Last fall, Stern and Bow made news when a couple discovered a very tiny pearl in one of their raw oysters. You probably won’t luck out in that way, but this Closter eatery still has much to offer, starting with its raw bar curated by noted oyster expert Kevin Joseph.
Joseph, who grew up in a family that owned seafood restaurants on the eastern end of Long Island, cofounded New York Oyster Week in 2011. You can order a wide variety of fresh oysters and clams from your table, but few experiences are better than sitting at the seafood bar and having Joseph curate a shellfish omakase (Japanese for tasting menu). Each specimen comes complete with backstory and tailored topping. Among the latter, most memorable for me were tiny pearls made of gelled gin.
Stern and Bow was opened last September by Closter resident Russell Stern, who owned Harvest Bistro & Bar in town for 13 years. Stern and Bow spreads 155 seats across an attractively sprawling space with nautical decor. In addition to the oyster bar, there’s a liquor bar and a wood-burning pizza oven with its own counter, making the 5,000-square-foot space, with its clusters of tables, feel a bit like a miniature food hall. But everything on the menu is available no matter where you sit.
Executive chef Pasquale Frola serves pizzas in the style of his native Naples. His 12-inch Devil’s Kiss pie with ricotta, mozzarella, chilies, acacia honey and smoky n’duja pork spread was as tasty and satisfying as any I’ve enjoyed in Naples itself. A pissaladière (a Provençale flatbread), however, was cracklingly dry, with overly pungent anchovies and a meager scattering of frizzled onions.
Portions are big. Fried calamari (with toothsome Calabrian-pepper aioli) comes in a tangle of lightly fried rings with a giddy crunch from stone-ground grits in the batter. Scialatielli frutti di mare brims with shellfish in a tureen of fat, curly Neapolitan noodles in olive oil with garlic, shallots and sweet piennolo tomatoes grown on the volcanic slopes of Naples’s Vesuvius National Park.
Fisherman’s stew presents a similar cornucopia. “It draws from three coastal cultures,” Frola says. “Italy for the sauce of olive oil and lobster stock; Galicia in Atlantic Spain for the paprika, red pepper and red onion; and France for the saffron and the baguette slathered with saffron-aioli roux.” The only things missing from this extravagance were seagulls angling for crumbs. My table of four attacked it lustily, yet there was more than enough left to take home.
A Cajun shrimp-and-sausage gumbo, on the other hand, strangely lacked any trace of N’awlins spices. Duck-fat mashed potatoes, an à la carte side, were similarly bland. The New England lobster roll was fresh and generous, but nearly naked. Wailed my guest, “Show me the mayo!”
Frola previously turned out impeccable steaks at Sofia in Englewood. He continues to do so here, with provisions from Wotiz Meat in Passaic. Standouts included a juicy, 14-ounce, double-cut Berkshire pork chop and a dry-aged (“28 days minimum,” Frola says) prime rib eye, served sliced on the bone.
The rib eye was $85, but its 28 ounces sated two normally insatiable meat eaters. It was cooked exactly rare, as ordered, with an appetizing salt-and-pepper rub and smokiness from the hickory-burning oven. The pleasant, unaged, 8-ounce prime hanger steak came with matchless matchstick fries. Its oven-smoked mushroom chimichurri was dreamed up by Frola, a gifted sauce maker.
Frola makes the half-dozen desserts, all ample. The best we had was apple pot pie, a cross between a buttery French tarte tatin and an all-American apple pie. Made with firm, sweet Honeycrisp apples and bursting with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream, it made an ideal meal ender.Click here to leave a comment
- Cuisine Type:New American
- Price Range:Expensive
- Price Details:Appetizers, $12–$25; pizzas, $15–$19; entrées, $24–$49; sides, $8–$14; desserts, $11
- Ambience:Hipster nautical
- Service:Welcoming and well paced
- Wine list:Full bar, 26 beers, 73 wines