At Nunzio's Pizzeria, pizza experts whip up more than 20 varieties of specialty pizzas with inventive topping combinations such as chicken and alfredo sauce or fresh mussels. In addition to pies, they extend their culinary expertise towards a variety of other pizzeria classics—including hot subs, calzones, and mozzarella sticks—as well as authentic Italian favorites like eggplant rollatini pasta and veal saltimboca. Diners can split these dishes on intimate tabletops in the sunny seating area, or opt for carryout service to enjoy pizza and ill-advised food juggling routines in the privacy of their own homes.
Bensi co-owner Genci Previzi helms an immense menu of classic Italian cuisine, including hearty homestyle dishes with roots in Calabria, Italy. Entrees, joined by a house salad or cup of comforting housemade soup, range from spaghetti and meatballs to gluten-free grilled chicken in a lemon-garlic marinade served over a veggie medley. The chefs also prepare an array of specials such as pignoli-crusted goat cheese and arugula salad, barolo-braised veal osso buco, pan-seared Chilean sea bass with eggplant caponata, and nutella chocolate pizza with fresh strawberries. The dishes are served in a modern dining atmosphere where minimal table settings and simple dark-wood furniture keep the focus on the vibrant cuisine.
While the sophisticated dishes at Sette Cucina Italiana are derived from simple and classic Italian flavor combinations, the culinary background of its chef, Allan Philip Russo, is decidedly more complex. His heritage draws a roadmap through central Europe; born in Switzerland, he comes from a long line of Sicilian fishermen and used to watch his aunt as she worked as a personal chef to the stars in Zürich. In the 1980s, his father, Filippo Russo, assembled the family’s recipes and moved from Sicily to America, where he established his own Italian restaurant and allowed young Allan to join him in the kitchen. Today, Allan pays homage to his Sicilian heritage by adding fresh ideas and what he refers to as a “New York City twist” to his father’s methods. His petite filet sates several senses with aromas such as green peppercorns and truffle essence, and his mediterranean gray snapper comes with a French–style tomato ratatouille. Venetian vialone nano rice transforms into risotto, which he finishes with saffron, asparagus, and parmiagiano-reggiano. In a reflection of its menu, the restaurant’s décor calls to mind European hospitality and creates an ambience deemed “chic [and] hospitable” by New Jersey Monthly. To keep it cozy, the New Jersey–based architecture firm Cerminara Architect designed a dining room that seats about 32 guests and juxtaposes elements of fine dining with rustic touches. A high, tin ceiling allows for impressive full-length windows, from which natural light illuminates sheer drapes, white tablecloths, and wrought-iron chandeliers. Therein, families, couples, and business partners raise crystal stemware in a toast to Italian culinary traditions and Galileo’s discovery of crystal stemware.
At Acquaviva, Chef Tom Pollio is achieving something that is becoming harder and harder to find in the restaurant world: elevated simplicity. From his French-influenced contemporary cuisine to Acquaviva’s warm-yet-refined decor, Pollio has found an often elusive balance that, according to Teresa Politano of the Star-Ledger, favors “flavor over theatrics.” Housemade gnocchi is dressed in a simple pesto basil cream with toasted pine nuts, and the cognac shrimp are highlighted by dijon mustard and a roasted-garlic crostini. For the main course, the menu features slow-cooked beef short ribs with a balsamic glaze, sweet-corn-and-mascarpone ravioli, and pan-roasted salmon with fingerling potatoes, white asparagus, and a warm mustard sauce. Meals may end with housemade desserts such as italian butterscotch pudding or fruit sorbets. Guests can dine in one of two main dining rooms featuring dark wood accents, exposed brick, and stylish, modern lighting, or gather at wrought-iron tables under trellises on the leafy outdoor patio. As flickering candles burn down, they can linger over glasses of Oregon pinot noir from the extensive wine list.
Each plate of pasta at Theresa's Restaurant is a work of in-house craftsmanship made daily by dedicated chefs. This devotion to fresh ingredients is evident in the ravioli, which changes to suit the season, and in several seafood entrees, which need to be eaten immediately lest sharks track the scent of fish onto land. Meats such as steak and veal headline other main dishes, which waiters set on white tablecloths in a dining room filled with natural light. For dessert, a serving of homemade banana bread pudding—garnished with cinnamon gelato and caramel sauce—pairs well with a hot drink from the cappuccino and espresso bar.
The quaint bakery of Il Sogno Dolce caters to sweet teeth with brownies, cookies, cakes, biscotti, and other treats crafted on site. Each dessert is made in small batches to capture a homemade taste without setting bear traps under welcome mats. Cake pops ($8 for six) combine the decadence of cake with the convenience of a lollipop and are available in combinations such as carrot cake and cream-cheese frosting, german chocolate cake and chocolate frosting, and yellow cake with lemon frosting. Crunch into house-made cranberry and white chocolate biscotti ($6.99/bag), or softly sink chompers into Earl Grey fudge ($8.99/half lb.), which was infused with the namesake leaves after cracked eggs revolted against oppressive electric mixers by dumping tea bags into batter.