by Emily Vanneman
Arugula Restaurant, a BYOB owned by Alan Vaisberg and his daughter, Michelle, is appropriately named for the Italian influence on its menu. It is part of the recently constructed Cold Pointe Village, a development of town houses and businesses along Butler Pike in Plymouth Meeting. Arugula at Cold Point is the second location opened by Alan. (The other one is in Huntingdon Valley.) Inspired by Vaisberg’s time spent on the Amalfi Coast, the menu features traditional Italian dishes. Originally from Russia, Vaisberg has opened several restaurants and also maintains a tequila business.
The building has a spacious dining room, built around an open kitchen atmosphere and traditional old world wood burning oven. The outdoor seating area provides views of the surrounding area with umbrella-covered tables to allow customers an escape from the sun.
My guest and I sat in the right-hand corner of the restaurant. Windows line the perimeter of the building, allowing sunlight to pour in. The waiter approached the table and recited the nightly specials, which included grilled octopus and black squid pasta dressed in an arrabbiata sauce (a spicy sauce for pasta made from garlic, tomatoes and red chili peppers cooked in olive oil).
Within the first few minutes of our sitting down, fresh bread and bruschetta was brought to the table. With coarsely chopped tomatoes and onions, the freshness of the dish was a hint of what was to come.
As we scoured the menu, our eyes were drawn to the broccoli di rabe con salcicca, which is bitter broccoli sautéed with sweet veal sausage, hot pepper flakes and garlic in extra virgin olive oil ($13). The broccoli rabe was cooked perfectly. It was wilty but still maintained its verdant color. The veal sausage, with a robust fennel seed flavor, was cut into medallions and had a spicy bite from the red pepper flakes.
Because of our relatively safe first choice, I knew I had to indulge my seafood desires in the second course. My eyes landed on the paccheri alla Salerno, paccheri pasta in the shape of very large tubes, originating from Campania and Calabria, with shallots and jumbo lump crab meat in a brandy wine pink cream sauce ($22). My guest, also taking advantage of the Amalfi-inspired menu, chose the vitello alla arugula, veal medallions with shrimp, lump crabmeat and cherry tomatoes in sherry beurre blanc sauce ($25).
The spectacular service at Arugula is something to take note of as well. Our server was warm and friendly and had extensive knowledge of all of the dishes served. As we received our main courses, it became clear that the portions at Arugula are very generous. The paccheri alla Salerno was delicious with the brandy wine sauce and crab perfectly balanced in flavor. My guest’s veal was very well cooked and tender. The shrimp and crab that accompanied the dish were also full of flavor. The paccheri pasta was al dente. I was unable to finish the dish because the portion was large, but the dish was impeccable.
After our main course, we were tempted to indulge in a slice of chocolate raspberry cake, which I had only a few bites of, but my guest managed to finish.
When Vaisberg came by to visit our table he informed us that all of the produce is locally sourced and that the fish is specially flown in from the Mediterranean and brought down from New York to Arugula. In the weeks that followed, I left several phone messages and emails for Vaisberg, I wanted to ask about his life in Russia and the Amalfi Coast and why he chose to run the restaurant as a BYOB, but he did nor return any of the calls or emails.
For more information about Arugula, call 610-941-1177 or visit www.arugulacoldpoint.com.
Ed. Note: I have spoken to a few people in the area who have eaten at Arugula. Every one loved the food but said the noise was unbearable. One co-worker said it was the loudest restaurant she had ever been in. I called Michelle and asked her about the noise issue. She replied, “I’d love to do something about it. We are at our wit’s end. We have ordered more sound boards. Some people come here at 5 p.m. to avoid the noise.”