Ah’Pizz, 7 North Willow Street, Montclair (973-783-9200), which features authentic Neapolitan pizza, keeps getting better and better. This BYO has increased its space; there are two levels now, seating up to 110 people. The menu has also been expanded, and the new options are all worth ordering. Start with any of the personal pizzas made in an oven that’s heated by wood and reaches 1,000 degrees. The pizza cooks in 90 seconds, resulting in a slightly charred crust that is addictive. It’s topped with quality ingredients such as San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, extra-virgin olive oil from Naples, Sicilian sea salt, and fresh basil. We shared a pie made with fresh mozzarella di bufala, crushed tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, Parmigiano-Reggiano, basil, and extra-virgin olive oil, and we asked for an additional topping of artichokes. But that wasn’t our only starter. Pasta e fagioli was so thick with pasta and beans that we don’t even know if it’s fair to call it a soup. In any case, we were all fighting for the last spoonful. Eggplant rollatini, always a favorite when it’s done right, was perfect with its flavorful tomato sauce and creamy filling. Mozzarella en carozza (think of it as an Italian grilled cheese sandwich) was accompanied by a mild anchovy sauce. Salads were fresh tasting; the one with arugula, figs, goat cheese, and cherry tomatoes with balsamic vinaigrette is highly recommended. We didn’t stop there—we also had pasta. The fettuccine Ah’Pizz came with shrimp and an impressive spicy arrabbiata sauce. Spinach ravioli snuggled with a creamy tomato sauce for a delicious dish. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we bypassed desserts, but if you must, try the pizza alla Nutella, tiramisu, or cannoli or one of the various dessert specials.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein.
IL GABBIANO, CRANFORD
We were pleasantly surprised to see murals depicting the Italian countryside and tables draped with cloths and linen napkins in the welcoming room at Il Gabbiano (“seagull” in Italian), 10 South Street, Cranford. We expected pizza-joint décor, as the restaurant is located in a nondescript strip mall that can easily be missed.
Bruschetta topped with chopped tomato and a basket of warm bread started our meal. Specials were recited without the prices, but the waiters were efficient and able to answer menu questions. Salad came with dinner, containing crisp romaine lettuce, tomato, and a lively Italian dressing. Our entrée of chicken Erika was a juicy breast topped with tomato, spinach, prosciutto, and sun-dried tomato, with a touch of heavy cream. Vitello Tre Funghi, veal scaloppini with shitake, Portobello, and button mushrooms in a Marsala sauce, was a very generous portion, as was a colorful special of whole-wheat penne with sun-dried tomatoes, shrimp, and spinach. Eggplant rollatini with pasta in a tomato sauce also hit the mark. The only miss was an overcooked and bland side of escarole. We skipped the desserts, which, besides the tiramisu and crème brûlée, are brought in from the outside. Il Gabbiano provided quality food at reasonable prices; our meal came to about $23 per person. For reservations, call 908-497-1990; BYO.
Whole-wheat penne with sun-dried tomatoes, shrimp, and spinach.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein.
FREE LOVE, FRESH COFFEE
If you’re looking for a hostess gift or stocking stuffer for the holidays, check out Java Love, a coffee roasting company committed to coffee with integrity. Montclair-based owners Kristine Petrik and Jodie Thorz Dawson have opened a store in Bethel, New York, where it’s not only about coffee. They sell mugs, totes, soaps, T-shirts, and hats too. But there’s no need to drive to Bethel, as you can order the coffee online at www.javaloveroasters.com. There’s even a coffee-of-the-month club.
How are Petrik and Dawson committed to coffee with integrity? They use the very best organic, fair-trade, naturally farmed, and Rainforest Alliance coffee beans. Their coffee is roasted in small batches to maintain the character of the beans and bagged to be sold in a few days, not weeks or months. There is as little environmental impact as possible, as they use compostable service items and recycle up to 95 percent of the waste. Also, as part of their commitment to their community, they donate a portion of their profits to local nonprofit and community outreach programs.
We recently tried a medium- to full-bodied Guatemalan coffee for breakfast and a smooth Costa Rican decaf, which is perfect after dinner. To contact Java Love, call 845-707-2589. Hey, Kristine and Jodie, how about creating a Montclair blend or NJ coffee?
GAME DINNER AT THE FROG AND THE PEACH, NEW BRUNSWICK
Through Thanksgiving, a five-course game dinner paired with the sherries of Emilio Lustau will be featured at the Frog and the Peach, 29 Dennis Street, New Brunswick. The menu is available every evening for $65, or $112 with wine pairings. For reservations, call 732-846-3216.
JERSEY SHORE RESTAURANT WEEK
Jersey Shore Restaurant Week will be celebrated November 4 through 13, with participating restaurants in Monmouth and Ocean counties offering a three-course meal with three appetizer, three entrée, and three dessert choices for $20.11 or $30.11. For more information, log on to www.jerseyshorerestaurantweek.com.
CULINARY CLASSES IN MAY’S LANDING
The Academy of Culinary Arts at Atlantic Cape’s Mays Landing Campus, 5100 Black Horse Pike, Mays Landing, is featuring new workshops for the amateur chef. Course options include Brunch (November 8), French-Vietnamese Cuisine (November 29), and Seven Fishes Revisited (December 13). All classes take place from 6 to 9 PM. Check www.atlantic.edu/conted for pricing and other culinary workshops, or call 609-343-482 for more information.
MIND YOUR MANNERS: DINING ETIQUETTE FOR CHILDREN
Enjoy a four-course lunch at the Bernards Inn, 27 Mine Brook Road, Bernardsville, with your child at a dining etiquette class for kids ages seven to fourteen, which will be held on November 12 or November 19. The teacher is certified etiquette trainer Maureen Wild. Noon to 2 PM; $75 per child, $50 per adult. For more information and reservations, call 908-766-0002.
CHEF CENTRAL, PARAMUS, AND CHARITY DI VINO
Congratulations to Ninamarie Bojekian of Ooh La La Catering, who was the winner of the meatball throwdown against Johnny DeCarlo, aka Johnny Meatballs, at Chef Central, 240 Route 17 North, Paramus, on October 18. Voting was done by Susan Sherrill, food editor for The Record; John Pilouras, executive chef/partner at Nisi in Englewood; the audience; and me. The event was filmed by Cablevision’s Neighborhood Journal and will be replayed at the Charity di Vino wine tasting and fundraiser on November 10 at the Sheraton Crossroads, Mahwah, when the winner of the Ultimate Chef Bergen County qualifying round will be announced. The Charity di Vino event will be held from 7 to 10 PM; $70, $85 at the door. Ninamarie and Johnny will also be on hand to resume their meatball throwdown for the crowd, which is expected to be around 500 people. For tickets and more information, log on to www.grunico.org.
IL POMODORO, SOMERVILLE
Il Pomodoro, 41 North Bridge Street, Somerville, will host a California Wines With an Italian Heritage dinner on November 9. The following menu will be presented.
Reception: assorted antipasti
(2010 Pedroncelli Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek)
House-cured arctic char with heirloom grain salad, apple-sunchoke relish, violet mustard, and horseradish
(2010 Madonna Estate Chardonnay, Carneros, Napa Valley)
Long Island duck with garganelli, braised leg ragù, smoked breast, wild mushrooms, and figs
(2008 Madonna Estate Pinot Noir, Carneros, Napa Valley)
Roast venison saddle over Brussels sprouts, venison “chili” with huckleberries, pumpkin, oatmeal, and juniper
(2007 Pedroncelli Syrah, “Ridge Ranch”)
Intermezzo of cranberry soda with ginger pear granita
(2006 Pedroncelli Estate Grapes Port)
6:30 PM; $65 plus tax and gratuity. For reservations, call 908-526-4466.
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