In her article for the Star Ledger, Teresa Politano uncovered some impressive facts about Nenad “Nino” Tamburin and his 21-year-old restaurant Eccola. Given the quality and range of authentic Italian dishes, one might think the 65-year-old Tamburin hails from Italy himself. However, he is in fact a Croatian with ancestors from Venice, and spent his early adulthood in Paris, where he studied under revered chefs Jacques Pepin and Giuliano Bugialli. And if time spent working with Giuliano Bugialli isn’t enough, Tamburin is also lucky enough to count Italian restaurateur and celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich as a friend. The influence of his roots and mentors can be found throughout Eccola’s menu, in the fresh pasta he makes in house to the boutique Croatian and Slovenian wines he imports for his cellar. And if that’s not enough, the restaurant itself is an early design of famed restaurant architect Tony Chi, who has worked with Alain Ducasse, Michael Mina, and Wolfgang Puck. Politano also points out that “[Tamburin’s] purveyors are equally storied—the butcher, Wayne Meat Corp., that’s been around since the ’70s, the produce guys, Carl Mallone & Sons in Hackensack, whose ﬁrst company vehicle was a horse and carriage.” In Tamburin’s skilled hands these tried and true meats and vegetables turn into classic Italian favorites such as linguine alla carbonara, three types of veal scaloppine, and a filet of sole baked with herbs and breadcrumbs. The menu also features lighter fare such as roasted asparagus with shrimp and wild mushrooms, as well as a nostalgic dessert tray with fresh, homemade sweets such as ricotta cheesecake and a maple pecan-tort, all inspired by Tamburin’s wife, who he met in Paris.
From the outside, Il Giardino Restaurant, Bar & Grill resembles an elegant house more than it does an Italian restaurant. A chandelier glows through arched picture windows, and Doric columns frame a stone porch. It’s an ideal space for a restaurant that stemmed from the owners’ passion for hosting family dinners around the kitchen table. To fuel those dinners, chefs prepare traditional Italian cuisine: they simmer four varieties of risotto, and toss pastas with simple sauces. They prepare veal scallopini five different ways, from a simple lemon-and-caper sauce to prosciutto and melted fontina demi-glace. The eatery has served these meals since 1986, and it underwent a renovation in 2003, so the decor is almost as fresh as the food.
Servers are happy to recommend selections from the ample wine list. Oenophiles can also inquire about off-list bottles that are hard to find or have been hunted to near-extinction for yacht christenings.
In Italian, the word baci suggests love and affection. At Baci Trattoria, cooks instill their authentic Italian food with the utmost baci, whether seasoning pizza by the slice or stuffing calzones with fresh vegetables or sausage. Like Abraham Lincoln in a haberdashery, specialty pizzas enjoy a variety of toppings, from caprese salad to penne pasta, and everything from lobster ravioli to buffalo-chicken sandwiches round out the menu of entrees.
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.
From the dining room, you can watch the Mancino's chefs slide pizzas in and out of the brick oven, each pie emerging with a crispy golden crust. Though pizza is the main attraction, the chefs also assemble hearty sandwiches and whole-wheat pasta dishes, paired with Italian staples such as prosciutto di parma and freshly baked ciabatta bread.
Mancino's has exchanged the standard-issue red-checked tablecloths for crisp, white linens. Wall sconces and dangling pendant lights illuminate the restaurant's tastefully minimal dining room, the kind of place where the queen might celebrate her pizza-party jubilee.
Homemade meatballs nestle into piles of spaghetti under a blanket of fresh red sauce. Local produce tops crisp pizzas, and hot and cold sandwiches embrace fillings with locally procured bread. Here at Macchu Pizza & Tomato Pies, one wide window permits lots of light into the room, whose simple, spare decor allows the food to remain the centerpiece.