Brothers Paul and Matthew Zappoli and friend Michael Cacciuttolo went out into the world to make their fortunes, but a chance to build something together brought them back to New Jersey. A friendship that began on a Little League baseball diamond has now taken root in Tre Amici (or "three friends"), where the trio serve Old World comfort food in an inviting and comfortable environment. Chef Matthew Zappoli, a 2010 winner of Food Network's Chopped expertly plates Italian favorites, such as chicken piccata or veal parmesan. Each bite attests to epicurean abilities, honed at the Culinary Institute of America, that have earned the chef praise from Bon Appétit and appearances as the featured chef at The James Beard House.
Hand-crafted pasta lounges in fresh sauce, and local ingredients make up appetite-trouncing accouterments. On some weekend evenings, warm tangles of guitar notes drift from the playing area laid out before the wood-burning oven. And a row of outdoor seats lets diners bask in the sun or maintain the hope that a lost kite will still come back.
Restaurateur Tim McLoone has left his mark all over the culinary maps of New Jersey and Maryland with his numerous gourmet grills, which distinguish themselves from one another with unique menus and ambiances that hew to the same level of upscale elegance. Most of Tim’s restaurants set a lovely spread for Sunday brunch with made-to-order omelets, waffles, and a carving station with plump, tender hams. The network of eateries regularly lures hungry passersby during the evening with the aroma of grilled steaks and seafood, and a winning lotto ticket attached to a fishing line. Select locations are also visited by nightly entertainment. The decor at each dining hall is inspired by its surroundings: naval themes prevail at the coastal locations in National Harbor, Sea Bright, and Long Branch, while McLoone’s racing-themed restaurants are located within the off-track facilities in Fords and Bayonne.
The Dockside Restaurant offers superbly prepared classic dishes in a setting like no other. Located on the waterfront where Granville Island faces the city, guests can enjoy panoramic views across False Creek to the world-famous cityscape of Yaletown and beyond to the mountains of the North Shore.
Sailboats breeze through the harbor outside of The Dockside, where chefs create a seafood-studded menu laden with comfort foods and upscale options. Appetizers summon jaws to action and include spiced Maryland crab cakes and lamb-chop lollipops, which are ideal for rewarding kids after dentist visits or pairing with cooling mint tzatziki sauce. After couples or quartets clear their starters, servers whisk out entrees such as succulent lobster rolls or pan-seared diver scallops awash in a balsamic reduction and trimmed with truffled potato puree and garlicky spinach. Chefs also braise Angus short ribs and sprinkle panko on five-cheese-sauced penne pasta that is studded, like the Jolly Green Giant’s belt, with broccoli rabe.
The down-home cooking at Amy’s Omelette House serves up myriad made-to-order breakfast, lunch, and dinner feasts with a gargantuan menu best observed from outer space. Namesake omelettes ($6.25+) sizzle in more than 200 varieties, mixing three eggs and every cheese, veggie, and meat imaginable for a patchwork quilt of egg-threaded mouthfuls. Breakfast yields 30 different sweet blends of pancakes and french toast ($4.50+), and 11 new angles on eggs Benedict ($7.50+), memorized and delivered by superhuman servers who can divine drink orders by feeling the prongs on your fork. Sample a specialty sandwich during lunch, such as the Grumpy Waitress ($8.95) with pastrami, fried onions, and jack cheese on grilled rye, or the Jolly Waiter ($8.95) with fried flounder and tartar sauce on texas toast. After 3 p.m., dinner dishes of southern-jerk-seasoned pork chops ($10.95) and baby back ribs ($16.95) unbuckle belts with a flourish of flavor and a pair of needle-nose pliers.
Red Mango's frozen yogurt has been garnering national attention for more than five years, unlike that musician strumming away next to the foosball table in his basement. The shop earned a place atop Zagat's 2011 lists for Best Smoothie and Frozen Yogurt Chain and Best Healthy Options Among Quick Refreshment Chains. Red Mango showcases its award-winning reputation by dishing up all-natural and gluten-free yogurts—all of which are either low-fat or nonfat—that promote healthy digestive and immune systems with natural probiotics. Friendly staff members are always on hand to whip Ghirardelli dark chocolate, POM pomegranate juice, and seasonal pumpkin spice frozen yogurts into Stevia-sweetened smoothies or parfaits layered with organic granola and fruit. The toppings bar brims with crunchy cereal, cheesecake bits, and nuts, allowing creative customization.