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A Tale of Two Tables

Located just outside the picturesque village of Skippack in Worcester, PA, one discovers two recommendable restaurants, both ensconced in the spiffy Center Point Shopping Center. Ravenna majors in the cuisine of the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, while FuziOn offers up an interesting variety of contemporary Asian fare. Ravenna is to be much preferred, in my opinion, but both are worthy of a visit.

So if you don't feel like paying the lethal tariffs associated with dining in Skippack proper, these two reasonably priced alternatives are certainly worth seeking out. And the fact that both establishments are BYOB is certain to have a salutary influence on the bottom line.

2960 Skippack Road (Route 73)
Worcester, Pennsylvania
(610) 584-6958

FuziOn isn't quite the gastronomic heartthrob of the aforementioned Ravenna, but it still gives you a decent bang for your buck, and the contemporary Asian cuisine generally acquits itself reasonably well.

The restaurant's servers, depending on the luck of the draw, can range from perfunctory to distant (read here, "aloof") to brusque to semi-inhospitable to all of the above. On the other hand, it sure beats "forced friendly." Suffice it to say that meaningful customer/staff communication does not appear to be a major priority.

But on to the food... Appetizers have the most going for them; desserts, although none are made in house, finish solidly in second place; entrées, unfortunately, bring up the rear.

To start things off, the spring rolls ($5.50) are a solid choice. The two rolls are exceedingly crispy, cut on the diagonal, and presented with a ramekin of duck sauce. The pot stickers ($6.50) - either steamed or pan-fried (I prefer the steamed) - are also a good bet... ditto the crab cakes ($7.50) topped with chunky breadcrumbs and mango chutney. To get a gastronomic overview, however, you might want to try the "Sampler" ($9.50), which includes a spring roll, crab cake, duck dumpling, golden pouches, and pot stickers.

My nod, though, would undoubtedly go to the vegetable tempura, strips of carrot, slices of sweet potato, asparagus, mushrooms, and broccoli locked in a light, ethereal batter. One of the best renditions of this classic I've tasted in some time.

Entrées here aren't bad, but they lack the finesse and subtlety of their predecessors. The striped bass ($17.95), for example, is marvelously moist and flaky... but it is smothered in a balsamic vinegar-infused sauce that robs the fish of its delicate natural flavor.... ditto a pan-seared red snapper ($19.95) that languishes beneath a deluge of white wine, tomatoes, and capers. And the scallops ($17.95), though pristine of countenance, are drowned beneath an entirely too assertive caramelized garlic sauce.

Seafood is obviously not the kitchen's strong suit. My advice: Stick with meatier matters, which fare infinitely better. Slices of prosciutto-wrapped pork tenderloin are delightfully tender and are nicely complemented by an assertive mustard sauce. Interesting enough, although the menu denotes this dish as "Hot and Spicy," it is really rather tame. You might also opt for either the Hunan filet (mignon) adorned with a zippy mushroom-pepper sauce ($18.95) or the honey-rosemary marinated rack of lamb ($20.95).

As noted above, desserts, though all imported from off campus, have a great deal to recommend them. Be sure to try the cappuccino ice cream ($5.00), which arrives in the beguiling guise of a tartufo.

Restaurant Now Closed - Now Zacharia's Creekside - See review of Zacharia's Creekside
2960 Skippack Road (Route 73)
Worcester, Pennsylvania
(610) 584-5650

Once across the threshold, immediately assaulted by the incredible aromas emanating from the open kitchen, you know you're palate is in for a treat. And given the restaurant's point of origin, the food exhibits a charmingly rustic flavor and flair You may, for example, in true bistro/trattoria fashion, head directly for the Piatti del Giorno, seasonally-changing specials featured only on a specific day of the week, or order from the à la carte menu.

Among the latter offerings, pastas (appetizer portions are also available) hold a prominent place. You would do well to consider the hearty tagliatelle with traditional Bologna-style meat ragu ($15.00) or, perhaps, the penne with asparagus, wild mushrooms, tomato, basil, sweet garlic, and extra virgin olive oil ($15.00). The linguine with shrimp and scallops served fra diavolo ($18.00) is also quite good. The linguine is cooked to a perfect al dente and the crustaceans and bivalves are impeccably fresh... although the dish could use a tad more in the diavolo department.

Finny fare is also handled quite well here. A special grilled butterfish was served up puttanesca style, adorned with capers, olives, and anchovies ($24.00). Pristinely snow white of countenance, moist and flaky, it arrived on a seabed of al dente linguine and tender grilled asparagus. The grilled salmon ($16.00) appeared to be extremely charred on the outside; it was, however, not the least bit overcooked and quite delicious. My only quibble is that it was plated on a pillow of Beluga lentils, which made the presentation unattractively dark and brooding.

There is only one chicken dish among the main courses, but it is definitely worth trying. Crispy chicken cutlets ($17.00) - and they are just that - are sided with rolls of tasty prosciutto, accented with sage and Fontina cheese, and set atop a mound of al dente spaghetti. This is a simple, comforting dish, but all the ingredients work in perfect concert.

Recommended starters include the charred eggplant involtini (rolled) with fresh mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil, and aged balsamic ($7.00); tomato and Claudio's fresh mozzarella salad topped with chopped basil ($10.00); and an intriguing combo of pencil point asparagus crowned with a crispy fried egg and sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano ($8.00). And you can't go wrong with a luscious - positively oozing butter and Parmesan - side of "Macaroni and Cheese" ($5.00). Yum.

November 2006
The Artful Diner

The Artful Diner is an independent, freelance food writer.  His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.

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