We all know neighborhood BYOs we gladly recommend because the vibe is friendly and the food is decent. The newly opened Casa Filippo in Roseland fits that description. If the name sounds familiar it is because chef Saviero Lavorato previously owned a restaurant by the same name in Caldwell and briefly in Point Pleasant.
There are about 40 seats. The décor consists of a candle-lit lantern, lovely wine glasses, yellow walls with nondescript Italian pictures, double tablecloths and cloth napkins. Service was attentive and our hot food was served piping hot.
We ordered a salad of roasted corn, avocado and tomato because the ingredients intrigued us. The large portion was split in the kitchen, but unfortunately the corn was mealy, the avocado unripe and the tomato tasteless. The dish could be a winner if offered when the ingredients are in season.
Two flavorful, tender pork chops came with a sage and tomato sauce. Two fillets of pan-seared blackened sea bass were topped with artichokes, cherry tomatoes and beans. Both dishes were well prepared. Mashed potatoes—enhanced with garlic, cheese, rosemary and butter—come with all entrées. A huge side of broccoli rabe studded with chunks of garlic we took home and enjoyed for lunch the next day.
The menu had other interesting choices such as polenta with mushrooms and Gorgonzola; scallops drizzled with horseradish; a casserole of poached halibut with Manila clams and wild mushrooms; rigatoni with calamari, hot peppers and tomatoes; and three different risottos. The night we visited, no specials were offered and only one dessert, tartufo, which we bypassed.
A three course $15.95 early bird special is available Monday through Friday before 6 PM.
Small mom-and-pop BYOs work on a very slim profit margin so it is understandable that, while Casa Filippo does take credit cards, the menu states that “due to the high cost of credit card service we would appreciate cash payment.” Cash tips also welcomed.
Open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday.
178 Eagle Rock Avenue
Rosie’s Shout Outs:
Looking for bang for the buck? At the newly opened Fiamma Wood Fired Pizza in Montclair, we shared a small personal tomato pie; spinach salad with pears, roasted walnuts and goat cheese; and penne with Bolognese sauce. The tab came to $45, including tax and tip, and we brought home leftovers. Sinatra croons in the background and pizza-themed pictures line the walls.
It’s unusual for us to go out for breakfast, lunch or brunch, but when we do our restaurant of choice is MishMish in Montclair. We always order chef/owner Meny Vaknin’s trio of spreads—hummus, labne and smoked eggplant—which come with hot, fluffy pita. A new open-faced sandwich is smoked salmon on grilled bread spread with labne and topped with poached eggs. A spicy harissa aioli is squiggled on top, and fried potatoes complete the dish.
The ladies who lunch went to Restaurant Serenade in Chatham, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Don’t wait for a special occasion! Lunch is just as luxurious as dinner and less expensive. Chef/co-owner James Laird’s calf liver, a protein seldom seen on menus, is served with a bacon-onion tartlet, haricots verts and cassis sauce. It is very satisfying. Other lunch options include crab cakes, chopped vegetable salad, scallops, a cheeseburger and pappardelle. For dessert we shared an order of carrot cake.
Check out the whimsical Ball-jar chandeliers and the lovely display of copper pots on the wall at L’Angolo Trattoria Italiana in Cliffside Park. A new BYO, it’s co-owned by Carlo Pietroniro, previously of La Scala in Hoboken. He mans the stoves. I recommend the baked eggplant and the fresh pastas. More adventurous diners can choose octopus soup or tripe.
Chef Zod Arifai won raves for his two Montclair restaurants, Blu and Next Door (including several NJM Top 25 appearances for Blu and Critics’ Picks in Bang For the Buck at Next Door). Arifai closed the restaurants in late 2015 and is now poised to open a restaurant on East 13th Street in Manhattan with famed NYC restaurateur Eddie Schoenfeld (of Red Farm fame). The name is The Mess. The Safersteins’ favorite pastime of eating and drinking was recently enhanced at a pre-opening Family & Friends evening at The Mess. Our six-course dinner started with house-made sourdough bread followed by a crispy cannoli creatively filled with foie gras and cranberry cream jelly.
Then came lobster and fennel salad with apricot ginger dressing; an ethereal cod quenelle with Arifai’s version of a bouillabaisse sauce; halibut with celery root, apples and horseradish; and 23-day dry-aged ribeye festooned with shiitake mushrooms, scallions and crunchy potato squares. Dessert was hazelnut cake with mocha cream.
Our trip to the city was actually easier than driving to some New Jersey restaurants: We took the PATH train from Harrison to 14th Street and walked a few blocks.
Fiamma Wood Fired Pizza, 558 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair, 862-333-41350 fiamma-pizza.com BYO
MishMish, 215 Glenridge Avenue, Montclair, 973-337-5648 mishmishcafe.com BYO.
L’Angolo Trattoria Italiana, 696 Anderson Avenue, Cliffside Park, 201-941-0853 langolocliffside.com BYO
Restaurant Serenade, 6 Roosevelt Avenue, Chatham, 973-701-0303 restaurantserenade.com
The Mess, 22 E 13th Street, New York City, 212-231-2236 themessnyc.com
All photos by Lowell SafersteinClick here to leave a comment