Philadelphia, PA - With the seasonal weather changes, comes changes in what local restaurants have in store for our enjoyment. In Westmont NJ Treno is updating their menu, venue, and increasing the size of their dining capacity by turning part of their restaurant into an indoor/outdoor haven. What is even more fun, is that Treno is now celebrating the First Friday of every month with food and drink specials and live entertainment.
Once inside, you immediately see the hostess’s who are ready to seat you, and the waiting area has a beautiful site to see: the large collection of wine, giving this restaurant an heir of sophistication. Just past the entrance is the first of two bars. Here you can order one of Treno specialty cocktails, elevated wine options, and hyper-local craft beers, which will be available within the next month.
According to Treno’s Beverage Manager Brandon Cohill, “We’re elevating the beverage program in a serious way from house-made Rums to a lot of really cool infusions and cocktails; it’s going to be a lot of fun, a real elevation and dialing in of the wine list as well.” Cohill continued to explain, “We aim for what the guests want. A big part of what I’ve been doing is asking what the guests like to drink and then creating cocktails with pizazz while maintaining what they’re used to.”
While I was there, I sipped on Treno White Sangria, which was filled to the rim with the sweet wine creation and a nice amount of freshly cut fruits. I looked over the delicious First Friday Food Specials to choose from. And as my friends and I decided that everything looked too good, we ordered one of each for the table. Which at $6 per dish it was perfectly affordable. As we chatted and I finished drinking my White Sangria, I got to the best part of it. Eating the fruit that has been infused by the drink. It allows you to continue enjoying the libation with every small juicy and fruity bite.
I also tried Treno Rosemary Ginger Sparkler. It was not as sweet as my last drink and had a nice mix that played well on my palate. The sweetness of the simple syrup was cut by the grassy and savory rosemary infusion in it, while the lemon lended itself to a lightly tart taste, and the ginger beer grounded the cocktail. While my friends and I were enjoying our 2nd drinks, we had the pleasure of meeting Jaime D’Oliveria, who is one of P.J. Whelihan’s Pub and Restaurant (PJWRG) Corporate Chefs.
I asked Corporate Chef D’Oliveria if Treno was bringing in a localized farm to table concept. He told me that, “We’re definitely going in that direction, very elevated. It’s wonderful, the Mediterranean food has kind of a broad base in everything from all the great food countries. But we are trying to move away from the pizza and into something more upscale. And most people think when you say that, that it means price increases. But it’s just a level of sophistication and presentation to plate up the food and products.”
D’Oliveria then informed us that Executive Chef Javier Alonso, who has also worked for 10 years for the PJWRG at Chop House, was taking over Treno kitchen. “He’s excited to have his own kitchen, excited about going in a different direction with the food. In terms of elevating it, going into a Mediterranean style, and a heavy wine bar presence. But it’s Javier’s kitchen, I’m just the guy behind the scenes so I’m excited to be here and working on another new concept for the company.”
That is when the First Friday Food Specials began to arrive at our table. The Crispy Artichoke Hearts were laying in lemon crema, and each lightly crisp bite had strong lemon notes, but the tartness was mellowed out with the crema. The Grilled Fresh Italian Sausage tasted savory with a very light hint of sweetness due to the agrodolce sauce and the balsamic glaze, and was plated with roasted red bell peppers—this was one of my favorites on the special menu. Next was the House Marinated Bocconcini Mozzarella with crispy toast points and laying in a Calabrian chili sauce; the creaminess of the mozzarella mellowed out the heat of the chili making it a well-balanced dish. And the last First Friday Food Special we tried was a favorite of our entire table; the Pan Roasted Clams Oreganata. It had a crispy layer of garlic crumbs, full of herbs and a light smoky taste from the paprika, and then finished with the jewel of the dish--the clam.
We were informed that all the dishes from the First Friday menu were created by Executive Chef Javier Alonso. Because all of his dishes were so delicious, we asked him what he would recommend for us to eat next.
“What we’re obviously known for is pizza and the kind of go-to things that I love are the Kennett Square or Short-Rib Pie. The Bolognese is hearty, it’s a wonderful home-cooked food, and I love the Ricotta & Honey Jar. All of our breads are cooked in-house, so sliced fresh daily, so just a lot of good things,” said Executive Chef Alonso.
With all the recommendations, we chose the Wood-Fire Kennett Square Pizza to share. It was brilliantly made, loaded with a plethora of exotic mushrooms, and the mixture of the truffle and garlic oils on the fontina cheese made it taste delightful and creamy. After finishing the pizza, it was time for something from the sea, and we decided to try a variety of foods on the menu.
Our next choice was the Wood-Oven Roasted Shrimp which tasted wonderful as each shrimp was coated in the garlic butter. The dish had toast points and shrimp in a cast-iron pan, still sizzling as it was presented to us, giving this dish panache. Next, we tried the Pan-Seared Scallops. They were presented on top of a bed of risotto, the starches making this dish creamy and mouth-watering with the delicate scallops having a nice sear. And the earthy mushrooms and natural saltiness of the pancetta blending all the tasting notes beautifully together. But I am saving the best for last: The Shrimp Capellini. The smell of the saffron butter that mixed with the white wine enticed our palates before taking our first bite of the delicate pan-seared shrimp. The saffron gave the dish an earthy-iodine taste, while the butter and white wine used to complete the sauce made this plated meal rich and buttery. That sauce made the succulent shrimp and the pasta irresistible.
We ended our over-indulgent meal with a round of Margaritas on the rocks and sat back in our chairs, listening to the live music that No Relations Band was playing. I had a wonderful night at Treno 1st First Friday of the season, and I’m looking forward to what else they have planned for their restaurant next month.