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.
Brooklyn-style pizzas, traditional pastas, and seafood specialties sate ravenous appetites at Carlo's, where a gluten-free menu supplements the regular bill of fare. The pizza selection ranges from the Godfather pie—with seven types of cheeses and a deli counter's worth of meats such as prosciutto, capicola, and ham ($16–$24)—to the baked ziti pizza, a match made in Italy that heaps tenderly boiled ziti pasta and mozzarella onto a doughy platter ($14–$20). Carlo's 14-inch gluten-free pizza varietal comes laden with the muncher's choice of toppings and edible crypotgrams ($19+). Under the benevolent gaze of wall sconces, shrimp scampi ($9.95–$17.95) and mussels marinara ($8.95–$14.95) decorate tables with seafood, and the menu's pasta section fills plates with favorites such as the house's trademark vodka sauce with sun-dried tomatoes, draped over one of seven pastas including spaghetti, angel hair, and rigatoni ($6.95 for lunch; $11.95 for dinner).
Alfonso Molino began flipping dough in his parents' Brooklyn pizzeria at the age of 10. Today he helms Molino's Italian Kitchen, where he and his staff adapt the philosophy "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." In doing so, they keep their traditional and pan pies uncomplicated, basking in the beautiful simplicity of a stellar pizza margherita and showcasing toppings in one of more than 20 gourmet options. In addition to the pizzas, they prepare classic Italian entrees, including chicken cacciatore and shrimp scampi, as well as local favorites such as new york strip steak.
A pastoral mural of the Italian countryside lets diners at Pauline’s Italian Cuisine know that this is a restaurant that values tradition. The menu features classic Italian fare, from veal marsala to salmon milanese, as well as a selection of Pauline’s family’s favorite pastas. The kitchen also offers special menus, such as the Friday seafood extravaganza, which helps to explain the weekly influx of dolphins to New Jersey.
Executive Chef Matt Higgins concocts elegant interpretations of rustic Italian dishes to fill a menu that has earned praise from the New York Times for its fresh ingredients and playful flavor combinations. Toast an anniversary, birthday, or a Little League World Series title with a decadent dinner, starting with a savory saffron risotto infused with sage, pancetta, and a sprinkling of parmigiano reggianno ($12). Filet mignon dons a dapper suit of peppercorns as it lounges in a shallow brandy-cream river alongside fingerling-potato gondolas and bobbing roasted figs ($34). Plunge tines into a shrimp-and-scallop feast, laden with olives and grape tomatoes atop a creamy risotto ($28), or catapult tongues through clouds of gnocchi suspended in an eggplant-and-mozzarella-strewn sunset ($22).
Delicate, black filigree forms a lacy aura around one of the dining-room doorways, resembling a wrought-iron gate. Across the room, a recessed archway frames a fireplace whose flame glows in harmony with the sconces on the green walls. This fusion of classical elegance with contemporary influences informs the menu, which comprises a mix of time-tested and innovative lunches and dinners.
Though contemporary Italian cuisine forms the menu's foundation, the restaurant also opens up its kitchen to Asian and American influences. Marbleized sauces join precarious sculptural arrangements to adorn plates with upscale panache. Valentino's specialties are long island duck, grouper marechiara, and a portobello appetizer, which can be enjoyed by themselves or as part of Valentino's three- or four-course dinner specials. Every single dessert, such as Anthony's bananas foster flamb?, is made from scratch on the premises. In fact, all flamb? desserts are seared right at the table, meaning guests can personally ensure their desserts' calories are burned. The restaurant features live music on Fridays.