I had held off going to Esposito’s Maplewood III, even though its menu sounds divine, because of a misguided assumption that I would need to dress up to go there. But my desire for seafood outweighed my desire to fit in, and my sister and I decided that “Family Day” would be the perfect opportunity to blend in if we were dressed casually.
Oh, boy – am I glad we did. I *so* have a new favorite restaurant in Vineland; everything we were served – from beginning to to end – was spot on. And since we were going on Sunday, i.e. “Family Day”, we were offered three menus to choose from – the regular menu, a specials menu, and the Family Day Menu.
I ordered from the Family Day menu – a true value because it includes soup or salad, fresh baked bread and dipping oil, the entree and a dessert for less than $20. I chose the “Crab Lovers Crab Cake” entree, which is described as “our famous pan fried all crab “crab cake” served with a side dish of lump crab in white or red sauce over Barilla linguini fini.” ($19.95). You’ll have to excuse my pictures, the lighting in Maplewood III is dim enough that it was necessary for me to use a flash, and because of that, the pics turned out a bit harsh.
The baguette that they brought out was still warm from the oven, crispy on the outside and soft-chewy on the inside, served with a flavorful olive oil dipping sauce. We liked it so much we finished off two loaves between us.
I chose the soup instead of the salad, whose chicken broth had such excellent flavor that it reminded me of the dumpling soup my Oma used to make me when I was a child. Full of chicken, carrots, celery and escarole, I made sure not a drop went to waste.
My entree was absolutely amazing. The crab cake was just that – all crab, almost no filler. The flavor was intensely fresh crab, seasoned in such a way that brought out the sweetness rather than overpowering it. This hamburger-sized crab cake alone nearly filled me up.
In addition to the crab cake, my entree also came with a “side” (side? this is an entree unto itself!) of linguine with a crab filled clear “scampi-style” broth – the sauce was so perfect with this dish that I wish I could bottle some and take it home with me. It wasn’t a traditional scampi-style sauce – it kind of reminded me of clam sauce with out the clams. Not the canned stuff, mind you – but the fresh kind that can’t be reproduced unless you’re by the shore. That was what impressed me more than anything – the freshness of this seafood was beyond compare. They delivered just the scratch that I needed for my fresh seafood itch. Sorry, Ohioans – but the stuff we get out there isn’t even close. Next time you’re out by the ocean, get seafood. You’ll thank me later.
My entree came with dessert, but I chose to box up the rice pudding for later consumption, and instead ordered off the dessert menu – I chose the Creme Brulee Nocello Walnut Crunch ($5.95), an intensly vanilla creme brulee with a salty-sweet walnut topping that melded perfectly with the sweetness of the custard.
My sister opted to order from the Specials menu, and got the “Seafood Trio Royale”, described as “shrimp, scallops, and jumbo lump crabmeat sauteed in garlic and olive oil. Then we add artichoke hearts, sweet peas, cream and sundried tomatoes. The creamy sauce is tossed with Barilla penne pasta and finished with a drizzle of house-made basil pesto.” ($21.95) Instead of getting penne, though – hers came with linguine as well. She absolutely loved it, declared it the “best meal ever”, and commented that the seafood was super-fresh and the combination of flavors excellent. The portion size was so large that she took half of it home with her.
Her entree came with a salad as well:
For dessert, she opted the “Hot Xango” ($6.59?), a cooked to order “banana caramel cheesecake wrapped in crisped pastry served piping hot, drizzled with caramel and chocolate sauce and served with vanilla ice cream” – from tasting hers, it kind of reminded me of bananas foster deep fried cheesecake – but again, the portion size was so large that she was full to bursting before finishing it.
All in all, this restaurant hits the mark on so many levels, that a comparable meal in Columbus would easily cost much more than what we paid here. Service was impeccible, the food was excellent, and the atmosphere was welcoming. What more can you ask for in a dining experience?
If you’d like to go: Esposito’s Maplewood III, 200 N. Delsea Dr., Vineland, NJ, 856.692.2011