During the day, Trattoria Bel Paese Cooking Academy cuts a humble figure with its deli area bursting with grilled panini, fresh salads, and Italian hero sandwiches. By night, though, Chef George Joseph draws a curtain around the glass counter and, according to Teresa Politano of the Star-Ledger, this "unassuming little Clark Kent of a restaurant" sheds its eyeglasses to fight villainous hunger with a menu of authentic Sicilian and Italian specialties. Chef Joseph puts his international training to use for each meal, calling upon skills learned in London, Melbourne, and Italy itself to craft heaping portions of pastas with sweet red sauce and veal with cream sauce. Working with gluten-free and organic ingredients upon request, he also crafts platters of hot chicken parmigiana and fresh black mussels with marinara as part of Trattoria Bel Paese's catering team. But Chef Joseph doesn't limit his gifts to his own kitchen. He also educates the next generation of chefs during cooking classes, which combine fresh ingredients and simple Italian preparations into delicious, memorable at-home meals.
Rinaldi grew up watching his grandmother cook. He watched as she created rustic Italian dishes, making every element from scratch, and he watched as the excellent cooking made everyone happy and eager for more. Today, Rinaldi honors his grandmother with his BYOB bistro and steak house, offering an expansive menu bursting with homestyle Italian dishes such as Penne Pissed Off—a signature dish served with long hot peppers, kalamata olives, and garlic marinara caper sauce. He also treats guests to an array of seafood dishes and specialty filet mignon steaks charbroiled over an open flame and topped with caramelized figs, prosciutto, or crab-stuffed shrimp.
Muscle memory guides longtime cooks' hands as they gather slivers of Boar's Head turkey and slices of imported swiss cheese, fold them inside marble rye, and seal them together with russian dressing. The Gourmet Deli's staff have spent two decades assembling imported meats and cheeses into hearty breakfast and lunch items, as well as getting to know patrons on a first-name basis. In back, the italian deli's refrigerators brim with cater-ready fare such as 6-foot subs and party platters capable of feeding large crowds or small giants.
The name of Cervantes of Spain honors the author of the 17th-century novel Don Quixote, considered to be one of Spain’s finest writers. The traditions of the Iberian Peninsula are held in high regard throughout the eatery, where flamenco dancers whirl billowing skirts in paintings above Spanish Renaissance–style furniture. At those tables, conversation swells around tapas such as spanish chorizo sautéed in sherry. The heat of traditional, fire-blackened pans continues to cook lobster, scallops, and sausage with saffron rice in Valencia-style paella. Live flamenco and jazz musicians fill the space with the complex rhythms of a tap dancer in a bubble-wrap factory, and open-pit pig roasts fill the outdoor patio with succulent aromas. Glasses clink together, letting the bouquets of Spanish wines blend and slices of fruit drift slowly down through six types of sangria.
New American | French Influences | Local Ingredients | Rotating Seasonal Menus | Monthly Brunch
When to Go: If it's dinner you're after, then any day Tuesday through Saturday will do. Fans of brunch, however, should mark their calendars for the last Sunday of every month from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. That's the only time that the restaurant serves up its mega-popular à la carte brunch menu, which features favorites such as freshly squeezed juices and housemade french pastries.
While You're Waiting
While You're in the Neighborhood
Before: Purge all your pent-up tension and stress with a relaxing Swedish massage at Flic Spa (2 South Avenue W.).
After: If, by some chance, you saved room for dessert, treat yourself to a scoop of premium handmade ice cream at Vanilla Bean Creamery (22 North Avenue W.).
Inside Buttery Bake Shoppe, bakers spend their days crafting a range of homemade treats using only kosher ingredients. They create custom cakes, which they decorate for special occasions, or hearty loaves of bread that add a rustic feel to meals throughout the day. They are perhaps best known for their pastries and sweets, such as soft cookies straight from the oven or chocolate-covered brownies on a stick, which burst with rich flavors like a stock brokers' food fight.