Restaurant Review

Due Terre Enoteca

A pasta tasting menu is something you don’t often see. When it is done superbly—and superb is pretty much the norm at Due Terre—you don’t want to miss it.

The name—Italian for two lands—refers to owners Daniele Sbordi (from Milan) and François Rousseau (from Toulon, in southern France). Their resumes as managers and sommeliers include stints at Le Cirque, Daniel, Babbo, Gramercy Tavern, and Fiamma Soho in Manhattan, as well as the Ryland Inn in Whitehouse.

To create Due Terre’s contemporary pan-Italian menu, they enlisted Michael White—whose cooking at Fiamma earned three stars from the New York Times—as partner and executive chef. White collaborated with Bill Dorrler, a New Jersey native who now helms the kitchen as day-to-day executive chef.

The exquisite pastas are lovingly handmade and matched with delicious sauces suited to each shape. The tasting menu consists of four contrasting pasta courses served in succession, followed by dessert, for $52 per person. The only catch is that everyone at the table must order the menu, but even a table for two is eligible. Pastas can be ordered individually, as well. Waiters will gladly divide portions.

The menu we had began with quill-shaped garganelli in earthy truffle butter spiked with slivers of Parma prosciutto—a luscious and beautifully balanced combination. Next came hand-cut spaghetti in a scintillating sauce of fresh Jersey tomatoes fueled with Scotch bonnet pepper flakes, topped with plump, whole shrimp and a four-ounce South African lobster tail cut into tender, bite-size pieces.

The third course was wide, flat pappardelle in Bolognese, Italy’s iconic meat sauce, simmered for two to three hours, producing a ragù as substantial as a Verdi chorus. The finale was agnolotti—half-moon pouches filled with braised pork, veal shank, a bit of mortadella—under a sumptuous mantle of porcini mushrooms in a reduction of Sangiovese red wine, butter, and fresh sage. Splendido.

Due Terre engages the eye with gleaming Mission-style oak accents and a soothing autumnal palette. Situated in the soaring ceiling, a gigantic, Roman-numeral clock is set six hours ahead, to “due terre” time.

An enoteca is a wine bar, and Due Terre earns the label with its long handsome bar and extensive list of Italian wines by the glass, bottle, or half bottle. The wine list (available, like the menu, in either the bar or the dining room) showcases lesser-known, primarily Italian vintners whose distinctive output is very modestly marked up.

Pastas are just one of the riches of Due Terre. Roast chicken is a wonder: a free-range, organic bird—deboned, crisp-skinned, and moist—with rustic potatoes sautéed in rosemary and lardoons of applewood-smoked bacon. Sweet, velvety New Jersey sea scallops are barely seared, dressed in a comforting cream sauce made from Jersey corn, and surrounded by an earthy risotto with fava beans and spring peas. A 16-ounce, boneless, dry-aged ribeye rivals that of any steakhouse (and, at $34, costs less than at many a steakhouse). Seasoned with salt, lemon, garlic, and rosemary, it is flawlessly grilled and lavished with a Sangiovese red-wine reduction and served with wonderful Tuscan potatoes—rough chunks torn by hand, boiled, fried, then tossed with sea salt, garlic and rosemary.

If you’re having trouble deciding, there is a second tasting menu available at $56. During our visits it consisted of a tuna tartare, the garganelli pasta, the seared scallops, grilled lamb chops,and dessert.

Pastry chef Denise Cinque’s desserts are molto bene: intense gelati, rich dark-chocolate tartaletta with a crackly caramelized sugar top like crème brûlée; tiramisu with true espresso flavor and such substantial texture you could eat it with a fork; fresh strawberries in a slightly tart and totally irresistible balsamic syrup.

Sbordi and Rousseau may be of two lands, but they are of one mind in furnishing gracious atmosphere, professional service, intriguing wines, and delectable cuisine.

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