Speranza – Westville, NJ
Westville, New Jersey does not seem like an obvious location to open an semi-upscale Italian themed restaurant, but the Finney Restaurant Group who run eateries Gia Nina’s and Woodbury Station Café have to believe the saying from the movie Field of Dreams with Kevin Costner, “If you build it they will come”. Speranza in Italian means hope, and I know that not only is the town of Westville hoping for this to be the building block to finally have their much neglected and failed retail stretch of downtown finally thrive, but former Executive Chef of the now shuttered Red Square of Tropicana Casino; David Strano is hoping that the great reviews he received while chef there continue their trend here. During Red Square’s tenure open in Atlantic City as Atlantic City Insiders point out in their article (CLICK HERE TO READ) Executive Chef David Strano opened and closed its doors while being the only restaurant in Atlantic City to receive four stars by The Press of Atlantic City the entire time Red Square was in operation.
Speranza occupies the space formerly held by seafood restaurant Sea Haag. Sea Haag, who had service so slow and bad; I think two people could step inside the restaurant, either person could leave, drive down the shore, catch their own crabs, drive back home, cook and eat all the crabs they caught, head back to Sea Haags, and the other person would still being waiting for anyone there to even acknowledge they wanted to eat there. Well not only has Speranza done a complete 360 in terms of the ambiance and appearance, the moment you step foot inside (the gelato bar looks amazing and I want to try all the flavors), they also had some the most accommodating and gracious individuals working there.
The food is also something people hailing from the small towns surrounding Westville will be surprised by. No longer will they need to make a plan for a night out in the city of Philadelphia and be bent over backward by the evil parking authority that hands out tickets like lollipops making your night out meal even more expensive than it needed to be, hang with the hipster types that are confused and wondering which social injustice they want to stand for today in Collingswood’s restaurant row, or pretend to fit in with the highfalutin types that make you want to gag in your mouth around Haddonfield. You can just head to Westville, be yourself, and enjoy a night out. Everything was of the utmost quality, with prices that would be double in the towns I just made fun of.
The Bianco wood-fired pizza was perfect in each way. Not too overdone, nice and crisp, with flavors that were appeasing in each bite. The Cioppino was amazing, with fresh shrimp, crab, mussels, clams, herbs, and a broth that was made to have its garlic bread soak in it and then shove it in your mouth with all of its soggy glory. YUMMY! The only blip on my radar was the shrimp and crab risotto. The flavor was slightly too minimal for the profile I was searching for, especially with gulf shrimp listed in it, I would have liked to seen them cooked whole to enjoy instead of just being mashed inside the risotto drowning out their flavor. (FYI – the dishes were taken out due to unforeseen circumstances so please do not think this is what your plate would look like if you ate there)
Speranza has nothing but great things on its horizon if they continue the trend of quality dishes and friendly service. The only question is can they convince other people to stop in a town almost no one has ever heard of with nothing else surrounding them to make it a true night out expect maybe a hop over the famed roast beef hot spot Schilleens Pub for a night-cap. Only time will tell, but what I can tell you is that providing that the infamous Brooklawn Circle is not flooded, I will be making my way back to Speranza to check them out again.