If you thought you had to dive all the way to Philly to get a great meal- think again! In as much time it would take to get to Philly from Collegeville, Pa, my husband and I arrived at the heart of Jim Thorpe for an unforgettable dining experience.
To begin we were greeted by owner Tony Stella who genuinely welcomed us into his beautifully decorated "home". The scene is intimate and elegant, but in no way stuffy. We were promptly served our drinks and offered a basket of focaccia with a garlic sauce that was creamy and a creative alternative to butter or olive oil. Next came the salad - which to me is a tell tale sign of things to come. The greens were actually chopped by hand (no pre - bagged handful!) fresh, a hearty slice of ripe tomato with a vibrant dressing. The entree offerings were familiar; chicken marsala, pasta, steak, lamb chops etc - but the execution was outstanding! I had perfectly prepared lamb on a bed of creamy risotto. No boring mint jelly here! My husband had a filet that he described as perfect.The portions were very generous, especially when compared to its cosmopolitan counterparts. For dessert we were treated by Tony to after dinner liqueur in celebration of our 17th wedding anniversary - a lovely gesture. We split a lemon cake with coconut and lemon curd that was moist and ridiculously light.
As delicious as the meal was - and it was worth the trip- the service was even better. Service at Tony Stella's Encore is the reason why my faith is restored in the dining out experience. Tony Stella does not revolutionize restaurant service - he resurrects it. Most good places are polite and attentive, but Tony and his staff bring you back to a time when restaurants were owned by people who were in the building - not a group of investors; when owners shake hands, make eye contact, and were genuinely thrilled to share their talents with their customers. I watch Tony greet every guest and give his attention to every table. His approach is so second nature that you don't even realize that the owner just bussed your table - because at his restaurant it's all hands on deck, and the deck is a well oiled machine of refined hospitality.
Can you get a great meal in the city? Sure. But what you can't get is Tony Stella.
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