Brothers Paul and Matthew Zappoli went out into the world to make their fortunes, but a chance to build something together brought them back to New Jersey. 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 App?tit 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.
Though they all share the same name, all eight of McLoone's Restaurants' locations have their own interior charm. With dining rooms adjacent to off-track betting facilities, McLoone’s Woodbridge Grille and McLoone’s Bayonne Grille are peppered with an energetic ambiance that fills their brightly colored spaces. Televisions at every table keep diners abreast of the results of each race, and the big screens plastered around the restaurants also broadcast NFL, MLB, and college games. Like an indecisive bride’s wedding, each location’s bistro-style menu includes both casual and elegant dishes, from seasoned thai chicken wings and Black Angus burgers to new york strip steak and mango salmon.
Pearl of Lisbon surrounds its guests with glowing lanterns, built-in wine racks, and oil paintings of castles reminiscent of its namesake city while filling plates with traditional Portuguese dishes from a two-part menu. Once seated indoors or outside beneath the grapevine-shaded patio, guests can dine on grilled prawns in a spicy mozambique sauce ($20.95) or flambéed portuguese sausage ($10.95). Daily specials keep things fresh, making use of whatever fresh seafood the chefs could barter that day from entrepreneurial mermen.
Sandwiches, wraps, and salads emerge from Jr's two locations, landing on tables or at patrons' doorsteps. The fresh menu includes grilled salmon, grilled yellowfin tuna steaks, and ground sirloin burger patties, which may be topped with items such as portobello mushrooms, bacon, and fresh-from-the-vine cheeses. Before they're seared on the grill, wraps enfold salsa-topped chicken or mozzarella paired with roasted red peppers, and custom salads top forks with personalized tastes.
The family that owns La Famiglia Pizzeria prepares Italian recipes passed down through the generations. The chefs bake square Sicilian-style pies and thin-crust pan pizzas, layering fresh, housemade dough with flavorful toppings such as meatballs, grilled shrimp, and other proteins. They also toss pasta with made-from-scratch sauces and assemble light paninis or hearty cheesesteaks. In the warmer months, diners can take advantage of outdoor seating.
Inventive cafe fare is Bon Appetit Cafe's calling card, and its menu draws from American, Italian, and Portuguese influences. Serving food from early morning until late afternoon, the caf? incorporates fresh seafood, pasta, paninis, and eggs into its dishes. Standard coffee and espresso drinks pair with fruit-covered waffles, cheeseburger club sandwiches, and shrimp salad.