NJ Italian Restaurants You’ll Love

There are more Italian restaurants in New Jersey than any other kind. These are our favorites.

The interior of Angeline at the Borgata in Atlantic City
Angeline at the Borgata in Atlantic City elevates the familiar and familial side of Italian cooking to elegance. Photo by Laura Moss

With more Italian restaurants in New Jersey than any other type of cuisine, it’s nearly impossible to create a definitive list of the best.

But our restaurant critics, led by dining editor Eric Levin, were up to the task, fanning out across the state to visit restaurants, meet chefs and, of course, indulge in great food.

Below, you’ll find the 28 restaurants that our critics feel best represent Italian dining in New Jersey. Some are old favorites, others are new to the culinary scene; some only serve the classics, others offer twists. Our critics love them—and we think you will, too. Happy eating!

Angeline

Atlantic City

Al dente spaghetti with seafood at Angeline in Atlantic City

Just the right amount of concentrated sauce on strands of al dente spaghetti. Photo by Laura Moss

Chef Michael Symon’s Angeline (rhymes with keen) in the Borgata—one of our favorite restaurants in AC—has a sleek and trendy vibe, but happily, the menu pulls off old-school classics like lasagna, meatballs, minestrone and Sunday gravy just like Mom-Mom’s (or close enough that we’re not complaining). The gorgeous red slicer, prominently displayed to the side of the swanky dining room, makes it hard to resist ordering shavings of prosciutto and Parmigiano-Reggiano from the menù di formaggi e salumi. As this is a casino restaurant, there are two steaks. You won’t be disappointed with the porcini-crusted prime strip from the wood-fired oven. If you’re vegan or gluten free, they have menus just for you. —Victor Fiorillo
1 Borgata Way, 609-317-8222

Anjelica’s

Sea Bright

Little wonder tables book well in advance. Under owner Raymond Lena and his daughter, Anjelica, the staff know their stuff and treat you royally. The setting is elegant and cozy, the food exquisite. Pomegranate brightens burrata with butternut squash, brown-butter hazelnuts and maple Dijon. Radicchio tops ethereal gnocchi under earthy blue-cheese sauce. Flaky Calabrian tuna elevates what might have been a ho-hum sandwich. Dense chocolate cream pie hits the bullseye. —Kelly-Jane Cotter 
1070 Ocean Avenue, 732-842-2800

The February 2023 cover of New Jersey Monthly, "Italian Restaurants You'll Love"

Buy our February 2023 issue here. Cover photo by Ted Nghiem

Antica Stazione

Montclair

Born and raised in Avellino, Italy, Giuseppe De Falco came to the United States six years ago with a culinary degree and restaurant experience. He and his wife, Sandra Carrascal, opened last May in the old station house (antica stazione) of the Walnut Street train station. As trains gently pull in and out just beyond the windows, De Falco keeps your attention with hearty rigatoni guanciale on which you grate your own cheese through a mesh that fits over the plate. Risotto alla pescatore, studded with squid, shrimp and mussels, lives up to its name. The station not only has a liquor license, but an actual old-school bar with mirrors, wood trim and a neon sign that says “No Credit.” Speaking of no, DeFalco promises, “No canned tomatoes. Always fresh. In the winter, I buy from California.” —Eric Levin
25 Depot Square, 862-384-9233

Battello

Jersey City

On a pier facing the twinkling towers of Lower Manhattan, chef and co-owner Ryan DePersio and 31-year-old chef de cuisine Ari Dizayee keep attention on the plate with hearty bowls of shell-shaped lumache in ribeye ragù (sometimes truffle enriched) and an engrossing dish of octopus with charred eggplant purée, Castelvetrano olive relish and crispy fingerlings. (One of our favorites restaurants in Jersey City, Battello has also earned spots on our annual best NJ restaurant lists of 2021 and 2022.) —EL 
502 Washington Boulevard, 201-798-1798

Bici

Ramsey

Beignet with chocolate-hazelnut sauce at Bici in Ramsey

Dishes like the beignet with chocolate-hazelnut sauce show refinement. Photo courtesy of Bici/Brian Juarbe

An Italian racing bici is what chef Anthony DeVanzo pedals to work, weather permitting. His other passion is “making food for people. Even when I could barely see over the stove, I was cooking with my Nonna Irene from Bari in Southern Italy.” As a teen, he mastered baking (“to impress my girlfriend, now my wife”), then absorbed French technique at the Culinary Institute of America. His command radiates from creamy, truffle-dusted strozzapreti pasta to citrusy lobster risotto to silken gnocchi in lamb Bolognese to exemplary cakes. BYO. —Karen Tina Harrison
61 East Main Street, 201-962-9015

Brando’s Citi Cucina

Asbury Park 

The tuxedoed waiters and framed oil paintings set a genteel tone, but chef/owner Steven Botta runs a welcoming place, beginning with the basket of warm bread served with tapenade, whipped ricotta and garlic olive oil. Spedini are lightly fried mozzarella sandwiches in lemon, anchovy and caper white-wine sauce. Polenta with mushrooms is at once creamy and earthy. Silky linguine Sinatra in marinara is piled with shrimp, clams, seared scallops, Gaeta olives and capers. Pork chop Brando, massive at 14 ounces, comes under peppers, garlic and onions, with a bacon-and-potato tart for good measure. Brando’s slender zeppoles are surprisingly light and come with ice cream. —KJC
162 Main Street, 732-774-2222

Cafe 2825

Atlantic City

In the shadows of the sprawling Tropicana since 1986, reservations are taken just a week in advance, and the phone lines are often jammed. Why bother? For the divine experience that includes theatrical tableside preparations of Caesar salad, plus creamy burrata, polenta with a rich pork ragù, and the pièce de résistance, cacio e pepe, Rome’s famous cheese-and-pepper pasta. Don’t miss the squash blossoms, other house-made pastas, and blueberry New York cheesecake. A fan of Italian vintages? You’ll find plenty. —VF
2825 Atlantic Avenue, Atlantic City, 609-344-6913

Catherine Lombardi

New Brunswick

Opened in 2005, Catherine Lombardi is notable for gracious service in a cozy setting and elevated Italian-American classics as practiced by the real Catherine Lombardi, grandmother of Mark Pascal, co-owner with Francis Schott. Case in point: extra-long fusilli in a luxurious walnut-pesto cream sauce. The restaurant is worth a visit for the cheeses alone, from house-made mozzarella and burrata to the cheese board with some 15 choices, like truffle-flecked Sottocenere and creamy Robiola Bosina. —KJC
3 Livingston Avenue, 732-296-9463

Dolce Mare

Atlantic City

If dining earlier than 7 pm feels uncivilized, make an exception at the Ocean Casino Resort this winter to bask in Dolce Mare’s exquisite views of the Atlantic as the sky fades to black. Start with the plentiful burrata board and yellowtail crudo with ginger oil, seared fennel and a touch of jalapeño—and, of course, some negronis—before progressing to a split pasta course, the mini rigatoni with slow-sautéed eggplant and oregano being among our favorites. It is a lighter and more modest culinary interlude before entrées like plump speck-ensconced scallops, pounded Milanese, or, for a richer option, Parmigiana. —VF
500 Boardwalk, 609-783-8000

Fascino

Montclair

The DePersio family’s flagship turns 20 in July, but keeping pace with the seasons and people’s tastes, says chef Ryan DePersio, “feels like opening day was yesterday.” The most popular pasta—ricotta gnocchi with sweet sausage Bolognese—was inspired by DePersio’s maternal grandfather, Paul Martino, “who made it for us every Sunday.” Fascino’s platter of Italian cheeses, pickled vegetables and grissini breadsticks also harkens back to those family dinners. (For more of our favorite restaurants in Montclair, click here.) —EL
331 Bloomfield Avenue, 973-233-0350

Girasole

Atlantic City

A huge menu is often a warning sign. After all, how can you pull off greatness with so many options? Somehow, Girasole does just that. Whether it’s pizza that uses double zero flour from Italy (for a better crust), engaging salads like shaved fennel-radish with blood orange and lemon, the carpaccios, or housemade pastas, you can’t go wrong. If you order just one thing, make it the house specialty: whole branzino baked in a soft crust, masterfully filleted tableside. Count on expertly crafted cocktails and a serious Italian wine list. —VF
3108 Pacific Avenue, 609-345-5554

The GOAT by David Burke

Union Beach

Chef David Burke demurs when asked if he really means to say his new Italian place is an all-time great, but he is proud of it. From bravura bruschetti to serious steaks, he has a right to be. “I wanted the name to capture the local personality: smart, stubborn, naturally cool, always looking for something good to eat. Just like a goat,” Burke says. Read KT Harrison’s full review here.
1411 Route 36, 732-264-5222

Il Capriccio

Whippany

Assorted dishes at Il Capriccio in Whippany

“Food, service and atmosphere all go into the art of living,” says Il Capriccio chef/owner Tony Grande. Photo by Ted Nghiem

Born in Calabria 75 years ago, Tony Grande went to culinary school in Italy at 15, worked on cruise ships, came to America and, in 1976 opened an Italian-American restaurant in Clifton. It didn’t last, so in 1984, when he tried again, “I said no more Italian-American.” At Il Capriccio (“the Caprice”), you gaze in awe at the folkloric figures on the vaulted ceiling, but the cooking anchors you. Tagliolini Terra Mia (“my terrain”) with Calabrian pepperoncini, green olives, toasted pignoli. Stuffed filet mignon in red wine sauce over polenta. “I want kids to be dreamers,” Grande says. “A dream is not a bad thing. You dream, and the best of you becomes reality.” —EL
633 Route 10 East, 973-884-9175

ITA101

Medford

Chef/owner Kevin Maher, raised in Medford, spent 14 years cooking in Lombardy in Northern Italy. Coupling that with a CIA degree, he creates compelling dishes for a loyal clientele at this storefront in the quaint downtown. Supplementing the menu, each weekend Maher showcases a different region; recents include Sicily (tender pan-seared octopus over persimmons and pistachio purée) and Campania (tagliatelle with clams in spicy garlic oil). Tiramisu, prepared tableside in a sublime deconstruction of the classic, is not to be missed. BYO. —Jill P. Capuzzo
20 S. Main Street, 609-654-0101

Matthew’s

Clifton

Matthew Tyahla says he “started at the bottom, and am proud to still be a food runner, busboy and waiter.” The 38-year-old leaves out chef and owner, preferring to praise “my great team.” Patrons praise the crisp and juicy chicken Parm and the lush lobster risotto. “If you walk through these doors,” Tyahla says, “I have to do something special.” —EL
1131 Bloomfield Avenue, 973-928-4300

Nettie’s House of Spaghetti

Tinton Falls

There really is a Nettie, says chef Chris Calabrese. “She just had her 100th birthday; she comes in every once in a while.” Calabrese, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Tania, fills his menu with scratch-made comfort food, including zesty giardiniera. Crisp fried hen-of-the-woods and shiitake mushrooms are perfect for dipping into a side of Nettie’s marinara. House-made spinach fettuccine weds with a sauce of puréed spinach, roasted garlic, Pecorino Romano and a dash of chili flakes. On Sundays, opt for Sunday sauce over mezze rigatoni with meatballs and sausage. Dessert? There are just two: Sicilian orange cake has great body, with a sweet orange glaze and a hint of salt; cherry ice, topped with whipped cream, refreshes even on a cold night. —KJC
5119 Asbury Avenue, 732-922-9799

Il Nido

Marlboro

A visit to Il Nido (“the nest”) shows there is more to Southern Italian than the familiar. Take the hat-shaped cappelletti, for example—filled with delicate butternut squash and tossed with walnuts, brown butter and sage. Il Nido (which made NJM’s best restaurant lists of 2020 and 2021, and welcomed a new executive chef last year) also highlights local products such as Jersey Girl burrata paired with roasted yellow and red beets, pine nuts and crisp leaves of lacinato kale. —KJC
184 Route 9 North, 732-851-6347

Osteria Crescendo

Westwood

Prime dry-aged steaks at Osteria Crescendo in Westwood

Prime dry-aged steaks are cloaked in a compelling char. Photo by Cayla Zahoran

Its liquor license, unleashing the creativity of bartender Matt Brown and director of operations Tommy Voter, sets Crescendo apart from chef/owner Robbie Felice’s first restaurant, Viaggio, also on this list. Another difference is the recurring appearance of prime dry-aged steaks cloaked in a compelling char. Felice, who was invited to compete in the Barilla World Pasta Championships in 2020 before the pandemic wiped out such gatherings, says, “You’ll see openings from me around the country in the next couple years, but I hope to still have my flagships here, because Jersey will always be home. It made me what I am, so I can never forget.” —EL
36 Jefferson Avenue, 201-722-1900

Ponte Vecchio

Old Bridge

Murals of Florence decorate this date-night destination with a multi-page menu and specials the waiter recites like a soliloquy. Specialties such as fried zucchini come crisp and heaping, and some boast extra elements: shrimp and sliced mushrooms on lobster ravioli; whole clams in the shell in linguine with white clam sauce. When the dessert cart is wheeled to the table, ask which treats are made in house, and order them. Cheesecake, in various flavors, is a solid bet. Chef Loucas Sofocli and Alex Charalambous also own LouCas in Edison and Fresco in Milltown. —KJC
3863 Route 516, 732-607-1650

Senza

Bayville

Senza, at first glance, looks like a simple takeout joint, with panini and pizzas beckoning behind a counter. But there are tables with aspirational white tablecloths. The food, from chef/owner Joe Gramaglia, makes good on those aspirations. Piattini, or small plates, include fried artichoke hearts with piquant Parmigiano lemon dip (and warm bread to soak up the sauce). Fresh pastas include spaghetti busara in what the kitchen calls Hotsy-Totsy spicy tomato sauce with shrimp. —KJC
333 Atlantic City Boulevard, 732-503-4470

Spano’s

Point Pleasant Beach

The way to get a table at this perennial hot spot is to leave a voicemail and wait for a call back. Once you’re in, chef/owner Joe Spano himself will bring an amuse-bouche—perhaps a rich spinach croquette or a chunky focaccia. Entrées come with an appealing salad or a hearty pasta and bean soup. Signature mains are many and run from a mouthwatering manicotti, served bubbling in a pan, to delicately breaded flounder oreganato with a medley of five veggies to a distinctive artichoke-lemon chicken. Portions are enormous, but the staff happily wraps the leftovers. Desserts are made in-house or come from venerable Nasto’s in Newark. BYO. —KJC
719 Arnold Avenue, 732-701-1600

Undici Taverna Rustica

Rumson

Prosciuttos di Parma dangle from the ceiling at Undici in Rumson

Whole prosciuttos di Parma, aged 18 months, dangle invitingly at Undici. Photo by Ted Nghiem

Wood beams suggest the rustic in Victor Rallo’s Rustica, bolstered by meats and cheeses hanging from hooks. Local ingredients in season team with imports from Italy, including the extensive wine list. Arancini, classic rice balls made with imported arborio rice and Grana Padano and Romano cheeses, are served in tomato sauce with peas. Risotto funghi pairs mushrooms with fresh red shrimp in imported carnaroli rice. The slow-cooked sauce for mafaldine Bolognese combines veal, beef, pork, tomatoes and ricotta. Pizzas include a burrata with charred crust. House-made biscotti, about a foot long, are served with Nutella mascarpone and cannoli cream. —KJC
11 West River Road, 732-842-3880

Verana

Norwood

Focaccia and butter at Verana in Norwood

House-baked focaccia is served with whipped ricotta, extra virgin olive oil and lava salt. Photo courtesy of Verana

At lunch with their wives, Tommy DeMaras and chef Giuseppe Agostino were brainstorming names for their new restaurant when they realized they were looking at the answer—VERonica DeMaras and ANdrianA Agostino. “It was pretty awesome,” says Agostino. So is the brightly chandeliered yet casual-feeling dining room, with its hanging plants, signature cocktails like the blueberry-infused Verana, tagliatelle heady with truffles, majestic veal chop, and the crisp-crust focaccia, almost creamy inside. —EL
530 Livingston Street, 201-347-6759

Viaggio

Wayne

“It’s winter, time for comfort food,” says chef/owner Robbie Felice. At Viaggio that means pappardelle in duck ragù, also francobolli (“postage stamps”) ravioli filled with kombucha squash in sage brown butter with crumbled amaretti cookies on top. The Milanese swaps classic veal for a pounded Berkshire pork chop reorchestrated with mustard crème fraiche and charred lemon. BYO. —EL
1055 Hamburg Turnpike, 973-706-7277

Vic’s Italian-American

Bradley Beach

A local landmark, Vic’s was founded as a taproom in 1933 by Vittorio “Vic” Giunco and became a restaurant in 1947. Family members Ed Dollive Jr. and Travis Semblewski still run it. Atmosphere is part of the draw, from neon signs to wood paneling, green-upholstered booths and green-striped dishware. Renowned for thin-crust pizza and bright, balanced red sauce, the restaurant also makes zesty meatballs and sausage from scratch. Fettuccine Alfredo celebrates butter without being too rich. Eggplant Parmigiana features supple discs of eggplant. The house salad is pleasantly retro, with crisp iceberg lettuce, julienned carrots, red cabbage and dressing made with robust red wine vinegar. —KJC
60 Main Street, 732-774-8225

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Vidalia

Lawrenceville

Born in Southern Italy and raised in the north—exposing him to two contrasting cuisines—Salvatore Scarlata eventually emigrated, settling in Trenton before opening his own place. Chef/owner, he serves satisfying classics in a warm ambience reflecting his branching roots. Having learned to cook from a handful of Italian nonnas, Scarlata says he changes his menu every few months because “I’ve learned to make a dish better, plus I get bored easily.” Repeat customers appreciate the vast menu, the generous portions, and the chance to chat with Scarlata, who walks around the dining room and enclosed patio each night. “I want to make sure my customers are happy,” he says, “and if they’re not, I’ll redeem the situation.” BYO. —JPC
21 Phillips Avenue, 609-896-4444

Viggiano’s on Sunset

West Cape May

Mark Viggiano’s mother cooked for her husband and 11 children from recipes passed down by her parents, raised near Rome. Today, he says, “so many Italian restaurants are more Mediterranean than Italian.” Viggiano prides himself on the family-secret marinara that completes his rigatoni with peppers, onions, sausage and chicken. —Lynn Martenstein
109 Sunset Boulevard, 609-435-5026

Zeppoli

Collingswood 

The simple dining room with plain wood tables and just 35 seats belies the complexity of South Philly native Joey Baldino’s food. At one of our favorite restaurants in Collingswood, choose between a three- or four-course prix-fixe of Baldino’s long-perfected Sicilian-based cuisine: garlicky grilled shrimp with cannellini beans; crisp-skinned grilled sardine with red peppers; pillowy spinach gnocchi with sautéed sage leaves; and swordfish with artfully criss-crossed grill marks, in lemon and olive oil. Finish with the namesake fried-dough zeppolis or bianco mangiare, custard topped with berries over caramelized Amaretto sauce. BYO. —JPC
618 Collings Avenue, 856-854-2670


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