About Last Night: Not Your Average Joe

OSBOP11

So last night was our big, Best of Philly 40th Anniversary Open Stove Masters showdown, pitting Joe Cicala from Le Virtu against Joey Baldino from Zeppoli in a five-course, knock-down, drag-out culinary battle to the death. And it was a night that truly had everything–from Cicala showing up with no sous chef and cooking the entire night solo (a first for Open Stove) to Solo himself, Michael Solomonov, showing up out of the blue to hang out, shake hands and check in on the competitors.

Since we had two incredibly talented Italian chefs in the house, we gave them the worst Italian ingredients we could find to work with–dry, grocery store pasta, plastic shaker cans full of generic parmesan cheese, Italian salad dressing and the like. We shocked them with ingredients, we messed with their heads, we forced them to cook on a wickedly short schedule (35 minutes to plate 22 finished entrees). And yet the guys still triumphed–knocking out course after amazing course of Italian grub for the packed house.

In the end, it was Team Zeppoli that brought home the win. But it was a close and hard-fought contest. And for those of you not lucky enough to be in attendance, we had champion shooter and friend of Foobooz, Yoni Nimrod, on hand to snap some gorgeous pictures.

Check ‘em out after the jump. Don’t forget to pick up a Best of Philly issue (on the stands right now). And be looking out for our next sneak preview of the new COOK schedule coming later this week.

Show me the pictures

Zeppoli’s Joey Baldino at Alla Spina for Beer Week Industry Night

Feast of the Seven Fishes with Joey Baldino of Zeppoli

For all those who think Zeppoli in Collingswood is a bridge too far away. Good news, Zeppoli and Joey Baldino are coming to Alla Spina for Industry Night on Monday, June 3rd. Of course people who complain about going to Collingswood probably also complain about going to north Broad, but whatever, more food for us.

Baldino is serving up a Sicilian feast as Alla Spina also welcomes St. Louis’ Perennial Brewing and Colorado’s Great Divide Brewing to the house for Philly Beer Week. The breweries will be offering discounted drafts and Baldino will be preparing a feast of dishes like pistachio sausage, swordfish spiedini and much more.

As always, the food is free and the drinks are cheap. It all gets started at 10 p.m., a hospitality pay stub is required for admission, or visiting Beer Week peeps can get in with a business card.

The food and drink »

Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurant Nominees Include Alla Spina & Zeppoli

Photo via Bon Appetit | Jason Varney

Bon Appetit’s Ten Best New Restaurants list will be released on August 14th but today BA is releasing its 50 nominees on bonappetit.com.

Two local restaurants make the nomination list, Marc Vetri’s Alla Spina and Joseph Baldino’s Zeppoli in Collingswood. Of course before Baldino opened Zeppoli, he was Vetri’s chef de cuisine at Vetri.

Top 50 Best New Restaurant Nominees [Bon Appetit]

Photo via Bon Appetit | Jason Varney

2012 James Beard Semifinalists Announced

The 2012 James Beard Semifinalists have been announced and Philadelphia area chefs and restaurants seem to have a bigger representation than normal. Tashan, The Farm and Fisherman and Zeppoli all make the list for Best New Restaurant. Pierre Calmels, BibouDavid Gilberg, Koo Zee DooKonstantinos Pitsillides, Kanella and Marcie Turney of Barbuzzo all make the semifinals for Best Chef Midatlantic (remember, past winners aren’t eligible).

Le Virtu’s Joe Cicala and Fond’s Lee Styer were nominated for Rising Star Chef, while Jessie Prawlucki (Fond/Belle Cakery) made the list for Outstanding Pastry Chef. Not bad East Passyunk, not bad at all.

Read more »

Around the Web: From BYOs to Pakistani Fried Chicken

Foodzings reminds us that The Farm and Fisherman is still rocking it on Pine Street. [Foodzings]

Le Gout Friand takes advantage of a pre-Thanksgiving wine shopping trip to hit up Zeppoli in Collingswood where she experiences an excellent meal without a single mention of decibels. [Le Gout Friand]

We totally forgot Craig LaBan’s review of Wah-Gi-Wah in West Philadelphia.  Thanks to Midtown Lunch we received a much needed reminder that the small storefront serves a mean Chicken Chargha. [Midtown Lunch]

No Love More Sincere loves, loves, loves their experience at Cook. [No Love More Sincere]

Zeppoli Makes It Look Easy

The dishes at Zeppoli may appear simple, but Trey Popp finds that chef/owner Joey Baldino manages to make every dish transcendent.

Those silken tangles of tagliatelle, for example, conjure fantasies of an orchard at the edge of a fishermen’s colony—the lemon zest and juice melding with the cured roe’s briny umami wallop, melding in turn with sparingly buttered starches that shine with citrus but cloak its acidity. A late-summer panzanella was textbook but transporting: offering superior tomatoes, oversize croutons derived from house-made bread, and white anchovy fillets both mellow and pure. Baldino’s whole fishes—bronzino one night, orata on a luckier one—were as flawless as the grilled zucchini and artichoke hearts astride them; his Sicilian stew was a dark melody of shellfish stock and saffron, shrimp and crisp-edged swordfish.

Three Stars – Excellent

Zeppoli: The Hard Sell [Philadelphia magazine]

Zeppoli
618 Collings Avenue,
Collingwood, NJ 856-854-2670
Be the first to write a review!

Photograph by Courtney Apple

Restaurant Review: Zeppoli

In an era when chefs face off on television to see who can make a meal featuring string cheese, jicama and gingersnaps in each of three courses, interrupting the watercooler recap with a plug for straight-ahead Italian food can brand you with the foodie equivalent of the mark of Cain. Even leaving kitsch and Chopped aside, these are heady days for restaurant-goers. From ham-flavored foam to edible gin paper, there are just so many new things to try that praising a simple bowl of pasta can seem like shouting into the whirlwind.

Which is why I broach the subject of Joey Baldino’s cooking at Zeppoli with a certain dread. The South Philly native has gone to Collingswood with a menu of dishes a thousand cooks have cooked a million times before: Tagliatelle with lemon and bottarga. Spinach-and-ricotta gnocchi in brown butter. Fennel sausage with broccoli rabe. And his renditions of these classics, though by no means austere, are neither deconstructed nor molecularly manipulated nor anything else besides what they’ve always been.

There is a difference here, though, and it’s the only one that matters: Baldino does them better than 999 of those other cooks.

Well, maybe 998. The 33-year-old’s last job was as chef de cuisine at Vetri, where the boss isn’t exactly an also-ran. But whatever the case, Zeppoli—whose aims are as simple as its white lace curtains and distressed wood tables—is executing on a level matched by few restaurants on either side of the Walt Whitman.

Those silken tangles of tagliatelle, for example, conjure fantasies of an orchard at the edge of a fishermen’s colony—the lemon zest and juice melding with the cured roe’s briny umami wallop, melding in turn with sparingly buttered starches that shine with citrus but cloak its acidity. A late-summer panzanella was textbook but transporting: offering superior tomatoes, oversize croutons derived from house-made bread, and white anchovy fillets both mellow and pure. Baldino’s whole fishes—bronzino one night, orata on a luckier one—were as flawless as the grilled zucchini and artichoke hearts astride them; his Sicilian stew was a dark melody of shellfish stock and saffron, shrimp and crisp-edged swordfish.

From the sweet-and-sour carrots on the antipasti plate to a cool-but-not-chilly almond-milk biancomangiare for dessert, the seasoning here was always in balance, the temperatures just right. And then, with the modest bill, came sticky struffoli—honeyed pebbles with no balance, no subtlety. So the meal ended with a reminder: While every other dish likewise risked banality, each transcended it instead.

Zeppoli: 100 Decibels; 2 Bells

Craig LaBan enjoyed his dinner if not the din at Collingswood’s Zeppoli.

A baked orata with crispy potatoes gilded by slow-cooked artichokes and caper berries, and oil-cured, was the juiciest whole fish I’ve eaten this year. Goat stewed in milk to sublime tenderness is finished to a crisp in the oven with a crust of herbed lardo. Addictive little twists of Sicilian fusilli come tossed in a vivid green pesto “Trapanese” made from pistachios, almonds, and basil so fragrant it seduces your senses before you even take a bite. And then I took many.

Zeppoli [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Zeppoli [Official Site]

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