Sometimes you encounter an outdoor café in a most unusual spot.
Due Amici, off Route 130 in Cinnaminson, has a charming walled courtyard with a dozen tables, pond and fire pit, open April through Halloween. The season is starting to cooperate so diners can really enjoy it.
The restaurant's main dining rooms, with apricot walls, wooden tables, and wonderful black and white photos of Italy, offer casual comfort, but risk becoming cramped and noisy on a busy night. Go alfresco when the weather permits. The entire menu of diverse Italian fare is offered inside and out.
I opted for the tilapia special ($24.95), a giant serving of battered fish smothered in crab, artichoke hearts and asparagus spears over capellini. I prefer asparagus a bit smaller and less woody, but the taste combination was quite nice.
Of four entrees sampled, our favorite was homemade grilled Italian sausage over broccoli rabe ($15.95). What color and flavor contrast!
Stuffed shells ($11.95) nicely combined ricotta and mozzarella, and my dining partner added Parmesan for good measure. Chicken Parmesan ($15.95) offered a generous slab of nicely breaded chicken over a choice of pasta with a tasty red sauce.
All four dishes were enormous and provided us ample leftovers for lunch the next day.
Entrees come with a pretty family-style garden salad - a bowl of romaine, carrot slivers, green peppers and tomatoes with a trio of dressing choices, blue cheese, ranch or house Italian. We particularly liked the garlic knots from the bread basket.
The service was friendly and attentive. No water glass went empty, and soda refills kept coming. Plates were cleared promptly and efficiently, yet we didn't feel rushed through the meal.
Co-owners Michael Jewell and Dan Palombo also run the Blue Grotto in Voorhees. They do a lot of catering in the area, as well as accommodate special parties in the restaurants.
Like a dozen or so other businesses in Cinnaminson, Due Amici has endured patiently as the state spent the last year reconfiguring the notorious five-point intersection of Route 130, Branch Pike, Cinnaminson Avenue and Church Street. The interwoven jug-handles long ranked among New Jersey's most confusing driving experiences and in the top 20 safety hazards. Finally nearing completion, the new road pattern untangles the traffic spaghetti, but may seclude the Italian grill from those who don't know it's there.
Look for the "Due Amici" arrows posted on Route 130 and Branch Pike, and save seclusion for the restaurant's romantic patio.
2114 Branch Pike, Cinnaminson.
: 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday.
For five or more. Walk-ins can call 20 minutes ahead to reserve a table.
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