5 Favorite Entrees of 2015

December is a time to look back and reflect on the year that was. Berks County Eats is taking a look back at the best of the best from more than 50 restaurants that we visited in 2015. This week: Our Top Five Favorite Entrees. 

Appetizers and dessert are great, but there’s a reason the main course is called the main course. Here’s five entrees that stood out from 52 Berks County Eats meals this year:

Heirloom – Bison Steak


Heirloom is the only restaurant to appear on all three of my “Best of 2015” lists, and it earned every spot. Because of the ever-evolving menu, you probably won’t find it on the menu when you go, but the bison steak was one of the best meals I have eaten anywhere. It was roasted like pot roast, easily pulling apart with my fork. Read Full Post

Jukebox Cafe – Cinnamon Roll French Toast


I love cinnamon rolls. I love French toast. I am in love with the cinnamon roll French toast from Jukebox Cafe. Two cinnamon rolls grilled like French toast and topped with strawberry syrup: what’s not to love? While I don’t advise eating this for breakfast every day, I do advise trying it the next time you’re in Boyertown. Read Full Post

Chen Vegetarian House – Mango Chicken


There is no chicken in Chen Vegetarian House’s mango chicken, but that’s not important. Replacing the tofu with real chicken couldn’t have made this dish any better. The fresh slices of mango, the citrus sauce that coated the whole dish and just the fact that it was served in a hollowed-out mango shell made this one of my most memorable meals of the year. Read Full Post

Basil – Spinach Ravioli


Pasta is one of my favorite dishes for dinner. Basil’s spinach ravioli was my favorite pasta dish that I have tried in a long while. Mixing the spinach into the dough in addition to the filling was a great choice, and the red sauce, complete with plenty of basil, was perfect for the dish. Read Full Post

Romano’s  – Chicago Style Pizza


Every year I celebrate National Pizza Month (October) by visiting as many pizza joints as possible. This year, I had four exceptional meals, but Romano’s was the best. I’ve been to Geno’s East in Chicago for authentic Chicago-style pizza; Romano’s doesn’t quite reach that level, but it is very close. Read Full Post


Entrees Features Stories



It’s been a while since the Google Street View team rolled through the village of Amityville, just north of Douglassville.

The images are dated 2008. In today’s world, that’s an eternity. The low-resolution photos were outdated five years ago.

Just navigate along Route 662 north of the intersection with Old Airport Road. On the right-hand side you’ll see Focht Mower Service, a business that closed half a decade ago.

Drive along the road today and there is no sign of Focht’s storefront nor the wooden barn that stood behind it. In its place is a large stone-faced building with red clay roof tiles reminiscent of an Italian grotto.

Vincenzo’s opened in this spot in 2011. The brand-new building was meant to evoke images of Italy. It succeeds, but the whole thing seems out of place in the middle of Pennsylvania Dutch farmland. What feels like the middle of nowhere is actually just five minutes from Route 422.

The interior still looks brand new. The restaurant is split into two dining rooms with frosted glass windows separating the two.


While the decorations lean toward elegant, the booths that line the rooms make it feel like the neighborhood diner. And like a diner, the first thing to arrive at our table was the basket of dinner rolls.

The two rolls looked more like small loafs, warm puffs about five inches around. Not only were they big, they were light and tasty.


Our salads were next to arrive. There was nothing especially noteworthy about the salad, but the mixed greens provided the perfect bridge to dinner. As soon as I laid my fork down from the salad, our entrees were at our table.

Vincenzo’s menu is a large one, with 13 pasta selections, a half-dozen homemade ravioli dishes and more than 20 dishes of seafood, chicken and veal.

When in doubt, I tend to choose the dish named after the restaurant, which is how I decided upon the chicken Vincenzo.


The chicken Vincenzo is two chicken breasts topped with asparagus, mozzarella, red peppers and mushrooms in a white wine sauce.

The chicken breasts themselves were fairly basic: no breading nor seasoning. And while I loved all of the flavors they were cooked with — the sweet wine sauce, the rich mozzarella, the pronounced flavors of the asparagus — it never really soaked into the chicken, making it feel separated from the rest of the dish that I enjoyed so much.


A side of pasta, prepared the same as your meal, is included with every entree. For my side, I opted for linguine. The pasta did a much better job of soaking up the sauce and complimenting the mushrooms and peppers. Mixing a forkful of pasta with the chicken and cheese made all the difference, creating a tasty meal.

Though I enjoyed my plate, I found myself feeling jealous toward Julie and her crab ravioli. Vincenzo’s raviolis were listed as homemade on the menu. From the small sampling of Julie’s meal that I got, I believe it.


The pasta had a unique texture — a little chewier, but not unpleasant — and fuller flavor than my linguine. What really made this dish was the sauce, a white wine cream sauce that was much thicker and heavier than my own. The crab meat brought its distinct richness to the dish, but it blended well with the sauce to create a very enjoyable meal.

When I eventually return, I will be certainly be ordering ravioli. In addition to the flavor, it was also a much more manageable dish. A full chicken breast and half of my pasta ended up going home with us to enjoy for lunch the next day.

Of course with such large portions, there was no room left for dessert. This is a common occurrence at Vincenzo’s, at least according to our waiter who dropped off our bill (about $45) shortly after we had finished our meals.

He had been diligent and attentive all night, not an easy task with the seemingly endless stream of customers that were coming through the restaurant on this Saturday evening. (The parking lot was not an easy place to navigate before or after dinner, with several cars parked on the grass behind the Vincenzo’s sign on Route 662).

Vincenzo’s may not be fine dining, but they clearly have a loyal following. My meal was good; Julie’s was great. It’s not surprising that it has become a popular place in just a few years.

I have no doubt that the next time the Google Street View team does visit Douglassville, Vincenzo’s will still be going strong.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Very Good
Price: Reasonable

1333 Old Swede Rd
Douglassville, PA 19518

Vincenzo's Ristorante Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Italian Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Lavigna & Sons – CLOSED


Editor’s Note: Lavigna & Son’s closed in July 2018. The building and neighboring greenhouse were sold and are being torn down to make room for a new hardware store.

There is no shortage of lunch spots in Berks County. From the city to the smallest towns, you don’t have to look far to find the local sandwich shop.

But there are some places that are a cut above the rest, places that offer the perfect combination of great food, fast service and convenient location like Lavigna & Sons.

Lavigna & Sons is one of two restaurants that were added to the Spayd’s at Green Valley Nursery complex outside Sinking Spring. Along with Crave Cafe, they have helped revitalize the shops by turning them into the go-to lunch spot.

The two restaurants compliment each other well. Crave opens every day for breakfast and has the vibe of a trendy coffee shop. Lavigna & Sons doesn’t open until 10 a.m. and feels like what it is: a South Philly-style hoagie shop.

There are maybe 10 tables in the place, all of them basking in the sunlight from the large picture windows (though none offer much of a view. Most face the parking lot; two overlook Route 422).


Brightening the room isn’t the only benefit of so much sunlight. Pots along the window sills are lined with herbs, including a row of six basil plants.

There are exactly 30 items on the menu at Lavigna & Sons — 24 hoagies, three salads and three hot sandwiches.

When you think of Philadelphia style sandwiches, you probably think of hoagies or Philly cheesesteaks. There are no cheesesteaks on the menu, but there is the other classic Philadelphia sandwich: roast pork.

Very few places in Berks County do a Philly-style roast pork sandwich. The best I have found is at the San Marco Italian Food Festival. At least that was the best until I found Lavigna & Sons.


I ordered a whole hoagie (approximately a foot-long roll) with broccoli rabe, sautéed spinach, Italian long hot peppers and slices of provolone. It was an incredible sandwich.

The pork was chopped so fine it practically looked like crumbs compared to the pile of broccoli rabe that concealed it. The meat was so flavorful and juicy, I would have eaten it on its own. But that slight bitterness of the broccoli rabe and the spicy sweet from the peppers made it perfect.

But those Italian long hots are evil. I thought I could handle spicy. It turns out that I can’t. I had one bite that was just peppers, cheese and bread, and that was enough to have my chugging on my orange cream Kutztown soda.

The roll — a delicious hard roll with sesame seeds (optional) — did nothing to temper the heat. Neither did the bag of Deep River potato chips. Every bite just made it worse until I had to start skimming the pork and rapini off the top (the long hots were lining the bottom of the roll).


Julie had no such problems with her sandwich, the South Philly Italian. Number 1 on the menu, the South Philly Italian featured capacolla, genoa salami and prosciutto with provolone cheese.

All hoagies are served with lettuce, tomato, onions, spices (what spices, I’m not sure) and olive oil. Like mine, the ingredients were falling out of the roll onto the plate with the first bite.

What really made the sandwich was the prosciutto. The flavorful cut made this stand out among other Italian sandwiches.

The great thing about hoagies is that they are quick to make. It only took about five minutes from the time we ordered until they were delivered to our table. The other great thing about them is that they are relatively inexpensive. We paid $20 for our two hoagies (one half, one whole), two Kutztown sodas and a bag of chips.

Lavigna & Sons promises Philadelphia hoagies, and they are delivering on that promise with some of the best sandwiches in the county.

It’s a can’t-miss for your lunch break.

Lavigna & Sons Philadelphia Hoagies Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Closed Reviews

5 Favorite Desserts of 2015

December is a time to look back and reflect on the year that was. Berks County Eats is taking a look back at the best of the best from more than 50 restaurants that we visited in 2015. This week: Our Top Five Favorite Desserts. 

Dessert is the part of the meal worth waiting for. No matter how much food you eat, there’s always room to squeeze in something sweet at the end. Especially when dessert is as good as these five that I found this year.

Heirloom – Homemade S’more


Apparently S’mores are not just something to eat around the campfire. They are a gourmet dessert, at least at Heirloom, where they made everything from scratch, including the marshmallow. That marshmallow sat atop a base of chili-infused chocolate ice cream, drizzled with chocolate syrup and dusted in graham cracker. Don’t try this at home. Read Full Post

Salute – Almond Parfait


Our Valentine’s Day dinner at Salute was certainly memorable, but nothing stood out quite like the Almond Parfait. It started with almond ice cream — I could eat a scoop of that any day — that was topped with chocolate syrup and crushed almonds. And they didn’t cheat on the portion size either. Read Full Post

Anthony’s Trattoria – Angel Food Cake


Angel food cake is boring, right? Not when it’s layered with chocolate mousse and chocolate cake, and iced with a smooth chocolate shell. It may not have resembled the light, airy cake that is so familiar, but it was certainly heavenly. Read Full Post

Plein Air – Angel Food Cake and Pistachio Sorbet


This was more like the angel food cake you expect, but it was kicked up a notch by the strawberry reduction drizzled on top. The real star though was the pistachio sorbet. It was so sweet and creamy. My only wish was for there to be more of it. Read Full Post

Cafe Sweet Street – Turtle Bundt Cake


When you visit Cafe Sweet Street, you should get dessert. And by dessert, I mean you should get the turtle Bundt cake. The rich chocolate cake is topped with crushed pecans, a gooey glob of caramel and a chocolatey shell. With dessert this good, who needs lunch? Read Full Post


Desserts Features Stories

Calabria’s suffers damage in fire; Cheers American Bistro opens at DoubleTree

Calabria suffers damage in fire

Calabria’s in Wernersville suffered damage after a fire broke out in the restaurant last Thursday evening. The Reading Eagle reported that the fire was declared accidental and was caused be an overheated electrical device. Calabria’s is currently closed while damage to the front of the building is repaired. Here is the latest update from Calabria’s Facebook page, posted on Saturday:

Thank you to all of our customers, friends, and family for your concern and support during this difficult time. Calabria’s will re-open as soon as possible. Sorry for any inconvenience and we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Cheers American Bistro opens in new DoubleTree hotel

With the opening of the new DoubleTree Hotel, downtown Reading also has a new restaurant. Cheers American Bistro, the hotel’s on-site restaurant, opened last week along with the new hotel. The restaurant offers both ala carte and buffet dining. The kitchen is headed by Chef Dan Wooten, who most recently served as the Executive Chef at the LedgeRock Country Club. The Bistro is open every morning for breakfast at 6 a.m. and is stays open until midnight during the week, 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Food News

The Knight’s Pub at Stokesay Castle


A few months ago I had an opportunity to attend a mixer at Stokesay Castle. It was my first visit to the landmark restaurant on the eastern slope of Mount Penn.

Everyone who attended the mixer had a chance to tour the historic building, but also a chance to sample the food. The bite-sized hors d’ouvres were so good that I could not wait to return.

Last week I decided to take Julie across town for a mini-date night. It was a quiet Thursday evening, at least in the Knight’s Pub where less than half of the tables were filled when we arrived.

The Knight’s Pub is Stokesay’s everyday restaurant. Located on the back side of the building, the Pub is attached to the brick patio. In warmer months, the folding glass doors open up to create one large, outdoor dining area.

Despite the unseasonably warm weather we’re having this December, the windows remained closed during our visit, though a few people did pull up a chair by the fire pit outside after they finished their meals.

I could not wait for dinner to arrive so I talked Julie into sharing an appetizer with me. The words “house made” in the menu description are what sold me on the bruschetta. And it was every bit as good as I had hoped.


Thick chunks of creamy mozzarella rested on top of a crunchy crustini bread with diced tomatoes and pesto. The balsamic drizzle is what really makes the bruschetta. It mixes well with the tomatoes to give it that rich sweet and sour flavor.

My main course was a little more manly. When I looked at the menu on the Pub’s website, I saw a picture of the steak and potato tower and instantly knew what I would be ordering when we arrived.


The tower consisted of alternating layers of steak filets and deep-fried mashed potatoes, topped off with a red wine demi-glace.

First, the steak was done perfectly with a nice char on the outside that kept the flavor inside. With the sweetness from the demi-glace, all four cuts of steak went down so smooth.

Then there were the potatoes. The menu only described them as “potato cakes” so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. From the outside, they looked like onion rings, but inside was mashed potato. I took some with my steak and some without. It was hearty and filling, but once again the demi-glace made it easier to clean the plate.

In my haste to order, I had forgotten to consider what my sides were so I blurted out roasted potatoes and brocolli. The last thing I needed with my tower was more starch, but I truly enjoyed the bite-sized red potatoes. Cooked to a crisp with a variety of herbs, they were probably better than the potato cakes that were in the tower.


Julie opted for just a sandwich, but her meal was just as rich and hearty as my own. Her crabby pretzel melt was exactly what it sounds like: lump crab meat with melted cheddar (plus the standard LTO) on a toasted pretzel bun.

There plenty of crab meat that it didn’t get lost. Instead, it blended beautifully with the salty sweet pretzel roll. The only problem with the sandwich was that it was a little wet, but once Julie flipped it upside down, there were no more worries about whether the bun would be able to hold it.

Being that this was a date night, we decided to splurge with a little dessert. All seven of the seasonal desserts on the tray sounded amazing, but we settled on the pumpkin spice cake. It was layered with mousse and whipped cream (all pumpkin spiced) and topped with graham cracker crumbs and caramel.


Each layer was a little different than the next. The farther down into the glass that we dug, the colder all of the ingredients were. The bottom layer of mousse was highly concentrated and packed with the most flavor, making it easier to finish, despite our stomachs telling us “no.”

As always happens when we treat ourselves, I ended up eating more food than I should and spending more money than we usually do. Our total for the evening came to just over $60, but it was worth every penny.

As we left the Knight’s Pub, we took a walk along the patio and admired the building. The architecture looked beautiful, even in the dim lighting of the fire pit.

It is said that when Mr. Hiester built Stokesay Castle in 1931, his wife hated it. But I think if she came back today, she would love the Knight’s Pub.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Good
Ambiance: Excellent
Price: Reasonable

The Knight’s Pub at Stokesay Castle
141 Stokesay Castle Ln
Reading, PA 19606

Stokesay Castle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars & Pubs Dessert Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Reviews

5 Favorite Appetizers of 2015

December is a time to look back and reflect on the year that was. Berks County Eats is taking a look back at the best of the best from more than 50 restaurants that we visited in 2015. This week: Our Top Five Favorite Appetizers. 

Appetizers are the perfect answer when you just can’t wait for dinner. Whether it’s a light salad, a fried snack or a hearty soup, a great app is the best way to start any night out. Here are our favorite appetizers we found in 2015:

Heirloom – Red Quinoa Salad


When I visited Heirloom, I described the red quinoa salad as “Hands down, this was the best salad I have ever eaten.” That was eleven months ago, and I haven’t found anything that comes close. Every ingredient was fresh and worked well together, but it was the creamy chèvre that brought the whole thing. Read Full Blog

White Palm Tavern – Pretzellas


Mozzarella sticks are usually nothing special, but White Palm Tavern put a memorable twist on theirs, using crushed up pretzels as the breading. The salty snacks were a great way to start our meal. Read Full Blog

Tavern on Penn – Fried Cheese Curds


Another cheesey favorite from this year were the fried cheese curds at West Lawn’s Tavern on Penn. Instead of marinara, the fried pieces were served with roasted red pepper sauce that was just about perfect. Read Full Blog

Plein Air – Beet Soup


Soup is one of my favorite starters, but chilled beet soup is one that I hadn’t tried before my visit to Plein Air this summer. With its bright purple color, the beet soup was one of the most vibrant looking dishes I tried all year, and it had the flavor to match. The dill helped sweeten the slight sourness of the beets in what was a creamy, smoothie-like dish. Read Full Blog

La Abuela – Flautas


One of Berks County’s newest restaurants delivered a memorable dish on my first visit. The flautas at La Abuela in West Reading were superb. The fried tacos were topped with homemade salsa, queso fresco, Pico de Gallo and sour cream. I could have eaten them as the main course and been fully satisfied. Read Full Blog

Appetizers Features Stories

Papillon Brasserie closing at end of month; Maddcooks closes; more food news

Papillon Brasserie to close December 31

West Reading’s Papillon Brasserie will close on December 31. In a Facebook post last week, Chef Philip-Georges Davis announced that he had accepted an Executive Chef position at the LedgeRock Golf Club in Mohnton, which means he will be closing his restaurant. Chef Davis has led Papillon Brasserie since it opened in November 2009.

Maddcooks closes

Maddcooks in Reading’s Glenside neighborhood has closed after less than a year in business. The announcement was made on the restaurant’s Facebook page on November 16. Maddcooks was a sandwich place that opened in spring along Schuylkill Avenue near the Route 12 interchange.

CD’s Place closing for two weeks

CD’s Place in Boyertown will be closed for the next two weeks. According to a Facebook post from Sunday, the restaurant will be closed because of catering obligations, but plans are to reopen on Sunday, December 20. At the latest, it will reopen on Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 31.

Food News

Vietnamese Delights


It had been nearly a year — nine months to be exact — since my last trip to the Fairgrounds Farmers Market.

I love browsing the aisles of vendors and dine-in restaurants, but I never make it there as often as I would like. The Farmers Market of Wyomissing is just so convenient that a trip to Muhlenberg takes extra planning.

That planning came together, and last Friday when we made an evening drive to Fairgrounds with one stand in mind: Vietnamese Delights.

The Fairgrounds Farmers Market already offered a diverse selection of foods before Vietnamese Delights opened in 2013. Italian, Greek, German and Pennsylvania Dutch were all well-represented, but Vietnamese Delights brought an Asian flair that was missing from the global market.

Located in the southwest corner of the market, Vietnamese Delights offers its own little seating area. This makes it one of the few stands that will actually deliver your meal to your table (you still order at the counter so it’s not quite a full-service restaurant).


First to arrive were our two bubble teas: mango flavored for Julie and honeydew for me. More smoothie than tea, the drinks are creamy with (optional) tapioca balls dropped in the bottom.


As you would guess, the drinks are extremely refreshing. My honeydew had that light sweetness of the melon that makes it so enjoyable. The mango flavor was strong and very sweet to the point of being more like dessert.


Next to arrive at the table were the add-ins for Julie’s pho, the brothy Vietnamese noodle soup. While the noodles and beef were cooked in the broth, a plate of bean shoots, basil, lime and jalapeno pepper were served separately.

The pho followed shortly behind. The large bowl was filled with hearty slices of beef, chopped shallots, onions and a heaping mound of rice noodles.


Rice noodles are an acquired taste for a Dutchman raised on the thicker, heartier egg noodles. The advantage of thin strands is that they absorb flavors well, soaking up the broth in every bite. Julie managed to finish most of her soup, polishing off all of the meat and leaving just a little broth and some loose noodles at the bottom of the bowl.

My meal was the last to arrive being the most involved of the two. I ordered the broken rice platter: a plate of white rice with pork done three ways (steamed, grilled and shredded), a fried egg, a cucumber and lettuce salad, and a dish of garlic fish sauce.


The best part about the plate was the shredded pork. Even though it was served cold, it was easily the most enjoyable of the three. It just melts in your mouth with a sweet flavor that isn’t barbecue, but is close enough to be enjoyable.

The grilled and steamed pork were served atop the bed of white rice. They had a nice peppery flavor that I really enjoyed. The egg felt a little out of place — I’m used to it being fried with the rice, not on top — but once I opened it up and started eating with the rice and pork, it all came together nicely.

As much as I love garlic, I was not a fan of the fish sauce. I much preferred the chili sauce that was sitting on each of the tables.


I was able to finish everything on plate (not counting the fish sauce), but what neither Julie nor I were able to finish were all of the tapioca balls in the bottom of our smoothies. With the consistency of gummies, they just got to be too much work after the bubble tea was gone. In hindsight, we would probably get it without tapioca next time.

All in all though, we thoroughly enjoyed our meal. At $30 it was a little more expensive than we had originally planned, but a lot of that came down to the indulgence of our $5 bubble teas.

We were able to squeeze in a little shopping before closing time, but we really didn’t need much else at the market.

Vietnamese Delights was the real reason we went, and it was certainly worth the trip.

BCE Rating
Food: Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Good
Price: Reasonable

Vietnamese Delights
2934 N. 5th Street Hwy
Reading, PA 19605

Vietnamese Delights Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Asian & Pacific Islands Farmers Market Meals Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Wyomissing Familiy Restaurant sold; Oakbrook Brewing Co. nearing opening; more

Wyomissing Family Restaurant sold

The Wyomissing Family Restaurant has a new owner. According to an article in the December 1 Reading Eagle, the restaurant was purchased by local businessman Hamid Chaudhry. Chaudhry, who owns Dairy Queens in Exeter and Kenhorst and the Mustang Grill in Kenhorst, said that he is looking to revamp the restaurant to make it a dining destination. Among the changes cited in the article are an expansion of the salad bar to include a carving station, an expanded bakery selection and the introduction of fresh-pressed hamburgers. Chaudhry took over ownership on Monday and has a 90-day plan for implementing the first wave of changes.

Blue Star Diner open in Stouchsburg

Stouchsburg once again has a diner with the opening of the Blue Star Diner. The restaurant is located in the former Risser’s Family Restaurant on Route 422. The historic diner was originally opened as the Blue Star Diner in the 1950s, decades before it became Risser’s. This is the second new restaurant to arrive in Stouchsburg this year. The Back Forty Bar & Grill opened in the former Black Dog Cafe in August.

Oakbrook Brewing Co. readying for opening

The Oakbrook Brewing Co. could be open before the end of the year, according to an article in the December 3 Reading Eagle. The brewery and restaurant will be housed in the former Oakbrook fire station on Park Avenue in Reading. Brewing could begin soon with a soft opening near Christmas, according to the article. Oakbrook’s official Twitter account announced on November 10 that it had been granted authority to brew by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

Berkshire Mall project still moving forward

The planned addition of new restaurants at the Berkshire Mall is still moving forward. The December 3 Reading Eagle reported that Wyomissing Borough Council has granted a six-month extension to the Mall to provide a land development plan. Plans call for up to three restaurants at the location – Buffalo Wild Wings, Bonefish Grill and Carrabba’s Italian Grill. Previous updates had suggested that just one restaurant, the Buffalo Wild Wings, was likely to be built.

Food News