Hell-UVA Cool Atmosphere

It was a Saturday and we had no fixed plans for dinner. Initially we thought of making reservations at a nearby restaurant, but while online to make a res, up popped a link for UVA Ristoranti Italiano. I mean, who doesn’t like Italian cuisine? It was an establishment unbeknownst to us, which always entices our foodie curiosity. The extensive menu tempted us enough to call, where we also found out they’re a BYO—our preference.

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UVA (Italian word for “grape”) is located on Second Street Pike in Richboro, PA at one end of a small strip mall, about a 20-minute ride from our home. Pulling into the parking lot you immediately notice their neon purple sign beckoning you in. Patronage was a bit light, but that was to be expected because it was only 5:45, way early for us but the only workable time we could get a reservation on such short notice. However, by the time we left the placed was packed to the rafters!

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The wall partitions turned different colors as bubbles created an intriguing graphic movement.

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Mood lighting is everywhere without being intrusive.

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This side of the dining area was pretty empty when we first arrived.

Our first impression of the upscale vibe with modern decor was very positive. The unusual ceiling discs, glowing partitions with color-changing bubbling liquid, branches with twinkling lights, and fascinating wall sconces all worked together in exuding a hip lounge-like atmosphere. After taking our coats, the cheery hostess promptly seated us at a table for two near a window looking directly into the foyer, which provided Russ an ample view of the steady stream of customers piling in as the evening wore on.

Initially, a soft jazz wafted in the background, a pleasant atmosphere for easy conversation in an intimate dinner setting. But as time wore on, that all changed. We didn’t notice how close all of the tables were until we needed to use the restrooms (very nicely appointed, btw) and worm our way through the completely full dining areas. And at some point an experienced lounge singer began her set of well-known songs, but with sound levels that made conversation difficult.

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Two different vegetable spreads were delivered to each table with a basket of fresh bread.

There was a large attentive waitstaff who took orders, brought meals, filled water glasses and just made sure everything was as it should be. At first it was. While pondering the menus, a basket of fresh bread and a plate of two spreads were presented. Not sure what they were, but liking them a lot, we found out that one was a carrot spread and the other was made with zucchini with a slight sweet note to it. We noted (and overheard) that other diners received similar but different spreads, i.e. eggplant.

I started with a large Arugula Salad and allowed Russ to take nearly half of it, while I asked for just a small bite of his Eggplant Rollatini. Both appetizers were hefty in size and very tasty, although not earth shattering.

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ARUGULA SALAD—With fennel, tomato, lemon and oil topped with shaved parmigiano

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EGGPLANT ROLLATINI—Stuffed with ricotta and prosciutto in marinara and parmigiano

Things went a bit downhill once our entrees started to arrive. Russ chose the Veal D-Uva accompanied by shrimp in a fresh tomato and champagne sauce. But once it was delivered and he couldn’t find any shrimp, he realized he got someone else’s order and it took a few minutes to flag down a waiter to remedy the situation.

In the meantime, my Grilled Cajun Salmon dinner arrived several minutes before Russ got his correct meal. And even though my dinner was plated nicely, the salmon itself was overcooked. Russ did enjoy his veal over a bed of gluten-free penne, but again, pretty average in taste.

A nuance that particularly irritates us is when fine restaurants serve most entrées with the same sides, such as the mashed potatoes, instead of using originality and pairing each meal with appropriate accompaniments. I know it saves time and money, but lacks the finesse of a high-brow establishment.

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GRILLED CAJUN SALMONDusted with Cajun spices, topped with tomato bruschetta, and served over a sautéed bed of kale, with a side a creamy mashed potatoes.

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Russ originally received this veal dish which was not what he ordered.

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In the end, Russ enjoyed his entrée choice of Veal D’Uva.

Despite the shortcomings, we liked the place enough to try again and will give it another shot. We’ll just make an effort to be more specific with our orders when we do return…

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