Executive chef Ryan DePersio has a lot riding on the success of Battello. While Fascino, his family’s Montclair BYO—a fixture on NJM’s annual Top 25—will always be “my baby,” as he recently said, Battello represents something he’s long been searching for: a large restaurant with a liquor license in a stunning location. If Battello succeeds, DePersio, 36, will have fulfilled that surging ambition.
DePersio was recruited by fellow Jerseyan Cory Checket, owner of Hoboken’s Turtle Club. Battello opened in March in the Newport Marina on Jersey City’s Hudson River waterfront. The sprawling, high-ceilinged structure that had been Michael Anthony’s faces the towers of Lower Manhattan. As redesigned by Jerseyan Anthony Carrino, co-host of HGTV’s Kitchen Cousins and Cousins Undercover, the 175-seat space looks more maritime. A weathered rowboat hangs upside down above the entrance. Brass lanterns salvaged from an old yacht are mounted on the walls. Stripped of paint, the ceiling trusses high overhead suggest the hull of a sailing ship.
At Fascino, DePersio developed an eclectic style he calls “Italian without borders.” You can find a few of its greatest hits here, including his ethereal ricotta gnocchi with sweet sausage Bolognese—a first-ballot lock for the Jersey Food Hall of Fame, if there were one. DePersio, who also oversees Nico at NJPAC in Newark, is ably assisted by chef de cuisine David Viana, formerly of Daryl in New Brunswick, and pastry chef Joseph Gabriel, whose handiwork we admired at the Pluckemin Inn in Bedminster.
We hit some rough seas in the early going. On our first visit, cocktails arrived after a long wait, followed 30 seconds later by the appetizers. Our server didn’t know which cheeses were in that night’s cheese platter and never bothered to find out.
The kitchen, too, was inconsistent. Salads were either undersalted or oversalted. Buttermilk baked chicken breast with pesto crust was seriously overcooked on one visit. On a second, the meat was moist and juicy, but the skin was flaccid. Both times, though, the generous portion of creamy polenta delighted, as did the sautéed spinach and orange-glazed carrots.
Butter-poached lobster tail with pork belly was poorly executed on one visit (the tail small and bland, the belly hard and dry in spots). Weeks later, the entire dish was on target, including the crispy couscous cake that had not been crispy the first time. Pancetta-wrapped scallops were spectacular on both tries, but their swoosh of toasted almond purée was oversalted one time, just right the next.
Yet there was much smooth sailing. Enjoyable starters included steamed mussels with fregola and sweet onion in a spicy harissa sauce; delicate rock shrimp polpette (meatballs) with burrata, shaved celery heart and Meyer lemon aioli; and grilled octopus with green olive tapenade and shaved sunchokes brightened with tomato vinegar.
In a phone call after our visits, DePersio cited Battello’s tuna rollatini as an example of Italian without borders. He covers a long, thin slice of raw, sushi-grade yellowfin with shaved fennel and cucumber matchsticks, rolls it up, places it on a smear of avocado mousse and serves it with a bright yuzu-sesame vinaigrette. Vivid, balanced flavors, contrasting textures—a clear winner.
Among entrées, skate wing in a delicate rice crust came with perfectly textured fava bean risotto and a foamy mushroom-soy broth. Pignoli-crusted halibut braised in pancetta broth was marvelous on a bed of English peas, snow peas and finely cut asparagus and carrots, with Hershey’s Kiss-shaped pipings of creamy parsnip purée. The kitchen also produced a juicy grilled flatiron steak with flavorful herbed fingerling potatoes and a dab of red-shallot confit.
The hiring of Joseph Gabriel in May lifted desserts considerably. Jasmine-tea panna cotta, previously dull, came to life with brandied cherries, cherry granita and vanilla meringue kisses. Fresh blueberry parfait with Amaretto sabayon and crunchy almond crumble was terrific. (The menu said it came with toasted-almond ice cream. It arrived with no ice cream, but it didn’t matter. The dish was complete without it.)
Battello has assembled a talented team. None, however, have run anything as big as Battello. They seem to have righted their ship and set it on a promising course. We are cautiously optimistic they can keep it going in the right direction.
Cuisine Type:European - Italian
Battello502 Washington Blvd
Jersey City, NJ 07310
Monday – Friday: 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM;
Saturday & Sunday: 11:00 AM to 2:30 PM;
Monday – Thursday: 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM;
Friday & Saturday: 5:00 PM to 11:00 PM;
Sundays: 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM
LIGHT BAR MENU
Monday – Sunday: 2:30 PM to 5:00 PM