Calling an area “quaint” should be an automatic kiss of death on any neighborhood Hot List (see: New Hope). As with strippers and cars, where cute ≠ hot, quaintness, in almost every case, should knock the affected region clean off the radar.
But for every rule there’s an exception, and here, it’s Collingswood. Haddon Avenue is undeniably quaint, and yet it packs in diners to its myriad BYOBs every night, crowding them shoulder-to-shoulder at the bars and turning the floors through two or three seatings on weekend nights.
The scene has been booming for some time, and the only complaint might be that C’wood’s cuisine is too singularly Italian: Nunzio’s, Il Fiore, Villa Barone, Bistro Di Marino, That’s Amore and Sapori all line the Avenue. In this environment, even a former Mob guy like Angelo Lutz can get in on the action, opening an Italian cafe called the Kitchen Consigliere Café (no irony there) just steps from the main drag.
So what makes this neighborhood hot? Another Italian BYOB, of course: In August, Joey Baldino opened Zeppoli on Collingswood’s other main street, Collings Avenue, and he’s been in the weeds ever since.
Still, Collingswood isn’t completely a one-trick town. Zeppoli’s arrival was part of a chain reaction that also saw IndeBlue cross the street from Zeppoli’s shoebox-sized space to a new home more than twice as large. Lucky for diners, only the size has changed; the Indian food is still prepared without compromise.
And IndeBlue was only able to make its move because Alex Capasso was playing musical chairs, too—shifting his well-regarded Blackbird Dining Establishment back over to Haddon Avenue, in an address next to his more casual West Side Gravy. The move has meant more visibility for Capasso, and allows him to now run two restaurants out of a former Woolworth’s, which is just cool.
The future of Collingswood restaurants: With its BYOB culture, reasonable rents and seemingly price-capped fine-dining scene, Collingswood should remain a hot spot for first-time restaurateurs for some time.