A Garden State eatery is in the national spotlight this week.
Esquire just released its hotly anticipated list of the 50 best new restaurants in America of 2023, and heaped a hearty helping of praise upon Lita in Aberdeen Township.
Lita, a modern, Iberian-inspired restaurant, opened this spring. It is the third restaurant under founder Neilly Robinson and chef David Viana—whose Heirloom Kitchen, a restaurant and cooking school in Old Bridge, made NJM’s list of best restaurants in 2022, and whose Heirloom at the St. Laurent in Asbury Park made NJM‘s list of best restaurants in 2023.
The duo’s latest restaurant has roots in Viana’s family’s immigrant story. Viana grew up in Little Lisboa, Newark’s Portuguese immigrant community, where his grandmother passed down to him recipes, stories and a passion for food. Many of those childhood dishes made their way to Lita’s menu.
In addition to its rich cultural influence, Lita boasts an open-fire hearth in its dining room, over which many of the menu items are prepared.
“The hearth at Lita sees constant tending with a vigorously waved fan, the feeding of charcoal with a shovel,” writes Esquire’s Kevin Sintumuang. “…It is the thing you least expect to see inside a strip mall in central Jersey next to an old bowling alley, but then again, no one expected that a destination-worthy Iberian restaurant would be here.”
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Sintumuang also lauds Lita for its paella, tuna tartare and cocktails.
To compile its well-regarded list, Esquire staffers visited more than 200 restaurants of various cuisines around the country in the past year.
Lita’s team reacted to the honor in an Instagram post by saying, “We remember year after year reading Esquire’s Best New Restaurant list, pining to be on it, but never really believing it was something achievable.”
“To see Lita on this list and in such incredible company has us feeling humbled and honored,“ the post continues. “Words that come to mind—proud, accomplished, lucky!!”
New Jersey Monthly‘s list of the best new restaurants in New Jersey of 2023 is set for release in our February 2024 issue.