Where Real Italians Eat

We find out where prominent New Jersey Italian celebrities like to eat.


Buddy Valastro, owner of Carlo’s Bakery, Hoboken, and star of Cake Boss.
“Branzino baked in salt at Il Capriccio in Whippany is my favorite. The restaurant is just indescribably good—one of my favorite places to eat out.”


Vincent Curatola, actor; Johnny Sack on The Sopranos; his new film, Cogan’s Trade, with Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini, will be released in March.
Hometown: Upper Saddle River
Dinallo’s in River Edge is my favorite. Bobby Dinallo and I have been friends since 1973. My wife, Maureen, and I enjoy his home-cooked dishes in a warm and friendly atmosphere. My first favorite is veal osso buco with porcini risotto. The second is a Sunday Sauce with Dinallo’s famous meatballs, baby pork ribs and pork braciole.”


Linda Prospero, creator of the Ciao Chow Linda blog and member of the board of trustees of Dorothea’s House, an Italian cultural institution in Princeton.
Hometown: Princeton
“At Eno Terra in Kingston, the fried artichokes, lemon and capers is the next best thing to being in Rome and eating carciofi alla giudia. What makes the place so special is its emphasis on local foods. The ambience is modern without being stark. There’s never been a disappointing dish.”

Anthony LaCiura
, actor/singer; he plays Eddie Kessler on Boardwalk Empire and is director of the opera workshop at New Jersey City University in Jersey City.
Hometown: Teaneck
“My favorite place for Italian food is Fontana di Trevi in Leonia. It’s so spectacular—it’s hard to say what’s best on the menu, but maybe the penne Siciliana. Inside, it’s like an Italian restaurant in Italy.”


Pietro Frassica, professor of Italian literature, Princeton University; his courses include “Italy: The Land of Slow Food” and “The Literature of Gastronomy.”
Hometown: Princeton
“Where I most enjoy eating is at my house, where I cook. But if I have to choose a restaurant, I would say Eno Terra in Kingston is my favorite. I like their artichokes and their orecchiette with sausage. They use very good ingredients from local farms, and that makes a lot of difference. Their bread is comparable to breads in Italy. Plus the atmosphere is very elegant but not overwhelming. It’s a kind of natural environment. Earth tones. Very relaxing.”  


Louise DeSalvo, professor of creative writing at Hunter College, Manhattan, and author of two memoirs about her life as an Italian-American: Vertigo and Crazy in the Kitchen: Food, Feuds, and Forgiveness in an Italian American Family.
Hometown: Montclair
“I’ve traveled to Naples twice to eat pizza (pizza two times a day, a week straight). Ah’ Pizz in Montclair is the real deal, and you don’t have to fly to Naples! The oven was imported from Italy and is wood fired. “Italian restaurants we like when we’re not eating pizza are Fascino and Osteria Giotto, both in Montclair. Fascino is not quite Italian, but it’s Italian-inspired. Giotto does a killer lasagna, and the pastas are fantastic. Whatever you get at Giotto is going to be great. At [Christmas] they do a tortellini in meat broth. The tortellini is the size of your fingernail. It’s really the most authentic I’ve had outside of Italy.”

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Maria Mazziotti Gillan, author of 12 books of poetry, including Italian Women in Black Dresses
Hometown: Hawthorne
“My favorite Italian restaurant is ViVi Ristorante in Hawthorne. I love the ambience and décor, which seem to me to be very Italian, with the antique chandeliers and the bright wall colors. Also I find their food fresh and lightly seasoned, very much like the food you can get in Italy. My favorite dish is the lobster ravioli, which I find to be very delicately seasoned and mouthwatering. It’s hard to choose because I also love their salmon oreganata, which is baked and seasoned with bread crumbs. No one in Italy rushes through eating. Savoring a meal is something I can do at ViVi’s and pretend I’m in Italy.”


Gilda Rorro Baldassari, chair of the New Jersey Italian and Italian-American Heritage Commission.
Hometown: Hamilton
“I go to Rosa’s Ristorante in Hamilton a lot. Every Sunday I meet a group there—a steady stream of friends and families and priests and politicians, and it’s warm and welcoming. Part of Italian culture is that people like to be together, and Rosa’s always extends the table for us as people come in. We start out with antipasti and a pizza with thin crust that’s really delicious. You can eat a lot of it and not feel full. All the food is simple and nicely prepared. I also like Spigola in Hamilton. If you order the sea bass, they give you a whole fish and fillet it at your table. They also have very good lobster risotto. It’s a little more upscale, a little art deco. What I love most, though, is cooking at home and inviting people over. That’s the best environment.”


Nicholas Scutari, Democratic state senator from District 22, Union, Middlesex and Somerset counties.
Hometown: Linden
“I have a tie for favorite Italian restaurant—Triestina in Cranford and Amici’s in Linden. At Triestina I like the vitello di champagne—veal scallopine pan seared with rock shrimp, sundried tomatoes and tarragon in a creamy champagne sauce. Amici’s I just like overall. They’re both great places, great Italian food.”

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