COLLEGEVILLE — The premier Collegeville Restaurant week, running through Aug. 17, brings the town’s vibrant culinary scene to life, while reminding folks that there is a world of flavor outside the cluster of big box eateries that have descended on the area in the last few years.
“Although the chain restaurants can be delicious, in most cases those things are pre-made somewhere at the corporation and sent out, so it depends on the kind of food you want. The mom and pop chefs and owners really put their recipes out there and you know you’ve got freshly prepared food, and many of them are making their dishes from scratch,” said Cathy Kernen, president of Collegeville Economic Development Corporation, sponsors of the event.
Competition from the influx of chain restaurants at the high-profile Providence Town Center has made it tough for the mom and pop places in Collegeville to blossom, Kernen pointed out.
“That’s 15 more restaurants in competition with the local ones within a two mile-radius,” she said. “But we really value our independent restaurants and we would love to see them thrive. We’ve had a number of new restaurants open up in the past year and we came up with this promotion to introduce people to them, especially because they’re local, independent restaurants. Some will offer $14 specials that includes an appetizer, main course and dessert, while others have $24 or $34 specials. So pick the one that’s tailored to your budget and taste.”
Participating restaurants include Da Vinci’s Pub, 217 E. Main St., which is offering a $24 deal for choice of appetizer, entrée and either cheesecake or Lava Cupcake for dessert; Chow, 454 E. Main St., which will hook you up with an appetizer such as Maryland Crab Chowder, heirloom tomatoes in buttermilk dressing or Duck Confit Tostados, plus a main course and dessert of either peach cobbler, chocolate Belgian waffle or Tres Leche Cake, for $34; Marzella’s Pizza, 488 E. Main St., where you can nab a 20-inch pizza for $14; Bonjung Japanese Restaurant, 50 W. Third Ave.; Greenheart Café, 3960 Germantown Pike; My Friend’s Tavern, 315 E. Main St.; Phamous Phil’s BBQ, 3839 Germantown Pike; The Pizza Stop, 222 E. Main St. and Tortuga’s Mexican Eatery, 302 Second Ave.
Shagun Fine Indian Cuisine in the Collegeville Shopping Center, 222 E. Main St., established itself as the only Indian restaurant west of the Perkiomen Bridge when it debuted last fall.
For Collegeville Restaurant Week, owner Ahmeet Mehta is whipping up special dishes for every budget.
The $14 deal includes an appetizer, an entrée choice of any vegetarian dish from the regular menu, and dessert. The $24 enticement tempts you with an appetizer, a main course of either the restaurant’s delectable Chicken Tikka Massala, Chicken Korma or Chicken Curry, and dessert. The premium package ($34) will fix you up with an appetizer, your choice of any lamb or seafood entrée from the menu, Lamb chop Massala or Lamb chop Korma as your entrée, plus dessert.
“I am not a chef, but my passion is food,” said Mehta, an Audubon resident. “I always wanted to have a restaurant. I got to a point where it was now or never for me. You can never go wrong in the food business as long as you know what you are doing and provide the quality and the service. I wanted to be somewhere in this area because I knew there wasn’t a single Indian restaurant here but there is quite a good Indian population. I’ve got a lot of support from family and friends … and my manager has given the biggest support I could have. With his expertise and experience I was a lot more motivated to get into this business.”
One of the newest kids on the Collegeville block, Forno Antico Pizza Napolitana, 416 E. Main St., offers three price-point packages as well. The $14 level starts you off with an appetizer of mozzarella sticks, moves on to a main course of spaghetti with tomato sauce and brings it all to a sweet conclusion with a cannoli. Chicken Parmesan is the star of the $24 deal, preceded by an appetizer of fried calamari and finishing off with a dessert of your choice from the menu. For $34, your taste buds will be whetted by shrimp wrapped in bacon as an appetizer, then gratified by Lobster Ravioli with shrimp and crab meat, delicately punctuated with a pink sauce, and sweetened with any dessert on the menu.
Although pizza is not the headliner on any Restaurant Week offerings, owner Ciro Nuzzolese opened the bright and airy Forno Antico earlier this summer because he “wanted to have a restaurant in this area that was like the ones we have in Italy and I wanted to make pizzas the way I used to make with my grandfather in Italy.”
Developing his culinary smarts by his grandfather’s side at the family’s Port Alba Antica Ristorant in Italy before emigrating to the U.S., Nuzzolese initially operated Alfredo’s restaurant on Route 100 in Bally, which is now owned by his brother, and then Gran Sasso restaurant in Perkasie for 20 years.
The heat is as vital to the creation of Forno Antico’s pizza as the fine “double zero” flour that is not up for compromise in Nuzzolese’s kitchen — “It is a lot more expensive, but you can’t get the perfect results we get without it,” he said — and to that end the painstakingly built imported oven gets down to its torrid business at more than 800 degrees.
When you enter the rustic BYOB trattoria, with its striking yolk-colored walls, wood blinds and earthy vibe, it seems immediately clear that fate is at last shining down on Nuzzolese’s dreams as brightly as a Tuscan “sole” on a field of sunflowers.
For more information on Collegeville Restaurant Week visit www.collegevilledevelopment.org.
Follow Gary Puleo on Twitter @Mustangman48