Like its name, Wagon Wheel Restaurant’s menu and interior pay homage to simpler times. Tiffany-style stained-glass lamps cast a golden glow over hearty cuts of filet mignon, stuffed chicken breasts, baby back ribs, and the other unimpeachably traditional American eats that fill out the comforting, honest menu. As they dine, guests can relax, allowing their eyes to wander over the deep oxblood walls hung here and there with photographs and paintings of pure natural landscapes, wagering with their tablemates whether the images are real places or pictures fished out of Bob Ross’s dream catcher. Across from the dining area, distressed wooden posts and dangling metal steins highlight the spacious, u-shaped bar. Occasionally, Wagon Wheel plays host to local bands that perform classic rock or the kind of simple folk tunes that require at least one band member to bang a washboard against a drum.
At Dinallo's Restaurant, fresh meats and seafood sizzle atop pastas, and chefs bathe classic Italian dishes in white-wine sauce to craft a Zagat-rated menu. Pescetarians sink forks into fresh grilled salmon ($21) or savor the wine-slathered morsels of shrimp in the gamberoni al vino bianco ($25). The pollo parmigiana's pan-fried breaded chicken cutlet acts as a liaison between melty mozzarella, tomato sauce, and a bed of pasta ($18), and the veal scaloppine mingles with capers in lemon, butter, and white wine ($24). After the meal, patrons sip wine from the eatery's bar and indulge in homemade cannoli or a slice of carrot cake, dashed with nutmeg and walnuts, frosted with cream-cheese icing, and surrounded by a force that repels nearby cartoon rabbits.
Before helming the kitchen at Luka's Italian Cuisine, Chef Luka lived and cooked all over Europe and America, from his native Montenegro to New York City. Though he focuses primarily on the food of Italy and his homeland, Luka incorporates techniques he learned in the many eateries where he spent his formative years. The chef broils freshly delivered scallops and serves them alongside his signature veal Luka, and he eases pasta cravings with fettuccine, gnocchi, and tortellini. Luka's is BYOB, so patrons can complement their meals with the contents of any bottle, be it wine, beer, or a tiny ship.
For more than 40 years, the LaMorte family has regaled diners with mouthwatering Italian meals that spotlight richly sauced pastas, juicy steaks, and ocean-fresh seafood. The fully handicap-accessible space charms visitors with its art-peppered walls, coral accents, and varnished wood. The sun-drenched patio showcases a dark wood bar and a wood-fired brick pizza oven. The restaurant's catering services banquets of up to 500 guests or two narwhals with family-style Italian fare and hot or cold buffets.
The secret that has brought the Centrella family its restaurant success is an easy one to remember: keep things simple. In 1958, Vincenzo and Barbara Centrella left Naples for New York and opened Presto's as a way to introduce their community to the fresh, simple, stripped-down cooking style of their Italian ancestors. Today, the couple's son John and his childhood friends carry out the family mission and welcome patrons to Presto's with a menu heavily populated by the eatery's two namesakes—including a baked-ziti pizza, which marries the two dishes in a state-sanctioned ceremony involving a flaky pie, saucy penne, and two kinds of cheese.
Inside the Garden State Plaza mall lies a gateway to the past, where flickering flames illuminate the charred interior of an oak-burning pizza oven, and the aroma of bubbling sauce made with freshly crushed tomatoes mixes with wisps of Frank Sinatra's silky voice. The charm that surrounds the rituals of Italian cooking drifts into Papa Razzi's dining room from an open-air kitchen, where cooks bustle around steaming pots of pasta. The culinarians use only fresh and imported ingredients when cooking, just as Old-World chefs did before they took jobs fixing the cleaver-wielding robots that would replace them.
Behind a wood-accented, 15-foot bar, mixologists sling a list of libations that includes mimosas, sangria, and wines selected to complement meals. In the dining room, fresh flowers sit atop white tablecloths, and celebrity photographs line the walls, reminding guests of treasured nuggets of pop culture.