In October 2017, we made a visit to Gino’s Grille just outside Shillington. The restaurant had just opened two months prior, giving Gino’s a second restaurant. The original – Gino’s Cafe – continued to operate a few blocks away.
(Editor’s Note: Gino’s Grille is now closed. Viva Mexico now occupies the spot).
Despite what appeared to be creating its own competition, Gino’s Cafe is still going strong. A few weeks ago, we made our first visit to the flagship restaurant in Gino’s portfolio.
Unlike Gino’s Grille which sits right along Lancaster Pike, the Cafe is located off the main drag in a strip mall on Broad Street, across the street from Geoff Penske Buick GMC.
Taking up just one storefront in the strip, Gino’s certainly doesn’t have the largest dining room in Berks County but the tables are packed in, and they needed everyone of them when we visited on a recent Saturday night. We arrived early – Julie, Jakob and I. It was around 4:30, and the Cafe was already busy. It only got busier. By the time we left, there wasn’t a seat left.
Our waitress arrived fairly quickly to take our orders and we had our salads within 10 minutes of sitting down.
The salads are simple with lettuce, some tomatoes, a slice of cucumber and red onion that was sliced paper thin. It wasn’t anything special, but it served its purpose.
We had a much longer wait after the salads. Twenty minutes went past and instead of food being delivered to our table, we received a basket of garlic bread that we assume was meant to be delivered with the salad, if not before. “I think this is for your table,” I heard our waitress say.
In the cramped confines of the Cafe, the waitresses had nowhere to hide their frustration – and sometimes, confusion. We were seated in the first row of tables, right in front of the counter and the soda fountain where drinks were refilled. I heard the waitresses trying to figure out who should take the next table that arrived. I heard confusion in the take-out area about order numbers.
It’s the type of confusion and controlled chaos that probably happens at a lot of places. But here, with no place to hide, I could see and hear it all unfolding in front of me.
The good news is that our meals were delivered right after the bread. I should also note that the garlic bread was very good. The bread was sliced thin and every piece was very buttery with just enough garlic to give it a nice flavor. I could have eaten them as a snack.
For my entree selection, I had a hard time deciding. For a small restaurant, the menu is disproportionately large. There are more than 25 options in the pasta section of the menu, and that doesn’t include another 25 or so dinners that are served with pasta on the side (not to mention the subs, burgers, pizza, salads and wraps).
Eventually I settled on the “Chef Tortellini” which had tortellini pasta with Bolognese sauce, peas and mushrooms. I always enjoy tortellini, and I’ve had it plenty of times before on the blog, but I’ve never had it with Bolognese.
I enjoyed the combination of the tortellini with the flavorful meat sauce. I thought it went very well together. The Bolognese had a nice, meaty flavor to it. But I didn’t think the mushrooms and peas added much to the overall dish. I certainly didn’t mind them being there, but neither flavor really stood out against the strong sauce.
It was also a heavy dish. I had to take half of it home with me when the meal was done.
The same was true for Julie with her baked ziti. It was your typical baked ziti with a sweet marinara sauce topped with mozzarella. The addition of a little ricotta cheese gave the dish a bit of creaminess and a little different texture from other baked ziti dishes we’ve tried. It was very good, but like my own, half of it came home with us at the end of the meal.
Gino’s has a decent kids menu, mostly pasta with a few sandwiches thrown in (and pizza, of course). We ordered Jakob the kids’ ravioli. The pockets of pasta were smothered in a mound of mozzarella cheese. The full-size raviolis were good, but Jakob probably would have been happy just eating all that cheese.
(At one point I gave him one of my tortellini and he kept asking for more of my food instead of eating his own).
Our final bill at the end of the night was right around $40. It’s a fair price, especially for the hearty portions. And other than the garlic bread arriving late to the party, our service was good. What I saw and heard just seemed like the staff wasn’t exactly working like a well-oiled machine, at least during our visit.
Still, we found Gino’s worth a visit. Maybe next time I’ll request a table by the window, at the far end of the dining room, away from the commotion.
400 W. Broad St
Shillington, PA 19607
More From Berks County Eats