Efes Restaurant reveals its uniqueness in layers. Hidden behind the unassuming facade of a strip mall, the interior boasts a much more substantial amount of character. Into this richly appointed room, waiters cart salads, babaganoush, and kebabs with chunks of chicken and lamb still sizzling from the grill. What fixtures define the elegance of this dining area? Gold-upholstered chairs line the pristinely white linen-clad tables, surrounding a dropped floor in the middle of the dining room. A strip of lighting under the step down illuminates an inlay of black and white marble tiles arranged to excite the eye with their geometric patterns and challenge the mind to remember what a hypotenuse is.
The DeMiglio family has been in the business of bringing people together for more than three decades. Their restaurant, Jersey Boys Grill, echoes with shared laughter and friendly conversation as visitors gather around a large projector screen to watch sports, test their pop-culture knowledge with games of trivia, and assign nicknames to every brick in the eatery's rustic interior. Even the menu is made for sharing, with classic pub appetizers and wood-oven pizzas, including the signature pie topped with mozzarella, bacon, roasted peppers, and ranch dressing. The bar carries more than 15 craft beers in bottles or on tap; local favorites include Flying Fish Hopfish IPA and Brooklyn Lager.
A Taste of Greece's owner Themis Mourelatos, a native of Athens, relies on fresh ingredients imported from his homeland and healthy cooking methods to prepare a flavorful array of Mediterranean classics. Called “an exercise in no compromises or shortcuts” by the New York Times, the quaint Mediterranean eatery outfitted with warm hues and tiled walls regales guests with traditional Greek staples, such as sheep’s milk feta cheese and scholarly lectures on the meaning of aesthetic form. Cooks also craft seafood specials using fresh fish shipped daily from Peter’s Fish Market in Midland Park.
Though Mantra Head Chef Purvesh Patel is known for his creative takes on Indian cuisine—including chaat, or snack food, garnished with tender lobster meat—his careful, French-inspired cooking also leaves its mark on the menu’s traditional entrees. "Each ingredient seemed to have bathed for just the right number of hours in its yogurt marinade; each was precisely cooked; and each carried a heady overtone of spices," a New York Times food writer recalled of a tandoori dish in 2008. In contrast to these subtle flavors, Mantra’s presentation often has theatrical flair; chefs chop chaat dishes tableside and set a banana flambé dessert ablaze with rum.
Both locations’ sleek dining rooms also go for drama with bold, modern decor. In Jersey City, red accents simmer against warm-toned walls. Next to the Paramus spot's mosaic-tiled bar, live flames dance on the low wall between the dining room and lounge, upping the “amazement factor” for Cody Kendall of the Star-Ledger.
Palm-leaf fan blades send lazy breezes through the dining room at Dos Cubanos, where massive seascape murals and decorative clotheslines nod to the beauty and rusticity of Old Havana. Like the decor, Dos Cubanos' culinary offerings stay loyal to the eatery's Cuban roots, showcasing traditional selections such as ropa vieja—a shredded, twice-cooked flank steak glazed in criollo sauce—and plating entrees with black beans, white rice, and sweet plantains. The menu also encompasses an assortment of tapas, including empanadas and ham-and-swiss croquettes, that allow diners to share their food.
The seasoned chefs at Dinallo’s Restaurant craft authentic, classic Italian dishes from fresh ingredients. Gastronomical expeditions can begin with a pit stop at the full bar before sampling the spiedini alla romana, a cheesy bread served with butter and anchovy sauce ($9). The menu runs the gamut from traditional, hearty eats, such as the scaloppine di vitello al marsala ($24), to lighter fare, such as the insalata di rucola, with Gaeta olives, goat cheese, and roasted peppers ($9). The linguine con salsiccie gives guests the chance to enjoy a satisfying serpentine mix of Italian sausage and tomato sauce while pilfering bites from fellow diners' plates with a noodle lasso ($16). Classic white tablecloths, polished wood paneling, and wood floors set the scene for pescatorialists to appreciate their salmone alla griglia ($21).