BISTRO SEVEN THREE, BERNARDSVILLE
How can you not like a restaurant that gives you a complimentary chocolate cookie at the end of your meal? Add to that tasty food, large portions, a BYO policy, moderate prices, and friendly service, and you’ve got a real winner. The only negative was the rolls, which tasted stale and were not very interesting. Everything else at Bistro Seven Three, 73 Mine Brook Road, Bernardsville, was spot on. The minestrone soup, chock full of vegetables, was enhanced with mozzarella cheese. Our other app, baby arugula salad topped with roasted peppers, Gorgonzola, and toasted almonds and dressed with balsamic vinaigrette, reminded us of the Italian flag. This colorful presentation, served on a chilled plate, was not only well balanced but large enough to be shared. Grilled flank steak was beautifully served medium-rare as ordered. The meat was sliced and stacked like logs in a log cabin. The wild-mushroom sauce and mashed potatoes were substantial sides. We loved the cod special, a beautiful piece of fish studded with pine nuts, giving it a delicious crunch. Ditto for the accompanying polenta with mascarpone cheese and sautéed spinach. Warm caramelized apple tart with vanilla ice cream was a delicious end to our meal…and we still had a cookie coming our way. For reservations, call 908-766-7400.
WINE DINNER WITH CAROL BERMAN
On June 13, a wine dinner hosted by Magnolia’s Wine & Spirits, Upper Montclair, will be held at Osteria Giotto, 21-23 Midland Avenue, Montclair, with Carol Berman, “the Wine Chick” on WOR Radio 710 and Sirius/XM Radio and the founder of Class in a Glass/the Traveling Sommelier. The following menu will be presented with wines: Venetian seafood salad; savory roast pork loin with an aromatic rosemary and roasted garlic sauce; and a selection of Osteria Giotto’s favorite desserts. 6:30 PM; $85 including tax and gratuity. For reservations, call Magnolia’s at 973-746-7337.
LA PERGOLA, MILLBURN
Large glass windows beckon you to La Pergola, a new northern Italian BYO restaurant at 120 Essex Street, Millburn. It is named for the wooden lattice structure/gazebo common to the Italian countryside, which is used for climbing plants and can provide a protected sitting area. The large, cavernous room was once a bridal store, and it’s decorated with colorful abstract pictures. Although the restaurant was full when we dined here, to our surprise it was not noisy.
The menu features Italian staples such as pasta e fagioli, buffalo mozzarella and tomato, fusilli Genovese, fettuccine Bolognese, and veal Toscana or Milanese. Vegetarians are not forgotten; they can make a meal from fresh appetizers such as stuffed artichokes, grilled vegetables, and asparagus Milanese, as well as salad and pasta options. We were happy with our two fish entrées: a special of grouper with leeks, shiitake mushrooms, and champagne sauce, and a whole branzino, which was brought to the table for our approval before it was cooked. The house-made tiramisu surrounded with strawberry syrup was deliciously rich and was one of the better renditions of this frequently seen dessert that we have encountered in some time. La Pergola is open Monday through Friday for lunch and daily for dinner. For reservations, call 973-376-6838.
METUCHEN INN, METUCHEN
The Metuchen Inn, 424 Middlesex Avenue, Metuchen, recently rebuilt and reopened after a fire, is stunning, with modern décor and a menu that reads better than what is actually served. When our waitress asked if we wanted our red wine chilled, we got an inkling of the spotty service that we would experience throughout our meal. A large portion of arugula would have been better without the cloyingly sweet dressing. Loin of sesame-crusted Asian-style tuna was good and served medium-rare as ordered. Some of the seared sea scallops were gritty, and the accompanying cauliflower purée tasted floury or more like parsnip. Dessert was a soggy apple strudel that was not worth the calories. Kudos to the owners for offering an extensive, reasonably priced wine list, which has 64 bottles for $25. If you want to spend even less, there were also a few bottles in the low $20s. There were many happy diners the night we ate here, and with the comforting ambience and Frank Sinatra crooning in the background, the Metuchen Inn could become a lovely destination restaurant—if the servers are properly trained and the quality of the ingredients improves. For reservations, call 732-494-6444.
THE BROTHERS MOON, HOPEWELL
The Brothers Moon, 7 West Broad Street, Hopewell, is celebrating its tenth year by bringing back favorites from the menus of the past. Each night a different item will be featured, along with the date it first appeared. Also, as a thank-you to customers, through the month of June chef/owner Will Mooney will be giving a fun treat to each guest. For reservations, call 609-333-1330; BYO.
DORIS & ED’S, HIGHLANDS
Fish lovers, take note. Copper River king salmon has arrived at Doris & Ed’s, 348 Shore Drive, Highlands. For reservations, call 732-872-1565. Menu information can be found at www.dorisandeds.com.
BE GREEK FOR A DAY
June 10 through 12, authentic Greek food and pastries, drinks, dancing, and music will be featured at the Greek Festival hosted by the St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church of Toms River, 2200 Church Road, Toms River. Friday and Saturday, 11 AM to 10 PM; Sunday, noon to 6 PM; free admission. For more information, call 732-255-5525.
On Sundays through August 31 (except holidays and Sundays during Princeton graduation or reunions), when you choose a wine at CoolVines, 21 Spring Street, Princeton—be sure it has the CoolVines tag—and bring it to Elements, 163 Bayard Lane, Princeton (609-924-0078), the corkage fee of $25 will be waived.
Nero’s, 618 South Livingston Avenue, Livingston, has a three-course recession buster dinner that is offered Monday through Friday from 3:30 to 6 PM for $23. Some entrée options: bucatini pomodoro with melted fresh mozzarella; boneless chicken breast stuffed with fresh mozzarella, fire-roasted sweet red peppers, and baby spinach; stuffed salmon; and “steakhouse” Italian pot roast. For reservations, call 800-55-NEROS.
Restaurant Serenade, 6 Roosevelt Avenue, Chatham, is offering deep discounts every Sunday through Tuesday on 50 selections from its wine list. For reservations, call 973-701-0303.
Blu, 554 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair, will be closed for vacation until July 6. Next Door will remain open.
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