Andrea Trattoria – Millville, NJ
On a beautiful Saturday evening that kicked off the month of April, a crew of eight hungry showgoers and performers land in Millville, NJ with plenty of time to spare before showtime at The Levoy Theater. The downtown area has quite a few dining choices, but we descend upon Andrea Trattoria (AT) as our choice for the night.
AT is run by Andrea Covino who originates from Naples, Italy and spent a little time in my hometown Philadelphia, PA cooking at Girasole as well as their Atlantic City location. He operated another AT that was in Newfield that unfortunately is no longer in business, but he still runs AT2 in Sea Isle City. With this being said, Andrea is no stranger to the restaurant business. The question I have, is can he create another successful restaurant and rise to the top of the up and coming Millville theater district dining scene?
If stepping inside AT Saturday night was any indication of measuring success, then AT has hit it right where it counts, with butts filling all available seats. The restaurant was filled to capacity, with staff zipping around the room taking orders, filling glasses, bringing out ice buckets, quickly cleaning up when one table was done and immediately seating other patrons who were waiting at the door to be next.
Now crowds do not automatically equate to receiving great food, as fast food locations prove this theory easily. So could AT provide quality food in mass quantity? The quick answer is yes. AT started the experience off with homemade breads that were so delicious, two bowls of the stuff were dismantled so quickly I did not even have a chance to take a photo of either bowl.
After placing my order, a short while later, my two appetizers appeared. First to arrive was the Gambrei Con Fagioli, with sautéed shrimp, grape tomatoes, arugula and cannellini beans followed by my order of Antipasto. I will talk about the antipasto first as it was fabulous on every level, being fresh, tasty, with quite a nice variety, and I highly recommended it. The same can almost be said about the shrimp as the flavor profile was there, but the shrimp were slightly overcooked, and the plating was horrendous looking with the dish swimming in juice. Two very easily fixed problems, and problems that can easily occur dealing with crowds as large as they had that night, so hopefully they will take note on future orders of the Gambrei Con Fagioli.
After enjoying the appetizers my main course appeared. I ordered farm-raised bass presented over a delectable puree, mashed potatoes, and fresh vegetables Again AT hit the spots that really count, as the veggies were crisp with a taste that would make a vegetarian weep in joy. The potatoes were creamy and fluffy, and the puree simply was out of this world. Again, the meal was great, except the bass was slightly overcooked. It was not so overdone that it was too noticeable, but I could not peel the skin off the fish to enjoy like a properly cooked fish dish should provide. With a slight more precision, AT could have knocked it out of the park, but hit a slight bump in the road.
With AT being so busy, the staff seemed a little overwhelmed at times, but I must say for the most part they were all extremely gracious during the entire service and very helpful in understanding the majority of the table had to have their dinner brought out expedited as we had to perform and get to sound check at The Levoy. Service started to run just a tad late, so myself and few others at the table had to skip dessert to prepare for the show. I can not personally attest to this, but those who were able to stay said that they thought the desserts at AT were wonderful.
With a fantastic dinner in our bellies, we were all prepared to put on a killer show at the amazing Levoy Theater that night. With its revitalization, Millville may be on to something and creating a hot culture and arts destination spot in deep South Jersey rather soon than later. This has been accomplished with new restaurants appearing, people coming into town to watch shows at a theater that truly doesn’t have a bad seat in the house while providing state of the art sound and visuals, having a lineup of upcoming shows that has a little something for everyone, and also the town has provided more than ample free parking surrounding the entire theater area.
The show at The Levoy could not have gone better with a crowd that was just simply electric. Was it the food beforehand that made the show that much better? I do not know, but what I do know is my stomach thanked me for going to AT and then performing for a fun night out for the huge crowd who arrived at an amazing theater
Would I go back to AT? Without a doubt, and I hope the Levoy brings us down again soon as there are so many other things I would love to try on AT’s menu.
Is AT for everyone? For the Philadelphia crowd, AT fits in perfectly for a great meal out, but they may have to push the boundaries slightly more to appease the Philadelphia base. What I am not too sure though, is if the clientele living near AT is used to or fully appreciates what is going on there. I feel as their prices could keep a large majority of the local base away, as many of the people I talked to at The Levoy stated that while AT seems nice as well as another restaurant nearby called Winfield’s, they are a little too pricey for their taste. To AT’s credit though, AT is a byob so that does allow them to be slightly more competitive to the cost conscience consumer. To correct this, maybe Millville could come up with a restaurant week like many other towns just so those on a fixed budget could at least experience some of their nicer restaurants once and then make the decision to save up and eat there again for special occasions or feel it is not worth it and continue to stay away. Either way, Millvile would at least have the locals energized and talking about their downtown.
What could be better? As mentioned above, just a slight bit more precision in the kitchen on overcooking, making sure the plating looks appealing, maybe have just one or two more servers on the weekend so that the staff could get into a more comfortable groove to cut down on the chaotic feeling at times, and to just keep on bringing that delicious bread out all night. Even with these things being said, it looks like Cumberland County has a culinary destination for the foreseeable future as the night could not have been better. Even with the slight negatives that were mentioned, if you are in the area and lucky enough to experience a great show at the beautiful Levoy, you should give AT a try as it takes talent for not one out of eight diners to be dissatisfied in the least with their experience or meal.
Four out of Five Stars