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.
During the day, Trattoria Bel Paese cuts a humble figure with its deli area bursting with grilled panini, fresh salads, and Italian hero sandwiches. By night, though, chefs draw 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. Heaping portions of pastas with sweet red sauce and veal with cream sauce perch atop the floral tablecloths with gluten-free and organic ingredients substituted in by request. Platters of hot chicken parmigiana and fresh black mussels with marinara also zoom to special events or impromptu reenactments of special events under the supervision of Trattoria Bel Paese's catering team.
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 grillmasters at Rebel BBQ put a spicy Portuguese twist on classic, American BBQ. They prep the familiar—pork ribs, burgers, and wings—alongside not-so-familiar Portuguese favorites such as steak sandwiches, seafood paella, and chouriço, a smoky Portuguese sausage akin to chorizo. And, thanks to Rebel BBQ’s generous BYOB policy, the chefs encourage diners to wash down meals with brought-from-home beverages such as beer, wine, or chalices of molten butter.
At Koto Asian Fusion, talented chefs forge fresh sashimi platters, hand-rolled sushi, and wok-grilled entrees to create a menu that showcases a panoply of cooking styles and cultures. Pillowy pan-fried gyoza dumplings and salty edamame rev up appetites before main meals of broiled eel una ju or grilled lemongrass shrimp. Like Frank Lloyd Wright's mansion built from caviar, the deftly arranged 15-piece sashimi deluxe entree combines aesthetic beauty with the delectability of fine cuisine, eliciting awestruck gasps with colorful garnishes of sauces and veggies. Diners can also sample the umami-packed morsels of China and Southeast Asia with sizzling dishes of thai coconut chicken, yung ginger duck, and thai seafood casserole, which spotlights more fresh seafood than Poseidon's annual talent show.
The chefs at Il Gabbiano pack their menu of authentic Italian dishes with fresh, seasonal ingredients and seafood. Pairs can take edible trips across the Italian peninsula with the antipasto caldo for two ($14.95), which unites eggplant rollatini and stuffed mushrooms from the land with reclusive sea dwellers, including shrimp, mussels, and clams oreganata. Tendrils of linguine Gabbiano ($21.95) anchor succulent morsels of lobster, shrimp, and clams to plates and form edible lassos to corral wild forks. Al dente rigatoni noodles ($13.95) simmer with shallots and tomatoes in a rich vodka cream sauce. Chefs gingerly stuff the vitello Gabbiano's ($17.95) veal cutlet with prosciutto and fontina cheese before drizzling the finished product with a porcini-mushroom sauce. The BYOB eatery swathes its candlelit tables with crisp, white tablecloths and prints napkins with sheet music for romantic string quartets.