The Rosie Report: Cucina 545 in Totowa

Our dining correspondent says the charming Italian BYO is worth becoming a regular at.

Homemade pappardelle in a pesto sauce with burrata. Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein

Cucina 545 is a storefront neighborhood restaurant where the Safersteins could easily become regulars. It is BYO, has a casual atmosphere, attentive service and very good value for the quality of food offered. Try it and let us know what you think.

A bud vase displaying a pink rose adorns the white tablecloths along with a bottle of olive oil. The room, which is painted in neutral grays and white, is cozy with tables placed far enough apart to allow for private conversations. Weather permitting, diners have the option of sitting at an outdoor patio. Owners are chef Giacomo Polibio from Biella, Italy and Roberto Fischetta who previously owned Benissimo Ristorante at the same location.

Hot crusty bread and butter in foil are presented with the menu which had an insert listing the specials with the prices. The outstanding seafood salad contained two jumbo shrimp, tender calamari rings, mussels, clams, baby scallops, black olives, red onions, crunchy celery and juicy tomatoes dressed with a parsley, olive oil and lemon vinaigrette. Lowell and I can eat an impressive amount of food but we could not finish this notable starter that could have fed four people or been an entrée. Ditto for the appetizer of four large grilled tubes of tender calamari over a bed of arugula drizzled with balsamic truffle reduction.

Seafood salad. Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein
Grilled calamari. Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein
Pan-seared branzino fillets with broccoli rabe. Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein
Veal saltimbocca. Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein

Homemade creamy burrata oozed into steaming hot homemade pappardelle in a fresh pesto sauce; a perfect partnership which we savored. Chicken on the bone, no matter how it is prepared, always catches our eyes and the pollo scarpariello with sausage, potatoes and hot long green peppers in a rosemary garlic and oil sauce was a hit. Vitello saltimbocca, veal medalions topped with prosciutto, spinach and fontina cheese in a scrumptious and delicate demi-glaze flanked by potato spears was also a faultless rendition of this dish. Pan-seared branzino fillets, placed over broccoli rabe, came with a vibrant, lemony salmoriglio sauce. Other items of interest were rice balls; homemade lobster ravioli with shrimp, asparagus and roasted peppers in a lobster champagne sauce; and pan seared prosciutto wrapped, egg battered, butterfly shrimp topped with mozzarella served over spinach in a white lemon sauce.

Carrot cake, New York-style cheesecake, ricotta cheesecake and crème brulee are made in house while the lava cake, tartufo and gelato are brought it. We opted for the extremely creamy crème brulee with a hardened caramelized sugar crust.

Open Tuesday through Friday for lunch and dinner. Saturday 4pm; Sunday 3pm; closed Monday.

Cucina 545, 545 Union Blvd, Totowa; 973-595-5595. BYO

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