When we decided to dine at the newly opened Nuovo in Nutley, we had no idea that the chef was Joseph Catalano formerly from Semolina Restaurant in Millburn. We ate there often and have not had his food since Semolina closed in the spring of 2011. The Safersteins were elated to find him again.
NUOVO CUCINA NAPOLETANA, NUTLEY
Wooden tables, chairs, floors and long wooden pews set against a brick wall, an open kitchen and an oven from Italy, all create a casual ambiance at Nuovo. The menu features pizza, small plates, salads, pasta and entrées at very reasonable prices. Service was so attentive that when we asked about an ingredient listed on the menu (undugia), the waitress said she would find out, and within a minute the chef came to our table with undugia, which is a salami made with sweet and chile peppers.
Starters were deliciously different herb-and-cheese risotto rice balls dusted with parmesan cheese and filled with braised short ribs. A lidded ramekin held a rich tomato-basil sauce, which added even more flavor. Fresh peaches were a bright addition to a baby spinach salad with spicy toasted almonds, goat cheese, crispy pancetta and shallot dressing. This well-balanced dish with multiple flavors of sweet, salty, creamy and spicy was a knockout.
A mound of thinly and lightly floured and fried eggplant was layered and topped with a scrumptious tomato sauce and blanket of melted mozzarella. Served with pasta and the same luscious tomato sauce, this was the exemplification of what eggplant parm should be. Juicy and tender chicken in the giambotta was loaded with peppers, onions, potato and a tomato-based sauce. Dessert was a housemade creamy tiramisu in which we could actually taste the coffee-and-liquor-soaked ladyfingers. We were now in “al settimo cielo” (seventh heaven).
I wrote about Semolina in May, 2009 (http://njmonthly.com/articles/eat-drink/table-hopping-with-rosie/restaurant-news-2009-5-20/) and one dish we enjoyed was the Semolina ragu, which was made with fresh turkey, peas and a touch of cream. This dish is now called Rigatoni Nuovo Turkey Ragu on the Nuovo menu giving us one more reason to return to this “nuovo” restaurant.
Open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner.
Nuovo Cucina Napoletana
633 Franklin Avenue
Nuova rice balls with tomato sauce.
Baby spinach salad with fresh peaches, spicy toasted almonds, goat cheese, crispy pancetta and shallot dressing.
Photos courtesy of Lowell Saferstein
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