Restaurant Review – Catelli Duo in Voorhees, NJ

For the first time in months I sampled “fine dining” fare not seasoned by my tears. While feeling adventurous this past weekend I took a trip to Voorhees and dined at Catelli Duo. Their website reads that they “do Italian differently.” I feasted on a quality meal in an elegant setting. When compared to my other dining experiences over the last few months that alone made it “different”.

Upon entering the building a sophisticated interior greeted me. Wine racks adorned the dining area. Lights located underneath the bar top added to the elegance. The bar also featured cushioned seats that maximized patrons’ comfort. An opening to the kitchen allowed diners to watch the chefs working. That feature always impresses me. It shows that the people preparing food don’t have anything to hide. The restroom featured hands-free faucets that emptied into large transparent bowls. Of course, all this luxury came at a price.

I began my meal with a Lobster Bisque soup. The menu described it as including “jumbo lump crabmeat.” At first I thought it a bit watery, but after stirring, the broth thickened and became rather tasty. I thought the price a bit high at $6.00, but for the portion and the quality of the meal, it didn’t bother me.

As I enjoy both seafood and Italian, one choice really caught my attention. Catelli Duo billed the Seafood Ravioli as “house-made seafood ravioli stuffed with shrimp, crab, lobster cream”. When I read that, I knew exactly what to have for lunch. The chef prepared the dish in a creamy white wine sauce.  Once again I had to stir it to get the flavor right. After doing so the meal mesmerized me. I’d call the quality of the seafood superlative. The sauce tasted rather sweet. I’m not a big wine drinker, but the libation they used gave the meal the perfect seasoning. While a bit pricey at $16.00, the quality justified it.

Catelli Duo’s website claims, “We’re not just doing Italian differently—we’re reinventing it.” That’s a bold assertion, but the superiority of the food verified it. My trip to Catelli doesn’t need a “do-over”, but I plan on dining there again.

Restaurant Review – Iron Hill Brewery (Voorhees)

It’s never a good sign when I’m out for an evening of fine dining and lyrics from a Weird Al Yankovic song keep running through my head. I wish I’d filmed my visit to the Iron Hill Brewery in Voorhees, NJ. It would’ve served as an excellent video for Yankovic’s classic parody of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” titled “Another One Rides the Bus.”

Another one rides the bus, another one rides the bus
Another comes on and another comes on
Another one rides the bus
Hey, he’s gonna sit by you, another one rides the bus

I would say the claustrophobic would enjoy a visit to the Iron Hill Brewery even less than I did. However, I’m not sure such a thing would be possible. I went with a group. The staff set aside two tables for us. They crammed us in so tight that I had difficulty lifting my elbows to eat my meal. Although, with the “quality” of the entree, I would’ve been better off.

Being a health conscious seafood fan I decided to try the Fisherman’s Stew. The menu described it as “shrimp, scallops, mussels and cod simmered in a garlicky tomato white-wine broth.” I often criticize restaurants for adding an unnecessary abundance of garlic to their meals. I won’t do so this this case because I couldn’t detect any kind of flavor to comment on. Every once in a while I’d take a spoonful that tasted very hot and spicy. The rest of the time I tasted spoon. To put a positive spin on this experience, I thought the white rice more savory than the actual entre. I guess they deserve some credit for pulling off this feat.

And then there was the issue with the price. They billed this dish as under 600 calories. It cost $19.99. By my count that comes to $0.30 per calorie. I’m reminded of all those commercials that claim they can provide people with enough nutrition to survive on $2.00 per day. Not at the Iron Hill Brewery, they can’t.

Now comes the part of my review where I have to write about the things I really didn’t like. The Iron Hill Brewery serves myriad beers that they brew on-site. As a tea-totaller I opted instead for the Raspberry Iced Tea. I tried it without any artificial sweetener and thought it very watery. When I added sweetener the flavor reminded me of this cough syrup my mother used to give me as a child. While I’m not averse to nostalgic memories of my youth, the Iron Hill Brewery went about it the totally wrong way.

And then there was the bread. It tasted very doughy. Keep in mind, I love soft pretzels. I like them so much I would eat them all three meals a day if I could. I didn’t like the bread at this place because I found it too “doughy.” I can’t believe I’m writing this. I love soft pretzels, but I didn’t like the bread this restaurant served because it was too “doughy.” I just re-read this paragraph three times. My neck hurts from shaking my head.

To be fair, our server was very helpful and friendly. I went with a group of over twenty people. Everyone received his/her meal at the same time. As we requested she kindly provided everyone with separate checks. She impressed me by how quickly she did so.

I know I mentioned it before, but it bears repeating: the building was way too congested. I always get nervous when I go to The Pub in Pennsauken. The salad bar is at the front of the main dining room. I’m always concerned I’m going to drop something on a fellow diner or collide with a server. There is room to maneuver, however. The layout of the Iron Hill Brewery doesn’t give people a lot of room to move around. When I got up to go to the rest room I thought I was in a night club. It took some careful slaloming around patrons and some near collisions with servers to get there. Of course, then I had to carefully get back into my seat without the benefit of a hoist. All this while the following Weird Al lyrics echoed through my mind:

Well, I should’ve got off a couple miles ago
But I couldn’t get to the door
There isn’t any room for me to breathe
And now we’re gonna pick up more, yeah

After dinner I talked to several people in my group. They enjoyed their meals and liked the place. In spite of their views, I still thought the prices ridiculously high. Some people complimented the beer they sampled. My advice to would be diners is be to pick-up a six pack, take it home and drink it while listening to Weird Al’s first album. I think you’ll find it much more tasteful than the food I tried there. Plus, with the money you save you can buy his whole catalog.