On their opening day, December 10, 1999, the Safersteins were the first customers at Corso 98. Then, as now, the restaurant serves memorable homemade food that is a cut above the traditional Italian restaurant. Owner Elio Suriano, who is originally from Abruzzo, Italy, keeps an eagle eye on the dining room and greets regulars by name. This is a special, welcoming restaurant that we highly recommend.
Warm, toasted Italian bread offered with butter, olive oil sprinkled with Parmesan and an olive spread abated our hunger, as we browsed through the menu. A special of grilled fig salad had contrasting tastes and textures with the creamy figs and goat cheese creating a counterpoint to the crunchy almonds, sweet berries and tangy vinaigrette. Flavors from spicy shrimp arrabbiata popped in our mouths and a plate of delicious gooey brie with pear discs would have also been fabulous for dessert.
Chitarra, an egg pasta typical of Abruzzo, are made on a chitarra, Italian for guitar, a stringed instrument that cuts the dough into a four-sided shaped pasta that looks like thick linguini. Two versions are offered at Corso 98; one with a rustic pomodoro sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil or Bolognese. Both were satisfying and can also be shared as a side. An Angus hanger steak, cooked medium rare as requested, came with a rich Bordeaux demi-glace, smashed fingerling potatoes and haricot verts. Most impressive, and Lowell’s favorite, was a grilled, center-0cut prime pork chop with roasted potatoes, sweet red peppers (vinegar hot peppers were listed on the menu and graciously substituted) and broccoli rabe. The pork was tender, juicy and thick; a delight for any meat lover.
A nostalgic dessert I remember having as a child, Italian icebox cake made with layers of graham crackers and chocolate pudding topped with fresh whipped cream, was a sweet ending to our dinner.
Cucina 98, located in the kitchen of Corso 98, sells sandwiches, soups, homemade ravioli (try the lamb), pasta, sauces, packaged foods to go and Italian baked goods. Call for hours.
Corso 98, 98 Walnut Street, Montclair, 973-746-0789 BYO corso98.com. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 PM; Sunday from 4 PM.
ROSIE’S SHOUT OUTS
Be sure to make a reservation at Ocha (green tea in Japanese), which has been open since 2006, as this popular restaurant is busy even on weekdays. Sushi pizza, our go-to item, is created with a scallion pancake topped with seaweed, onion, tuna or salmon and a spicy sauce. While sashimi (tuna, salmon, white tuna and yellowtail) was fresh tasting and recommended, we devoured the Ocha roll with shrimp tempura, spicy tuna and avocado wrapped in soybean paper topped with a spicy sauce. Non-raw-fish eaters can opt for the cooked Asian-fusion dishes, such as five-spice shrimp with vegetable noodles or chicken, beef or shrimp in garlic sauce. Open for lunch Monday through Saturday and dinner daily.
Ocha, 403 Bloomfield Avenue, Caldwell 973-228-8856. http://ochanj.com; BYO.
ROYAL WARSAW, ELMWOOD PARK
Pork lovers will be delighted with the menu at Royal Warsaw, as there are more than 10 dishes that contain this animal protein, including kielbasa, schawoby (variations of breaded pork cutlets), stuffed cabbage and pork shank. Chicken, fish, and steak are also available. This large, noisy restaurant, with pictures of Warsaw adorning the walls, offers Polish cherry, honey, peach and raspberry wines, as well as beers from Poland. Try the steamed or fried potato/cheese or sauerkraut pierogies (not the meat); potato pancakes, sautéed chicken livers with onions and the large appetizer portion of Hunter’s stew topped with grilled kielbasa. Entrees come with a colorful trio of Polish salads; cucumber, beet and cabbage. Desserts can easily be bypassed, but the house-made Polish apple cake was acceptable. Diners can get a lot of bang for their buck here. A lunch special from Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 AM to 4 PM includes a cup of soup or house salad and entrée for $8.95 and a three-course menu is available Tuesday through Thursday from 4 to 10 PM for $12.95.
Royal Warsaw, 871 River Drive Elmwood Park, royalwarsaw.com; 201-794-9277.Click here to leave a comment