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Favorite Italian Restaurant -- Northern NJ


ELA
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I know this has been discussed, but rather than rehash old threads I thought it was time to revisit. Having recently moved my usual rotation of restaurants has moved as well. In addition, places change.

So, my usual sojurn to Jersey City to Casa Dante has now become a longer trip, but this place to me has always been worth the drive. I just can't seem to get it into my usual rotation due to the distance, drive, friends, etc. I always liked Cafe Italiano (Englewood Cliffs), but I haven't been there in a good couple of years -- and I really have to try the Cliffs Steakhouse next door before a return trip to Cafe Italiano. I was going there both pre and post liquor license. The chef, and I think there might have been a change somewhere along the line, always had some nice specials that were well implemented. I specifically remember a seafood risotto with a very nice sauce that was excellent.

I haven't been there in quite some time, but David's (Cliffside Park) was a place I always enjoyed -- small, always packed, but excellent food. I lived around the corner when I first moved to the area, and then after moving it will still a "neighborhood" place. This is another place I really want to get back to. E & V -- guilty again, haven't been since a business lunch a while back, and another "really need to get back to" place. A bit of a sleeper for me has been Granita Grill (Westwood) -- BYO, quiet, nothing super-fancy, but good, tasty, quality food. A few have fallen off my list as well -- changes, for the bad, ownership, management, chef, etc. (don't need to go there, LOL).

Anyone been to LuNello's in the new location (not so new anymore)?

So, what about some other places? Neighborhood kind of places? Even the big names in your area. I think many know about the big names, that seem to be all over. What about some of the neighborhood places -- all over -- Northwest Bergen, Passaic, Essex, etc. If enough people post we could have a ton of neigborhood places all over the place.

Thanks.

Eric

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Kopici

Union Ave Bloomingdale

Pretty formal service, white table cloths, great food, yet Super-casual customers

full bar

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I've been to LuNello's in the new Cedar Grove spot.

I had a great meal but had to wait 35 minutes past reservation time on a Thursday night.

I really like Scalini Fedeli in Chatham although some might not classify it as a typical Italian restaurant

"My rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them." ~Winston Churchill

Morels- God's gift to the unworthy human species

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OK, e-gulleters. I've lived in NNJ all my life. I've eaten in countless Italian restaurants. At this point....what makes a really good Italian restaurant. Because I'm not sure what is the difference between what I can make in my own kitchen, and a truly authentic Italian meal.

Where can I go?

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Great -- keep it coming. I know there is not a shortage of connoisseurs here. Has anyone been to Casa Dante lately? I am making plans now and I am very much looking forward to going back.

Thanks again.

Eric

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OK, e-gulleters.  I've lived in NNJ all my life.  I've eaten in countless Italian restaurants.  At this point....what makes a really good Italian restaurant.  Because I'm not sure what is the difference between what I can make in my own kitchen, and a truly authentic Italian meal.

Where can I go?

there's nothing different in what italian-american restaurants are making and what you could or would make in your own kitchen. people tend to talk about Italian-American restaurants, not Italian restaurants. And pretty much every Italian-American restaurant is a red sauce joint, dressed up in one way or another.

There aren't many italian restaurants in north jersey that are authentic in any way that i would consider a restaurant authentic. most have a very very generic menu that doesn't challenge at all, with dishes made from ingredients you could buy at any suburban grocery store.

as far as "really good" italian-american restaurants, i would think than anyone who eats that type of food has a favorite, and it's the one they go to. kind of like a favorite diner. I mean, some diners win "best diner" awards in magazines, but really, aren't they all the same? is E&V really any different or better than Sicilian Sun or Patsy's??? (hint: no)

Edited by tommy (log)
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Well, everyone here must be a really great chef/cook -- so who wants to have me over their house for dinner first? LOL. Seriously, I understand the point, and they are well taken -- and I agree to a point.

Be that as it may, I think even the most basic dishes -- should be better in a quality, good, whatever you want to call it "Italian" restaurant. If it's not, then find a new restaurant. If you like your own risotto or veal parmigiana better than the chef at Casa Dante or LuNello's -- hey, I can understand that.

However, a professional chef should be doing things that can't be done in your own kitchen -- and if they are not, then find a new restaurant. I am not going out just for the experience or because I don't want to cook/clean/etc. Now as far as "tastes" (not "taste") if the chef is doing something with his sauce -- even on the most basic of dishes -- I can understand someone not liking it. Of course. Some like chocolate and some like vanilla. Anyway, we go to places we like, where we like the food -- what the chef is doing, tastes, flavors, experiences, and so many other things.

If you haven't been to an "Italian" restaurant that is doing more than you can do in your own kitchen -- keep going! LOL. Enjoy the quest!

Eric

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Forte in Caldwell is good, also.

For my Uncle's 70th, they had the food catered from Forte. I had, possibly, the best chicken that had been sitting for a few hours that I ever had in my life. Chicken Savoy, I think, it was boneless and when I look up recipes most of it is done with whole chicken. We don't dine out too often but I'd love to try this place out next time we do.

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Forte in Caldwell is good, also.

For my Uncle's 70th, they had the food catered from Forte. I had, possibly, the best chicken that had been sitting for a few hours that I ever had in my life. Chicken Savoy, I think, it was boneless and when I look up recipes most of it is done with whole chicken. We don't dine out too often but I'd love to try this place out next time we do.

I forgot to mention that a friend of mine has spoken highly of this place. I've heard some other favorable comments as well and unfortunately had plans to go rescheduled on me. Thanks for the comments.

Eric

Edited by ELA (log)
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Be that as it may, I think even the most basic dishes -- should be better in a quality, good, whatever you want to call it "Italian" restaurant. If it's not, then find a new restaurant. If you like your own risotto or veal parmigiana better than the chef at Casa Dante or LuNello's -- hey, I can understand that.

However, a professional chef should be doing things that can't be done in your own kitchen -- and if they are not, then find a new restaurant. I am not going out just for the experience or because I don't want to cook/clean/etc. Now as far as "tastes" (not "taste") if the chef is doing something with his sauce -- even on the most basic of dishes -- I can understand someone not liking it. Of course. Eric

ELA,

i'd venture to say that most Italian-American restaurants don't have chefs. they have cooks, churning out the same stuff that every other I-A restaurant does. maybe they have a head cook, a guy who runs the kitchen and does the food ordering, and by definition, that would be a "chef". but just because you run a kitchen doesn't mean you know how to cook great food, or you produce great food at the restaurant.

as far as quality or however you want to define it, there's little doubt in my mind that any home cook in this area can source better, fresher, and more interesting ingredients than 99% of I-A restaurants do. I'm betting they buy their stuff from large distributors like Sysco, just as most restaurants do. there's nothing inherently wrong with that, but you'd be fooling yourself to think that most local restaurants use ingredients that are special in any way.

i'll concede that most places don't do risotto very well, and if you can find one that does, let us know.

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tommy says:

"i'll concede that most places don't do risotto very well, and if you can find one that does, let us know."

I thought risotto at Blu was excellent. I also had a great dish of porchini risotto at Osteria Giotto. However, next order on a different night was so-so. Risotto needs love while cooking, if you leave it for even a minute alone I find it can flop. Score a second for home made.

"My rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them." ~Winston Churchill

Morels- God's gift to the unworthy human species

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Great thread, lots of good thoughts. As far as purveyors, I think it depends on the size of the joint, Tommy. Even if I wanted to use Sysco (and I would never dream of it), the minimum orders are just too high for a small place. However, it is so true that there are few authentic Italian joints in Bergen County. Why, oh why, can't we have an Otto or an Enoteca? Just a place with authentic food and wine? Really good panini, really great breads, thin pizzas, lots of olives, rustic food that makes your mouth sing.

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However, it is so true that there are few authentic Italian joints in Bergen County. Why, oh why, can't we have an Otto or an Enoteca? Just a place with authentic food and wine? Really good panini, really great breads, thin pizzas, lots of olives, rustic food that makes your mouth sing.

Except for the olives (bleah), I am RIGHT. THERE. with you, Christine! A Mano in Ridgewood is just touching on what I'd love to have as my go-to for Italian food.

ETA: And I'm in Lyndhurst, where trust me, there is NO shortage of red-sauce places. Sigh...

Edited by Curlz (log)

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Great thread, lots of good thoughts. As far as purveyors, I think it depends on the size of the joint, Tommy. Even if I wanted to use Sysco (and I would never dream of it), the minimum orders are just too high for a small place.

i'm not suggesting all italian american restaurants use Sysco. That company was an example.

These restaurants aren't exactly sourcing ingredients from local markets and farms or interesting sources around the world. They're getting them from run-of-the-mill suppliers, which is the same or worse than what I can buy within 10 minutes of my house in north jersey. That, of course, is the point.

the reason there aren't any restaurants like you describe? i don't know, but i'm guessing because they'd never make it. and there are too few people willing to take the chance. it's one thing to open an enoteca in the east village. quite another to open one in an area where people aren't young and single and have lots of time and money and the lifestyle to eat at such places. i mean for eff's sake people couldn't figure out that neapolitan pizza, like what they serve at A Amano, isn't supposed to be "crispy" like Kinchley's.

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However, it is so true that there are few authentic Italian joints in Bergen County.

Picnic Chef, the word is "NONE" not "FEW", in my book. Especially if you have traveled in Italy, most of the menus here are a joke. And beware of the menus that try to be in Italian, those are usually the worst.

The other problem with these Ital-American places is that they are so so booorrrring. There certainly seems to be a demand for them, though; there is one of these on every corner, there are probably a couple of hundred of them just in Bergen...

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Well, I guess it's as simple as -- if you can cook Italian food better than the cook/chef/Italian restaurant, then you stay home and cook it yourself. If you don't want to cook/clean/etc. -- then you go out to the Italian restaurant for inferior food.

Great thread everyone, and thanks for the info. I'm still craving for Casa Dante, LOL.

Eric

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