If you live in South Jersey, you probably know the Lamberti family name; in fact, Caffe Aldo Lamberti just celebrated its 25 year Anniversary this June. But are you starting to get confused about all the restaurants they seem to own, and want to know what the heck is the difference between them anyway? Well, so did our intern, Vicki Chen, and she chose to do a little digging (and eating) to clear up the matter:
When thinking about Italian restaurants in South Jersey, there is one name that always comes up: Aldo Lamberti. Like Marc Vetri in Philadelphia, the Lamberti family have been known as the gold standard of Italian food in the area.It all started when Aldo Lamberti bought one of four 5,000 square foot store-fronts in a strip mall on Route 70 in Cherry Hill. One by one, Lamberti took over each of the stores, eventually purchasing the whole shopping center in the early 1990’s, renovating it to become the current 18,000 square foot flagship, Caffe Aldo Lamberti. Their loyal following have been enjoying their modern take on classic Italian seafood dishes now for over 25 years.
But in addition to the upscale Caffe Aldo, there are five other restaurants in the Lamberti empire.Tutti Toscani, a warm and friendly ‘neighborhood’ restaurant serving traditional Italian fare, features a large outdoor patio, with homegrown garden views, a wishing well and a fig tree. I met my aunt there for lunch, and we sat out on the patio and enjoyed the nice weather while chowing down on delicious sandwich and salad combos. Their freshly baked focaccia is soft, savory and addicting.
Luna Rossa Biagio Lamberti in Turnersville is centered on a family theme. This means big portions, a warm, comfortable atmosphere and attentive, friendly service. It’s the type of place where they’ll remember your name. They are closed on Mondays, but from Tuesday to Thursday have a 3 course, $18 prix fixe menu available which makes Luna sound like a good place for date night.
Forno Pizzeria and Grille is Lamberti’s fast-casual concept. It’s got counter service, as well as a sit-down dining area with an outdoor patio. Their menu has a little bit of everything, from cheesesteaks to chicken marsala to homemade gelato, but they feature gourmet-style pizzas, which can be bought by the slice. They also feature a homemade antipasto table that is sold by the pound, daily specialty dishes and “Sunday Night Gravy”, where they serve huge amounts of traditional Italian-American comfort food.
Like Vetri, the Lambertis also spread the love to our Philadelphia neighbors with Lamberti’s Cucina in Feasterville and Positano Coast in Old City (you’re welcome, Philly). Lamberti Cucina is a small, strip mall establishment, focusing on standard Italian-American fare in a traditional setting. Positano Coast, however, is inspired by Aldo Lamberti’s childhood home in Naples. This menu is centered around seafood, and the décor was chosen to evoke thoughts of the Amalfi Coast along the southwest shore of Italy. The second floor features an open-air terrace, called Sopra Lounge, decorated with white leather sofas, white curtains and open doors that let in the “sea” breeze.
While each of the restaurants has its own distinct character and atmosphere, at every location, it seems they take their food seriously. Aldo Lamberti has spent time researching ingredients and farmers in the area to get the best quality; and all of the Lamberti restaurants use the same extra virgin olive oil imported directly from Italy (customers can even buy bottles of it to use in their own kitchens). Some of the locations utilize their own culinary garden where they grow their own produce, and Positano Coast uses home-grown herbs for their handcrafted cocktails.
The Lambertis attribute the longevity and success of their businesses to both their dedication to excellence and the South Jersey community (they often provide support to local charities, sponsor local golf tournaments, and donate gift certificates for fundraising events, even running their own in house raffles for local organizations). But as anyone worth their salt in the restaurant industry will tell you, the not-so-secret of success is the ingredient that everyone needs to add to any dish: love. It’s what makes the world go ’round, and also what makes their clientele keep coming back for more.