Last night we celebrated my BIL's 40th at Cafe 2825 in Atlantic City. It wasn't that we were so keen on AC, my sister and her husband live in Cape May County, and they themselves were spending the weekend away from the kids. They asked if we and my other sister would like to join them to celebrate so we made the long haul from northern NJ, not knowing what to expect from this restaurant, other than we'd read good reviews.
We were more than pleasantly surprised, although it was quite pricey. From what I read the restaurant is owned by a man from Brooklyn, who actually will go back there to get ingredients he can't get in South Jersey, and also flies in special seafood from Italy regularly, such as Branzina (which I had).
Cafe 2825 is a small Italian restaurant and it is lovely in its decor, very warm and inviting located across the street from the Tropicana Hotel on Atlantic Avenue. I think it only had about 20 tables, if that. We were warmly greeted and given a round table, which worked out much better for the 6 of us.
We all started with wine and complimentary bruscetta and a breadbasket filled with very good warm Italian bread and seeded flat bread. Their wine menu was varied and not overpriced - there were plenty of choices in all price ranges. One of my BIL's and my 2 sisters chose wine's by the glass and the birthday boy, my husband and I split a bottle of a special Pinot Noir, which was quite good (actually, I thought it would have paired with with a big piece of chocolate cake). None of us are huge drinkers so this sufficed us enough throughout the meal.
We all had appetizers and shared them amongst each other so that we could get tastes of each. My husband ordered stuffed artichoke which I do have to say, was probably the best I'd ever had - putting his mom's to shame. It was loaded with garlic and had chopped hard boiled egg in it too. This was new to me. The artichoke was so tender you could eat many of the leaves without just running them across our teeth. None of my family had ever had artichoke before (we're jewish, it just wasn't part of our heritage) and all of them enjoyed this.
My BIL's split an order of fried calamari which I tasted. Excellent. Again, very tender, very fresh. I had an appetizer portion of one of their pasta dishes, which was a rigatoni with broccoli rabe and sausage. Pasta was perfectly al dente. My other 2 sisters split the same pasta.
We all had salads after this course. My husband and I split a house salad, which was romaine, mixed lettuce, parmagian reggiano, tomato, currents and nuts. Very good, a tad too much vinegar for my taste by my husband loved it like that. All the rest of the table had ceasar salads and loved them.
Entrees were a hit for the most part. My branzina was filleted by the waiter for me and came with some broccoli and roasted garlic cloves. Excellent, very fresh, this is one of my favorite fishes. My husband had a very good veal parmigiana. One of my sister's had Shrimp Parmigian and her husband had a Chilean Sea Bass with Honey Mustard Sauce if I remember correctly. both said they were very good. Birthday boy had a Lobster Tail Franchese which he said was excellent. His wife had a Chilean Sea Bass with Lemon and Herbs. This was the only "miss" but I have to say it was no real "miss" as I tasted it personally. The problem was it has many bones and this was turning her off somewhat and she thought the sauce was a bit too salty. However, I tasted it and found it to be perfectly fine, not salty at all and as for bones, well, this does not bother me too much where fresh fish is concerned. But, it was not like it was "bad" - just not her thing so her and her husband wound up exchanging the remainder of the dishes, which was fine by him (he's a good sport).
Only caveat - my dish was the only one which came with a vegetable, if I remember correctly. This is very typical of Italian restaurants. Side dishes are extra and we did not order any. My husband was a bit disappointed just to be served a plate of veal, however, he also did say that considering all the food he'd already eaten before his entree, he didn't really need anything else.
Deserts were not remarkable but were enjoyable but we also didn't go nuts with these. My husband, my sister and I split a white pistachio gelato - very good. Yes, there was actually enough in the dish for the 3 of us to feel satisfied with. My sister's idea was that she'd order herself one if she liked it enough but after we saw how much was in our dish, we all just decided we could share the 1 portion. BB had a lemon sorbet served in a frozen lemon. I guess none of them had seen this before because they were all very intrigued by this - but my husband and I found that amusing, especially since we know you can buy these in Trader Joe's by the box LOL. But it was very good sorbet. My other BIL also had something, but I can't remember off hand now what it was but suffice it to say he was happy with it. We all had coffee/cappuccino/lattes to go around and all were good.
Dinner was served at a nice leisurely pace. The owner was very pleasant, and helpful with the wine list. He also, after seeing that the arugula was not in good condition, personally came over to the table to let my husband and I know that he felt that it shouldn't be served that evening and would we be ok with the house salad instead? To top it off, he overheard us wishing my BIL a happy birthday and offered him a free shot of anything he cared for, which he of course, was happy to take him up on (and stupidly, didn't ask for anything remarkable!).
The bill came out to $486 with tip and tax ($162 per couple). This was quite a pricey meal, particularly for one of my sisters and her husband who never spends this kind of money on dinner. We weren't too fazed by this, considering that the quality was quite high and it is evident there is much care being given in the running of this restaurant. If we're ever in the area again, we'd go back in a heartbeat.
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