Under the warm glow of crystal chandeliers in Ill Amici Ristorante’s elegant dining room, the Lavorato family adorns tabletops with expertly prepared fare from the northern and southern regions of Italy and ambrosial vino from an extensive wine list. Owner and executive chef Giovanni Lavorato began his culinary training in Italy at the age of 14, has cooked all over Europe and North America, and has racked up numerous awards, including Man of the Year in 1995 by Il Ponte Italo-Americano international cultural magazine. The recently renovated dining room charms patrons with classy Old-World decor and a deficiency of singing moose heads, and the Venetian-style lounge and spacious banquet hall provide accommodations for sophisticated revelry.
Napoli Pizza & Pasta, a recent addition to Linden’s restaurant roster, houses a team of cooks who craft traditional Italian eats, including pizzas, pastas, and specialty sandwiches. The quaint Italian bistro cultivates a relaxed ambience with linen-clad tables and dim lighting, making it an ideal place for an intimate family gathering or a romantic spaghetti-slurping contest.
Muscle Maker Grill grew out of a small smoothie shop, where owner Rod Silva prepared health-conscious alternatives to fast food. The restaurant has since expanded with a menu tailored to accommodate diners with vegetarian, carb-free, and gluten-free diets. The new "lighter side" menu features healthy treats that are 400 calories or less under $5.99. The crew prides themselves in creating healthy versions of popular foods, and continues to serve the shop's original protein shakes with favorites such as chocolate peanut butter and strawberry banana. Additionally, Muscle Maker Grill displays the calorie count for each dish on the menu.
Mr Subs has come a long way since it was thought up by a group of college friends at Rutgers University. Since then, the sandwich shop has expanded to four separate locations throughout the area. Each follows the same formula—heap savory meats and farm-raised, seasonal veggies between slices of freshly baked bread. Cold subs are the shop's specialty; they come in varieties that include honey-roasted turkey, roast beef, and prosciuttini with capicola and cheese. Diners can also sink their teeth into grilled cheesesteak and BLT sandwiches as well as breakfast options.
Sconces cast a soft glow on modern, wooden tabletops. Green glass tiles glint in the light of fluted hanging lamps. Tea candles flicker next to plush, low lounge seating. The lighting inside Cubanu creates a romantic atmosphere before dates even dig into its menu of American-influenced Cuban dishes, such as empanadas stuffed with goat cheese and spinach. Patrons can also drink glasses of signature house-made sangria, or cap off long nights of filing joint tax returns by munching on late-night tapas dishes served on Friday and Saturday.
Couples on dates and families sharing special meals gather at Luciano's Italian Ristorante & Lounge, a 200-seat eatery that serves classic pastas, meaty entrees, and zesty seafood dishes. To accommodate the dietary needs of their many diners, chefs are able to prepare any pasta dish without gluten by swapping in wheatless ravioli, gemelli, spaghetti, or penne. Regulars and New York Times critics alike rave about the sicilian braised short ribs and pan-seared scallops, which are both featured on the chef's tasting menu as well as the a la carte. The spacious restaurant fosters an upscale supper club ambience, with a large fireplace at one end of the dining room and impressive wine racks displaying an ample stock of bottles. Located walking distance from Rahway Station and Union County Performing Arts Center, Luciano's boasts a convenient spot for a pre-theater dinner or post-train heist cocktails.