Sapori Trattoria Italiana
601 Haddon Avenue
856-858-2288 (reservations recommended)
A few weeks ago, I was talking restaurants with my boss, Roseann, and both she and Carmella began raving about Sapori Trattoria in Collingswood. Jim and I go through Collingswood often, and on Haddon Avenue, we’ve eaten at quite a few places – including PJ Whelihan’s, the Pop Shop, and Casona. In all of our trips through town, I don’t think either of us had ever noticed Sapori, which was a terrible shame! We’ve been missing out on some of the best Italian food in the over populated with Italian restaurants South Jersey.
The first thing you notice about Sapori is the heavy, castle-like front door. You almost wonder if you have to have a secret code to gain admittance, but once you open the door and step inside, it’s so warm and intimate, with beautiful walls and floors, and such soothing, calming colors. You want to stay here, in this cozy place, and laugh and enjoy your dining companions!
We were greeted by Nick, our waiter. He seated us, and before the cheeks could hit the seat, someone was there with bread and two flavors of dipping sauce. I was afraid to eat too much bread, but Jim broke off a small piece with a bit of the beet sauce on it, and it was really tasty. The other sauce had eggplant in it, and I took a little taste of that on my finger – also very good!
The menu is overwhelming – if you can’t find something to eat from what they have on the lengthy two page menu, you’re not hungry. But if that wasn’t enough, Nick came over to the table and rattled off a list of specials that was longer than the complete menu in some retaurants we’ve tried. I don’t know how he remembered it all – because to be honest, we barely remembered it all as he was reciting the list! And if your brain feels fried after browsing the considerable number of selections, turn to the back of the menu. There is a list of FAQs so entertaining, you would think I wrote them 😉
We started with two appetizers from the evening’s specials, and within just a few minutes, we were presented with a beautiful plate of grilled sardines, on top of a bed of frisee lettuce, fresh plum tomatoes, and a delicious dressing. I have never had sardines before, except out of a tin, and I have to tell you, when they are not smothered in some oily, slimey, nasty ass sauce, they are out of this world delicious! I could have eaten two orders of these and called it a night.
The second appetzier was the sauteed cuttlefish. As with many dishes featuring this type of seafood (calamari or octopus), it was a little bit on the chewy side, but the flavors were so delicious, that I opted to eat a few pieces anyway. This dish had fresh tomatoes, capers, and the cuttlefish, and was absolutely bursting with flavor.
We decided to pass on a pasta course, although they will serve their pasta dishes here as an appetizer sized portion, and that almost convinced me to try one. There are so many options on the menu, you will surely find something you can’t pass up. But we moved on to the entrees. We selected one from the specials menu – a braised pork shank – based on Nick’s recommendation. The other was veal scaloppine – sauteed filet of veal with mushrooms, figs, and shallots. The veal was served with roasted potatoes and roasted beets; and the pork was served with greens and beets – although we requested beets on the veal dish because Jim loves them.
The veal was tender, with dices of fig and slices of mushroom. The gravy was all comfort food – smooth, flavorful, delicious. The braised pork was fall off the bone delectable. My mouth is watering just typing about it! It was tender, it was moist, it was seasoned perfectly, and it very nearly made me forget the to die for Cuban pork I miss from South Florida.
We were both stuffed so full, we could barely move, and had leftovers to take home. But when Nick came out with a list of desserts – even though I can’t technically have dessert – I wanted to just try something. We selected a sheep’s milk cannoli, and it arrived accompanied by two shots of Limoncello, fresh whipped cream, a strawberry, and candied orange peel. It was, of course, delicious. And the cup of tea I ordered was a big, steaming hot cup that just hit the spot.
I cannot believe we have wasted so much time going to Italian-American restaurants when there was a REAL Italian restaurant so close. Don’t go hoping to find lasagna, stuffed shells, and chicken parm. You’ll be disappointed to find out that if your grandmother was really from Sicily, she would never make those kinds of foods. What you will find is fresh, flavorful, authentic Italian food – the kind you would hope to find in a real Italian home, where the produce in season is what’s on your plate, and seafood so fresh, you know it came right from the boat to the kitchen.
Sapori is our new favorite Italian restaurant. I just have to keep coming up with excuses to go back again and again.