B2 Bistro's steak frites - steak with fries and Brussels sprouts

B2 Bistro + Bar

B2 Bistro is located in first floor of the former Narrow Fabrics factory.

In more than five years of Berks County Eats, there have only been a handful of restaurants that arrived with the hype of B2 Bistro + Bar. Recently opened in the former Narrow Fabrics building in West Reading, the restaurant had been anticipated since the first tenants moved into the Lofts at Narrows, the luxury apartments on the upper floors.

B2 Bistro has an unfinished look, including exposed beams and rough-hewn paint.

The creative re-use of the building has led to a unique atmosphere. “Unfinished” paint and exposed beams – some still with original safety warning posters – can be seen throughout the space. A large rectangular bar is surrounded by high-top tables with a couple booths along the sides. A row of stools can be found in front of the open kitchen, providing a unique experience for diners wanting to watch their chef in action.

Guests can sit at the chef's table and watch their meals being prepared.

On the opposite side of the room, large garage bay doors open to create an outdoor feel during the warm weather months.

Another smaller dining room is located toward the back of the building and features low-top tables for those who prefer them.

The best way to describe the menu is eclectic. There are shareable small plates, pasta dinners, a raw bar, pizza and charcuterie. Other mains include everything from the 50 oz. bone-in ribeye (shareable for most) and roast suckling pig to burgers and chicken.

B2 offers an oversized bowl of French onion soup

We decided to start off our meal with a couple small plate appetizers. I ordered the French onion soup, expecting a typical crock.

What I got was an enormous bowl about twice the size of what normally constitutes a “bowl” at most restaurants. It could have easily been a meal by itself, especially with how good it was. It was heavy with onion and thick chunks of bread. And there was more than enough cheese layered on top to go with every salty-sweet bite.

The beautifully presented shrimp cocktail with six interlocked pieces of shrimp.

Julie also ordered an appetizer, the shrimp cocktail. As she told me, she was craving shrimp for a while and was not disappointed.

The six shrimp were presented beautifully, each one connected gracefully. While cold shrimp are cold shrimp, these were colossal in size and even better for scooping into the cocktail sauce. Julie’s craving was satisfied.

A big bowl of pasta Bolognese from B2 Bistro.

Deciding on a main course wasn’t easy but I eventually settled on the Bolognese pasta, one of five such pasta options on the menu. The pappardelle pasta was served with a sauce of Iberico pork (an imported meat from the Iberian peninsula of Europe), veal, tomato, cream and grana cheese.

It was a good meal – very hearty and more than enough food – but I had enjoyed the soup more. I have also had Bolognese pasta other places and I didn’t find that this version stood out among the others.

B2 Bistro's steak frites - steak with fries and Brussels sprouts

For her meal, Julie had opted for the steak frites – steak in demi glace, served with fries and Brussels sprouts. The steak was cooked beautifully and the semi-sweet demi glace paired beautifully with the savory cut of meat.

The fries were good – thick, fresh-cut fries and plenty of them. Brussels sprouts are a vegetable where you can only do so much to them. They were fine but better with a little of the demi glace.

B2's focaccia bread featured thinly sliced tomato baked on top

Before our meals arrived, we were served a plate of thick focaccia bread, unique in that there were thin slices of tomato baked into the top. It was served with a cup of oil for dipping and was very good.

Take one look through the Yelp reviews and you’ll see a range of opinions, mostly centered on price and service.

A thread guide from Narrow Fabrics hangs on the wall in one of the private rooms.

As for price, our final total was around $80. It wasn’t a cheap night out, but with two appetizers, an iced tea and two entrees (both of which were enough that we took home leftovers), I can’t say we were cheated, but the price of every item was a couple dollars higher at B2 than other places. A margherita pizza, for example, costs $12 at B2; the same costs $9 at Nonno Alby’s a block away.

The service was fine during our visit. Our server was a little slow to take our food order and with our check at the end of the night, but we were still in-and-out in just under an hour so it wasn’t a long wait by any means. (And I didn’t mind that he called me “boss” throughout our visit).

Overall, I was impressed. It’s a cool spot and all of the food was good-to-great. Though I saw high chairs, it’s not a place we would take our little one (he spent the evening with his grandparents).

But for a date night or a night out with friends, B2 Bistro + Bar is a good choice.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Ambiance: Excellent
Service: Good
Price: A Little Pricey

B2 Bistro + Bar
701 Reading Ave
West Reading, PA 19611

Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Juliana's Ricotta Balls

5 Favorite Appetizers of 2018

Our annual end-of-year tradition continues as we take a look back on the best things we tried this year. Today: our five favorite appetizers of 2018.

Savory Grille Steak Grilled Flatbread

Flatbread – Savory Grille

Savory Grille’s menu is constantly evolving and that means new appetizers, entrees and desserts on every meal. During our first visit to northeastern Berks’ fine dining destination in January, the appetizers included an incredible flatbread topped with steak, fennel frond pesto, shaved manchego and fig compote. It was sweet, savory, salty, creamy, earthy and all around delicious. Read Full Review

Shredded Pork Rolls - Lang Restaurant

Shredded Pork Roll – Lang

The former Hong Thanh is back in its original downtown Reading location with a new name but the same amazing food. On our first visit to the Sixth Street location, we were extremely impressed with everything – my vermicelli bowl and Julie’s crispy lo mein included – but it’s the shredded pork rolls, served with the house Lang sauce, that make our best-of list for 2018. Read Full Review

Juliana's Ricotta Balls

Ricotta Balls – Juliana’s

Juliana’s ricotta balls looked like a pair of snowballs sitting on top of a bed of red sauce. The mounds of cheese were rolled and baked to a crisp, but with a melt-in-your-mouth creaminess that made for an excellent first impression. Read Full Review

Fork & Ale Uovo da Raviolo

Uova De Raviolo – Fork & Ale

Everything that we tasted on our return visit to Fork & Ale was creative and flavorful. The uova de raviolo – or egg yolk ravioli – was no exception. As soon as I pierced the pasta with my fork, the egg yolk began pouring out, mixing on the plate with the sage butter sauce to add more depth to the sauce. With creamy ricotta inside the pasta and salty, savory bacon and bitter chard on top, it was an incredible mix of texture and taste. Read Full Review

Coconut Chicken Soup – Masa

Masa – the hibachi and sushi bar that replaced Hong Thanh in the Target shopping center in Wyomissing – had some very impressive dishes, first among those for me was the coconut chicken soup. It featured a creamy, flavorful broth, but the addition of cherry tomatoes set it apart from other versions of the same dish. Read Full Review

Appetizers Best of Berks County Eats
Russo Market Pizza

Russo Gourmet Foods Market

Russo Gourmet Foods Market

One of the places that has been on my list to try for a long time isn’t really a restaurant. It’s more of a grocery store. But it’s also so much more than that.

Russo Market is a little off the beaten path, away from Penn Ave along Bern Road in Wyomissing, near the Works, Building 24 and Gold’s Gym.

Julie has enjoyed many lunches at Russo, but never with me. I finally had the chance to change that on a recent afternoon.

The drab exterior of Russo Market had not prepared me for the vast market inside. The building opens up to aisles of pasta, imported sauces, beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), frozen treats, and other foods from Italy, Greece and beyond.

Russo Market Pizza

At the back of the market is the hot and prepared foods area. There are sheets of Sicilian pizza waiting to take another trip through the oven; a hot bar filled with meals like lasagna, meatballs and fried mozzarella; and a large salad bar that’s better than most restaurants.

Russo Market Olive Bar

There’s even an olive bar with more types of olives than I knew existed.

Russo Market Dining Area

Guests can do their grocery shopping, grab lunch (or dinner – Russo is open until the early evening most days) and pay for everything together at the registers near the entrance. For those dining in, there’s a nice dining area with booths, tables and mini curtains to separate diners from the checkout area.

I was excited to try the pizza so I ordered two kinds: pepperoni and margherita.

Russo Market Pizza

The Sicilian-style pies featured a slightly thicker dough with a small crust around the edges. Both squares were end pieces so they had nice crusts.

The pepperoni pie was your basic Sicilian pizza, but I really liked the pepperoni choice. They were a little spicier and more flavorful than at some restaurants, and it made it more enjoyable.

Russo Market Pizza

On the margherita, I was very impressed. What looked like just a pile of mozzarella, tomato and basil actually was a delicious meal. Each ingredient was fresh and full of flavor, and even though I never had a bite with all three toppings at once, I enjoyed it from start to finish.

Russo Market Salad Bar

Across the table from me, Julie had built quite the salad for herself. Among the greens, she added carrots, mozzarella, cucumber, red pepper, pepperoni, tomato, bacon bits, croutons, tortellini pasta salad and her personal favorite, tuna salad.

Russo Market Salad

Tuna salad is one of Julie’s favorite foods, and Russo has the best around, according to her expert opinion (I am not a fan of tuna or mayo so I will take her word for it).

Her eyes were a little too big for her stomach. Declaring she was getting full, Julie started skipping the salad and eating just “the good stuff.”

It’s really no surprise that the foods at the market are so good. Russo is also a wholesale distributor, supplying ingredients to Italian restaurants all around the region.

Russo Market

For our meals, plus a water, an iced tea, and a quart of soup to take home, we spent around $25. It was only after our lunch that we explored the market more, salivating over the bakery section with homemade cannoli, tiramisu and more desserts that we could no longer fit in our stomachs.

But now that I have finally enjoyed my first taste of Russo, I have no doubt that I will be back to enjoy even more of their Italian meals (and sweets).

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

Russo Market
1150 Bern Rd
Wyomissing, PA 19610

Italian Reviews
Sal's Pizza Style Stromboli Pizza

Sal’s Pizza Style

Sal's Pizza Style

You may not realize it, but Berks County has a history of culinary innovation.

Most famously, funnel cake was first served at the Kutztown Folk Festival before becoming a staple of stadiums and state fairs across the country.

More recently, a Berks County restaurant gave birth to a new dish, one that can only be found at Sal’s Pizza Style in Birdsboro.

Sal’s is an assuming little restaurant on the corner of First and Water Streets in Birdsboro. From the outside, it’s not much to look at it – an unremarkable gray building in a residential part of town.

Sal's Pizza Style

Inside, guests are funneled to the order counter. To the right, a small dining area features six tables of two to six seats each. The tables are covered in red and white checkered tablecloths. The walls are adorned with everything from photos of family and friends to a large painting of Rocky Balboa.

Sal Amato, the namesake owner, is a larger-than-life personality. He knows his regular customers by name and can tell a first-timer from the moment they walk in the door.

Sal's Pizza Style

The menu, for the most part, is a typical Italian pizza shop: pizza, sandwiches, burgers and a handful of pasta dinners make up the bulk of the menu.

We were at Sal’s for one thing: the Stromboli pizza.

According to the restaurant’s website, the Stromboli pizza was born in 2015. The concept is so simple,  yet completely unique.

Sal's Pizza Style Stromboli Pizza

It’s essentially a Stromboli – your choice of traditional Italian or ham and cheese – made by taking a large pizza crust and folding it over. Instead of ending there, Sal tops it with tomato sauce, mozzarella and pepperoni. The end result looks like a half pizza pie but with a second layer of flavor.

And it tastes as good as it looks.

We went with the Italian, stuffed with ham, salami, capicolla, sweet peppers, sauce and mozzarella cheese.

Sal's Pizza Style Stromboli Pizza

Do not mistake this for a stuffed pizza. We have had many of those, but they all feature a single crust and basically have one flavor. This was two separate dishes – an Italian Stromboli and a pepperoni pizza – combined into one.

A brush of garlic butter – at least that’s what I believe it to be – added to the flavor. It reminded me of pepperoni rolls that I used to make years ago, but with an additional layer of meats and cheese.

Sure, you could get pepperoni inside your Stromboli. And it probably wouldn’t have tasted much different from the end result. But where’s the fun in that?

Sal's Pizza Style Stromboli Pizza

The other advantage of having the pizza on top is there’s no need to dip the Stromboli in marinara sauce. Instead, it had a nice even marinara flavor across the entire dish.

The Stromboli came sliced in four and after Julie and I each ate one, we were stuffed. The other two slices went home with us, saving us from having to cook dinner one night during the week.

For the Stromboli and two drinks – a bottle of water and a bottle of iced tea – our total was $27. It was more than we would spend for pizza or Stromboli, but when you’re getting two full meals and no sides are needed, it felt like a fair price to us.

Sitting at our table, we could hear Sal saying “thank you” and “good night” to customers as they walked out the door. When we left, he was hard at work on another order. As we crossed the street to our car, we heard him yell,  “thank you” out the window to us.

That is a man who loves his job. And judging by how many people he knew by name, there are a lot of people who love him and his food.

Add us to that list.

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

Sal’s Pizza Style Inc.
401 E. 1st St
Birdsboro, PA 19508

Lunch & Dinner Pizzerias Reviews
Brickstone's Mighty Fine Food & Spirits Tuscan Pasta

Brickstone’s Mighty Fine Food & Spirits

Brickstone's Mighty Fine Food & Spirits

At the end of 2017, Berks County lost a mainstay of the finer dining scene when ViVA Good Life Bistro (then known as Fields Kitchen & Bar) closed its doors.

The Wyomissing restaurant had been ahead of its time – at least by Berks County standards – with a modern menu and a younger vibe.

When the restaurant closed, I had concerns about whether a replacement would appear. Sure, it had high visibility from Penn Avenue, a large parking lot and a hotel next door. But it was also one of the largest spaces in the county (that means a larger staff) and the construction (or is it deconstruction?) across the street at the former VF Outlet doesn’t help the ambiance.

Brickstone's Mighty Fine Food & Spirits

But my fears were unfounded and a new restaurant has taken over the space: Brickstone’s Mighty Fine Food & Spirits.

Brickstone’s is the newest offering from the owners of Austin’s, Coastal Grille, and the region’s J.B. Dawson’s restaurants (Select Grille LLC).

Inside, it hasn’t changed much since the days of ViVA. From the main dining area to the bar and lounge, it feels very much like the former restaurant.

Brickstone's Mighty Fine Food & Spirits

The menu is a great complement to Austin’s. There is some crossover, and the types of foods offered are similar, but Brickstone’s has built upon the familiar to create something new.

And the menu knows no cultural boundaries. Tikka masala, pad Thai, enchiladas and the South Philly spaghetti and meatballs can all be found in one place at Brickstone’s.

Brickstone's Mighty Fine Food & Spirits Tex-Mex Egg Rolls

Julie and I started our meal with the Tex-Mex egg rolls, a delicious cultural mash-up with chicken, corn, black beans and cheese.

I’ve had similar before, but that didn’t make this any less appetizing. Everything about it worked, especially the avocado ranch dipping sauce. It added a nice, cooling touch to the mild spice.

For our main courses, we went in completely different directions.

Brickstone's Mighty Fine Food & Spirits Tuscan Pasta

I went Italian with the Tuscan pasta. It featured penne pasta with chicken, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes in a Parmesan cream sauce.

It felt like a dish I had before at Austin’s – maybe it was a special once, I’m not sure – but it was very good.  I love sun-dried tomatoes, and Julie and I are always looking for recipes that use them. The sauce was rich and creamy. Even the spinach was a nice little throw-in.

All in all, it was one of the best pasta dishes that I have had outside of a traditional Italian restaurant. And it’s definitely one that I would order again (perhaps for Julie and I to split as half of it went home with us).

Brickstone's Mighty Fine Food & Spirits Coconut Curry Bowl

Julie’s dish was more reminiscent of south Asia. Her coconut curry bowl included chicken, carrots, broccoli, onions, green beans and zucchini in a Thai red curry sauce, served over rice.

The vegetables were fresh, the chicken was done well, but the real flavor in a dish like this comes from the sauce.

At first, she didn’t even notice the heat. But as the dish went along, her bites got more and more spicy. Now, neither of us will ever claim to have a high tolerance for spicy food so this may taste milder to others. The spice level was certainly high for Julie, but not high enough that it made the dish unenjoyable.

She brought some of her dish home, but not as much as I did.

Julie also added a drink (not pictured). This being a date night, and one of the few evenings where Jakob – now 10 months old – was not with us, it seemed the perfect opportunity for us to unwind a little.

With entrees, appetizer and drinks (I had an iced tea), our total was between $45 and $50. Our service throughout the night was very good, though it seemed to take a while for us to get our check (we were happy to savor the alone time so we didn’t mind).

It was a great night at what is surely to be another hit for the popular restaurant group.

And it certainly is a great fit for a location that could have easily fallen away with the closure of ViVA.

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

Brickstone’s Mighty Fine Food & Spirits
901 Hill Ave
Wyomissing, PA 19610

Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Juliana's Tigliatelle alle Norcina

Juliana’s

Juliana's

In 2015, we paid a visit to what became one of our favorite Italian restaurants in Berks County – Basil Restaurant and Pizzeria.

Located in the village of Fritztown, just outside of Sinking Spring, Basil was headed by Chef Gianluca Longo, whose resume included stints working for Giorgio Armani’s restaurant in Milan and De Niro’s Restaurant in Miami.

The restaurant closed abruptly in April 2017, and in its place, Cosa Pizzeria and Restaurant arrived. Cosa was a worthy replacement, but unfortunately it closed after less than a year.

Juliana's

Fast-forward to the summer of 2018, and what’s old is new again. Juliana’s is the new restaurant in town, but it’s headed by a familiar face – Chef Gianluca.

Juliana's Bar

The interior of the restaurant has evolved. It’s still split into two seating areas, but they feel more cohesive, whereas before there was a distinct difference between the restaurant and the pizzeria. A bar has been added, replacing the waterfall that once adorned the dining room wall.

Juliana's Dining Room

Juliana’s menu features a mix of classic Italian pasta dishes, pizza and sandwiches with rotating dinner specials.

We started our meal with an order of homemade ricotta balls. The cheese was rolled, baked to a light crisp on the outside, and served in the house marinara sauce.

Juliana's Ricotta Balls

The red sauce was nearly perfect – thick with tomatoes and just a little sweet. The ricotta melted in your mouth and worked so well with the sauce. It was an excellent starter.

Juliana's Salad

Also with our meals came starter salads with choice of dressing. I enjoyed the fact that the salads were actually prepared – instead of whole cherry tomatoes and large slivers of onion, both were diced and mixed in with the greens. It wasn’t the largest salad but it was large enough with a full meal to follow.

Juliana's Pasta Al Forno

I ordered my entree, the pasta al forno, off the special menu. The dish featured penne pasta in Bolognese sauce with soppressata (a type of salami), ham, peas and mozzarella.

I have to say, first impressions were not that impressive. The Bolognese was fine but my first bite had just ham, and it really didn’t do much for me.

Then I took a bite with the soppressata, and the whole complexion of the dish changed. The meat was packed with flavor, a spice that complemented the Bolognese perfectly. And after that first bite, the flavor stuck with me through the whole plate. The longer I ate, the more the flavors mixed and the better the dish became.

Juliana's Tigliatelle alle Norcina

Julie ordered the tigliatelle alle Norcina off the regular dinner menu. Her pasta was tossed with pancetta (think Italian bacon) and onions in a white cream truffle sauce.

She really enjoyed her dish. Pancetta is a great addition to any pasta dish, but it starred here. The truffle sauce was a perfect partner for the salty pancetta. The pasta was homemade and cooked perfectly tender. And the shaved parmesan finished off the dish nicely.

Juliana's Bread

I also want to mention the complimentary bread basket that included slices of olive loaf and toasted Italian bread served with oil and balsamic. Did we need it? No. Did we eat it all? Yes.

Our service was also very good – though there really were not many other people in the restaurant with us for our Sunday dinner. (It was the first week of pro football so I didn’t expect to have much company).

The final bill – just shy of $50 – felt right for a nice night out.

We’re happy that Juliana’s is here. Basil was a favorite of ours and our extended family and the new restaurant, while completely renovated, feels familiar.

And the food is just as good as we could have hoped.

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

Juliana’s
776 Fritztown Rd
Sinking Spring, PA 19608

Italian Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Calabria Italian Restaurant

There’s always an anticipation around a new restaurant opening. Sometimes there’s a lot of hype; sometimes there’s only a little. But there’s always people who are anxious to try it and anxious to taste it.

When the restaurant is reopening, that anticipation is even greater. A loyal customer base is waiting to return. And the longer the wait, it seems, the larger that customer base becomes as word spreads.

Calabria Italian Restaurant built up two-and-a-half years of anticipation for its reopening.

In December 2015, a fire broke out in the restaurant. It seemed like a small fire and that clean up and repairs wouldn’t take too long.

But days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months, and months turned to years. Instead of repairing the building, it had to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch. Driving between Wernersville and Robesonia on Route 422, we could watch the painfully slow progress that was being made.

In late April of this year, we drove past and for the first time in 29 months, the parking lot was filled with customers and not construction equipment. Calabria was back.

 

Fast forward to June, and we paid our first ever visit to Calabria. Despite growing up in Robesonia, I had never stepped foot in the old Calabria. I remember the building looking more like a dive, but the rebuilt restaurant is a thing of beauty. The outside is clean and modern with large curved windows and a hint of Old World in the brick facade.

Inside, the bar and dining area are much nicer than I would have imagined. The black tablecloths with white disposable covers make it feel like a premium dining experience. While the blue uplighting at the ceiling and around the bar make it feel cool.

Julie, Jakob and I were joined by our friends Matt and Tori. Matt is a lifetime resident of Wernersville, and like me, had never eaten at the old Calabria.

It was a Wednesday evening, and the parking lot was packed. We didn’t have reservations, but we only had to wait a minute or two for a table to be cleared before we were seated.

Our meals started with a basket of garlic bread, complimentary with the purchase of an entree. The bread was sliced small so the slices were easily snackable. Though not toasted to a total crisp, there was plenty of garlic and butter flavor throughout. We ate through them quickly and almost finished the entire second basket that came during our dinner.

Entrees were also served with a simple house salad or Caesar. The house salad came with mixed greens, two large slices of tomato and cucumber – the usual. It was topped with shredded mozzarella, a nice touch, and served with your choice of dressing. There were no complaints at all from the table about the salads.

Our entrees arrived relatively quickly. Each of us ordered a different Italian pasta dinner. For me, it was the tortellini in vodka sauce.

Vodka sauce (a creamy tomato sauce infused with vodka) is not something that I normally order when I dine out, but it caught my eye and I had to give it a try.

It was a good dish. The tortellini (I choose meat instead of cheese) was small so it looked like I ate more than I actually did. The sauce was good and very creamy. There wasn’t a lot of herbiness to it, but it was still a good dish, overall.

Julie ordered her favorite Italian meal: baked ziti. This was different than most versions of the dish that she has tried. Normally, it’s a lot of the traditional red sauce with cheese on top. This version was cheesier with a mix of red sauce and ricotta that gave it a different texture and a slightly different flavor.

It was a good change of pace, something that definitely stood out. She wouldn’t call it her favorite version, but it was good.

Matt’s manicotti was loaded with both ricotta and red sauce. The oversized stuffed pasta was a hit. I got to try a bite. I thought the red sauce was good, nothing outstanding, but the dish overall was good.

Tori also enjoyed her chicken Parmesan. There was more than enough chicken – plenty of it went home – and the rest of the plate was filled with pasta. As far as our party was concerned, we had four meals, and four winners.

For Julie and I, our total bill came to about $35, average for what a similar meal would cost at Italian restaurants across Berks County.

I have to say, Calabria made a great first impression on us. The food was very good. The service was great. And the building, itself, just seemed to enhance the experience.

And judging by the parking lot every time we drive past, it’s made a good impression on a lot of others, too.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Great
Ambiance: Great
Value: Reasonable

Calabria Italian Restaurant
6646 Penn Ave
Wernersville, PA 19565

Italian Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Road Trip: Revere Tavern

Revere Tavern, a historic restaurant attached to the Best Western in Paradise, Pa.

Berks County Eats takes a road trip to Lancaster County this week for a meal at the historic Revere Tavern in Paradise.

Lancaster County is teeming with great restaurants. The problem is getting to those restaurants – especially during the height of summer tourist season.

A drive on Route 30 is more like a crawl with out-of-state license plates parading along the highway on their way to catch a glimpse of the Amish at work in the field.

So finding a place for dinner on a Saturday night in Lancaster is tricky, unless you venture a little farther outside the city limits.

The entrance to the historic Revere Tavern

That’s where we found the Revere Tavern.

The address is Paradise, an ambitious name for a settlement that never really grew beyond a village.

We had driven past the tavern and the adjacent Best Western hotel many times, mostly to visit Rainbow’s Comedy Playhouse, a dinner theater set a few hundred yards behind the historic building.

But in need of a quiet place away from the rush of the city, we found exactly that at the Revere.

Historic Revere Tavern in Paradise was once owned by President James Buchanan.

The tavern is steeped in history, serving as a roadside inn since before the 1800s. At one time, it was owned by President James Buchanan. How it got the name the Revere Tavern, I’m still not sure.

It’s exactly the restaurant you expect when you hear the name. A stone hearth still protrudes from the wall of the King George dining room. Along the tops of the walls is a display of century-old China, decorative plates adorned with floral patterns, portraits and country scenes.

There are two other spaces as well – a smaller dining room and a bar, both located across the hallway from the table of four where Julie and I sat with her parents.

A table for six in front of the fireplace at Revere Tavern

We had come from a matinee at Sight & Sound Theatre and were ready for a hearty meal.

The menu features a selection of about 10 entrees – classic meals like scallops, prime rib, chicken breast and lamb chops that are expected fare at a restaurant like the Revere.

Revere Tavern Rolls and Butter

Before the meal, a basket of warm rolls were delivered to the table along with tiny cups of whipped cinnamon butter. It was a nice little start to the meal. Warm bread is always a nice touch and the little extra effort with the butter was appreciated.

Revere Tavern Salad

Our salads were next – each entree coming with a choice of Caesar or field green salad. We all opted for the field greens – romaine lettuce, red onion, carrots, cucumber and cherry tomato.

It was your basic starter salad, nothing more and nothing less. It served its purpose of holding us over until the main course arrived.

My entree choice was the wild mushroom ravioli with grilled chicken breast.

Revere Tavern Wild Mushroom Ravioli

The ravioli was served in a madeira wine sauce with caramelized onions, spinach, chopped walnut and more mushrooms.

It was a heavy sauce, creamy and thick, that made the ravioli feel a lot more dense. The grilled chicken breast on top was a perfect addition (it’s optional for those who prefer a meat-free meal). I found it cooked perfectly, lightly seasoned to add flavor that worked well with the sauce.

The spinach and walnut were both nice touches, especially the walnut which added much-needed texture to the dish while also giving a pop of flavor every few bites.

What I could have done without was the additional mushrooms. I would not have minded a few on the side, but I felt overwhelmed by the tiny white fungi that were swimming on my plate.

I left a lot of them sitting, but I happily finished off the remainder of the dish.

Revere Tavern Crab Cakes

Julie’s entree was a crab cake (she opted for one instead of two). She definitely didn’t get cheated on her one as the six-ounce cake looked to be about the size of a baseball on her plate.

The crab cakes were meaty and satisfying – not the best that Julie has ever had, but certainly not the worst. The lemon aioli was a great complement, elevating the dish.

It was served with a vegetable medley of corn, potatoes and tomato with a bed of arugula, all sitting in the lemon aioli. The potatoes were diced like breakfast hash. None of the three items truly stood out, but they were enjoyable together for a nice side.

Amazingly, neither of us had anything left that was worth bringing home. It wasn’t that the portions weren’t generous – they were – but we were both looking forward to finishing everything on our plates.

When the final bill was tallied, it was about $45 for the two of us (that included my glass of unsweetened iced tea). We’ve certainly paid more than that for history so I don’t think we were cheated at all.

The Revere Tavern may not be the most recognized name in the Lancaster food scene, nor the most sought-out, but the quiet little restaurant delivered a nice meal during our visit.

And that’s all we were really hoping for.

Revere Tavern
3063 Lincoln Highway
Paradise, PA 17562

Revere Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Mimmo’s

It is always interesting to compare a family of restaurants. If you have followed Berks County Eats across the past four years, you have seen us profile several sets of related restaurants.

We have paid visits to Stokesay Castle and Gatsby’s at Sunnybrook Ballroom, had memorable (and forgettable) meals at ViVA and ViVA Castle Pub, had dinner at two Giannotti’s, and tasted all three locations for Klinger’s.

This week we cross another one off the list. It was in late 2015 that Julie and I made the drive to Amityville for a visit to Vincenzo’s. But we had yet to pay a visit to the family’s original restaurant, Mimmo’s.

Mimmo’s is located within the city limits of Reading, along Morgantown Road (Route 10) near Alvernia University.

I had watched as Mimmo’s underwent an extensive renovation and expansion in 2015. After it was finished, there was no denying the similarities to its sister restaurant. Both feature an exterior of stone and stucco meant to harken back to the Old World.

The restaurant has quite a large dining area – multiple dining rooms plus an outdoor patio – but take-out is big business as well.

We were looking for the full experience so we entered through the dine-in door and were seated in a booth for two in the back corner of the front dining room. The seat was right next to a bar – one without seats that served only as place for mixing drinks.

Our waitress stopped by quickly to take our orders, but we weren’t quite ready. It was not an easy decision for either of us because the menu is as expansive as the building.

Finally we called our waitress back and placed our orders. But before our entrees arrived, we were brought two warm, oversized dinner rolls that were very reminiscent of the ones we had on our visit to Vincenzo’s.

I had waivered back and forth between two of the 13 options in the chicken and veal category before finally settling on the chicken Calabrese.

The dish included two large chicken breasts with mushrooms, green peppers and onions in a spicy Calabrese sauce. I had no idea what Calabrese sauce was, but the keyword was spicy so I decided to give it a try.

It was as advertised. The sauce definitely had heat to it, though it was more of a slow burn, one that built up with every bite instead of hitting you head-on. I enjoyed the flavor, but the sauce was runnier than I would have liked. Not knowing anything about Calabrese sauce, I have no idea what it normally looks like. I just prefer thicker tomato sauce with my pasta.

That said, the flavor was there. And it played well with the chicken. The mushrooms, peppers and onion were good additions as well.

All pasta entrees are served with your choice of garden salad, Caesar salad or cup of soup as an appetizer. On this day, there were three choices of soup and I went with my old stand-by at Italian restaurants: Italian wedding soup.

Mimmo’s version was among the better versions that I have tried. It did not have a lot of the signature mini meatballs, but it had enough that I did not feel cheated. Instead, the flavor came from a broth that was flavorful but not too salty.

Across the table, Julie had ordered one of her favorite Italian entrees, eggplant Parmigian with whole wheat linguini.

Her marinara sauce was much thicker, but the flavor and heartiness of her meal came from the heap of mozzarella that was on top of the eggplant. It was a good balance and a very enjoyable dish. Even the wheat linguini, which she had gotten on a whim, was a pleasant addition.

For her appetizer, Julie had chosen the simple garden salad. There wasn’t anything extraordinary about it. In fact, Julie wasn’t even able to finish her salad before the entrees had arrived. This same quick service was something we had experienced at Vincenzo’s.

Another similarity between the two restaurants is price. Though our bill was slightly less at Mimmo’s ($36 compared to $45), it was only because of our entree selections.

In all, the two restaurants were alike in many ways. The similarities in appearance were obvious, but it went deeper than that.

Both offered fast service and quick delivery of our meals. The prices are reasonable for large portions (we brought leftovers home from both restaurants).

Oh yeah, and the food was very good, too.

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

Mimmo’s
290 Morgantown Rd
Reading, PA 19611

Mimmo's Restaurant & Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Italian Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Monte Lauro European Gourmet

A trip to Fairgrounds Farmers Market can be overwhelming for the unprepared.

There are sixty stands inside the Fairgrounds Farmers Market and at least 20 of them offer dine-in meals or snacks.

Even for Julie and I, deciding where to grab our meal is a daunting task.

On a recent Friday evening, we arrived at the market not yet knowing where to go. We surveyed our options as we paced up and down all of the aisles, hoping that something would catch our eyes.

That something was Monte Lauro European Gourmet.

The flagship location for the deli is on Mount Laurel Road in Temple (Monte Lauro is Italian for Mount Laurel) and is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays while the Farmers Market is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

One of the advantages that Monte Lauro has over other dining options is the common dining area across the aisle. On a Friday evening, when things are a little slow, there are plenty of seats to be had (you just may need to take a napkin and clean it yourself).

The selection is both limited and expansive at the same time, with eight cold sandwiches and five hot sandwiches, many of which are also available as paninis. There are also select salad options both as entrees and sides. The only other side available is French fries.

We placed our order, took our number and grabbed a seat. It was a short wait – maybe 10 minutes – until our number was called and I retrieved the tray.

For food being served on a cafeteria tray, it looked beautiful, especially my chicken cutlet sandwich.

Sliced in half, you could see the bright colors of the roasted red peppers and spinach that the cutlet sat upon.

I enjoyed the sandwich – particularly the roasted reds – but I wanted something a little more. The cutlet was OK, but nothing special, and I would have loved another slice of sharp Provolone.

Also, the roll was very good. It was heavy enough to soak up the juice from the roasted reds, but not too heavy to overpower the rest of the ingredients.

Julie’s homemade meatball panini looked just as good with beautiful grill marks on top, a hint of red from the marinara sauce and meatballs sliced perfectly for the grill press.

It was a good sandwich. The meatballs were solid though we’ve tried better. And I would have liked a little more sauce.

With little other choices, we decided to split a side of French fries to go with our sandwiches.

The thin cut fries were in the traditional fast-food style: skins off, cooked to a shade of golden brown and served in a paper bag. They were good and certainly helped fill us up, which is all you can really ask for from an order of fries.

Overall, we enjoyed our meal at Monte Lauro. It was fast, it was tasty and it was right around the $20 mark for the two of us.

I’d like to go back again to try the homemade sausage or one of Monte Lauro’s take-and-make Italian specialties.

Of course, we have many other stands to try first.

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

Monte Lauro European Gourmet
Fairgrounds Farmers Market
2930 N. Fifth Street Hwy
Reading, PA 19605

Farmers Market Meals Reviews Sandwich Shops