If you find yourself heading home from the infamous Jersey Shore this summer, stop by the quaint town of Hammonton, NJ for dinner. You may recognize Hammonton from scenes in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire or as the “Blueberry Capital of the World” Ronald Regan spoke of in an ’84 speech.
After careful deliberation of a plethora of Mexican & Italian eateries, it was decided to dine at Annata Wine Bar on the main drag in town. Annata claims to be Italian tapas and boasts a dictionary-thick wine list. Annata’s tapas are really just half rations (at half price), which are offered in addition to full portions on 95% of the menu.
The night was warm and lit by the nearly full-moon, so we sat outside. The place was packed and the hostess got to put on her waitress hat so we wouldn’t have to wait. It felt like opening night (she smiled lots but knew little of the menu). Still, she was honest and she did her best…Plus, we were happy not having to endure the 45 minute wait.
We began with a half-size Vineyard Salad, which proved to be enough to share. The ruffage was sweet & savory: speckled with Gorgonzola, toasted pine nuts and sliced, red-wine poached pear. Also notable, the soft potato dumpling gnocchi duo, scented with sage and swimming in rich, brown butter and then a slightly sweet rose sauce.
For my entrée, I had to order my 3rd choice (2 of the beef items I picked were sold out) a trio of mini Mexican fare from the extensive special list: a marinated shrimp taco, a chicken flauta & a Kobe beef burrito. The shrimp was well-cooked & flavorful but sitting in an odd Chinese wanton (I picked the 2nd shrimp out and dipped it in guac). The other 2 items were a home-run, with the Kobe burrito as the cheesy champion.
We also ordered a half order of the lamb lollipop special. It was cooked to a pleasant medium rare and scented with spicy rosemary sprigs.
All in all, Annata Wine Bar was a wonderful treat nestled on the outskirts of the pine barrens. I recommend a reservation if you want a real server and don’t pass on the gnocchi.
Annata Wine Bar