of our date nights, but it’s also a place we’d be happy to take our boys. They have a kids menu and a brick oven pizza menu so there would be plenty of choices for them.
Tutti Toscani is located at 1491 Brace Road (in the former ShopRite Shopping Center) in Cherry Hill. 856-354-1157.
Images provided by Tutti Toscani
Robin Shreeves a life long Jersey Girl and a freelance writer who specializes in the green living and food pieces. She’s the founder of South Jersey Locavore, a round-up of local food sources in the region. She’s also the eco-friendly food blogger at Mother Nature Network.