DINING: Delco’s Teca firing on all cylinders

Manager Michael Buono fillets a bronzino at tableside at Teca.
Manager Michael Buono fillets a bronzino at tableside at Teca. PHOTO BY LEN LEAR
Chef Scarduzio’s appetizer of grilled Spanish octopus “graduated into a taste of magic,” according to this reviewer.
Chef Scarduzio’s appetizer of grilled Spanish octopus “graduated into a taste of magic,” according to this reviewer. PHOTO BY LEN LEAR

Our recent experience at Teca in Newtown Square, Delaware County, found that the restaurant is firing on all cylinders. The preparation and presentation by executive chef/partner Chris Scarduzio and his staff bespeak a primal love of great products and of sealing in every drop of flavor.

And manager Michael Buono is a very classy host. (It’s a family tradition. Buono’s dad, also named Michael, has been a peerless host/manager for a few decades at historic Vickers Restaurant in Lionville, Chester County.)

Foodies in the Delaware Valley will definitely recognize the name of Chris Scarduzio, 51, who was previously executive chef at bellwethers like Mia’s at Caesars in Atlantic City (where we had one of the greatest meals of our life), Table 31, Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Brasserie Perrier in downtown Philly and others too numerous to mention. Of course, such tall shadows come with the curse of high expectations, but Scarduzio always meets them.

Late in 2014, Alberto Guadagnini, who has owned numerous restaurants in Philadelphia and the suburbs for four decades that have been incubators for young culinary talent — San Marco and La Buca in Center City, Ristorante Alberto in Bala Cynwyd, La Collina in Belmont Hills, Villa Strafford in Wayne and Teca in West Chester (with his son, Roberto) — took over the vacant property at 191 S. Newtown Street Road (Route 252) that had most recently been home to Newtown Grill and Casale.

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After a massive renovation, Alberto opened Teca (“wine repository” in Italian) Newtown Square, which can probably seat more people than any other restaurant in the Delaware Valley (up to 770, according to Buono). It includes a banquet facility, wine cellar, lounge/bar and spectacular new outdoor garden seating. It has accommodated events of up to 375. It is modeled on Guadagnini’s Italian villa/winery, Casali di Bibbiano, in Tuscany. Diners come here for a mellow meal, not a show-and-tell.

Teca Newtown Square serves traditional and contemporary Italian cuisine — Neapolitan-style pizza, house-made pastas, whole fish and moderate prices — thanks to a staff of up to 130. Our own dinner last month glided lyrically from the first taste to the final bite. Although it was a weeknight in the middle of summer, the picturesque garden patio was weekend-crowded.

An appetizer of grilled Spanish octopus was tinged with sweet garlic chickpea puree, lemon, celery and aged balsamic vinegar ($16). Its initial flicker of promise and ambition graduated into a taste of magic; fried calamari dolloped with luscious San Marzano tomatoes and lemon aioli was created with seamless, silver-spooned aplomb ($14).

An exquisite blush sauce ratcheted the cavatelli with pancetta, tomato and basil up to new heights ($18). Snappy pillows of potato gnocchi bronzed with mushrooms, parmigian reggiano, toasted breadcrumbs and porcini mushroom sauce ($19) were pitch-perfect. We have had gnocchi which were too doughy or rubbery; not these.

Lobster ravioli were garnished with Maine lobster, gulf shrimp and lobster brandy crema floating like a tantalizing buoy on top ($26). Bronzino was filleted at tableside ($36) by Buono with laser precision, and an East Coast halibut filet was aesthetically presented with roasted cauliflower, capers, hazelnuts, olive oil emulsion and mashed potatoes ($33).

A hedonistic, sophisticated dessert of strawberry basil tart was rained on by a sensuous shower of homemade strawberry gelato ($9).

Cocktails were the only disappointment. Key Lime Pie with rum, vodka and pineapple nectar ($9) and Mint Chocolate Chip with fresh mint, white Godiva, dark crème de menthe and Pinnacle vodka ($10) were both somehow underwhelming with little kick. I often find cocktails too whiskey-strong; these were the opposite.

On the other hand, a bottle of chilled Paul Hobbs Crossbarn Chardonnay ($65) had a fragrant, fruity aroma, and you could taste the oak aging with a long, elegant finish. It is an ode to seafood that shines in all of its complex chemistry.

Teca Newtown Square features huge portions at reasonable prices, an extensive wine list, a popular big Sunday brunch and super-professional staffers such as our server, Paolo, and Johnny Sandoval, dining room service manager.

For more information, call 484-420-4010 or visit www.tecanewtownsquare.com