Nestled in an eatery near the South Orange Performing Arts Center, Cafe Arugula's chefs curate lunch and dinner menus packed with savory Italian eats doled out in a dining room that seats up to 60. Afternoon eaters can sidle up to a plating of penne toscana, nested in a bologense-based sauce swimming with mushrooms, peas, and onions ($10.95), or chomp into a protein-packed italian hero sandwich layered in ham, salami, and provolone cheese ($7.95). The restaurant's rack of baby lambs ($29.95) tantalizes evening eaters' taste buds with an entourage of sautéed spinach and garlic mashed potatoes. Instead of hailing the next food truck headed toward the coast, guests can settle for the seafood sampler ($18.95), which serves up a school of ocean delicacies, including shrimp, oysters, and clams. Round out a savory dinner with Cafe Arugula's traditional Italian desserts, such as house-made gelato sundaes ($6.95+) and rich chocolate velvet ($5.95) oozing with enough ganache to keep mouths from screaming out the lyrics to "On The Good Ship Lollipop."
Wall sconces cast an orange glow on Basilico’s exposed-brick walls, creating a soothing atmosphere as guests munch on authentic, lovingly crafted Italian dishes. After graduating from the Hotel Management School in Alassio, Italy, owners Mario DeMarco and Angelo Delbecchi journeyed to Millburn to showcase their culinary prowess and inhuman ability to squeeze wheat flour so hard that it transforms into pasta. Patrons can sample dishes such as hand-tucked ravioli with porcini mushrooms drenched in a walnut-and-white-truffle sauce, and braised veal shank coupled with homemade fettuccine. In warmer months, guests can nosh on freshly handmade pastas or grilled skirt steaks out on the patio.
For more than half a century, Starlite Restaurant & Pizza has filled bellies with specialty pizzas, fresh seafood, and hearty Italian classics. Slices of pizza in the classic thin-crust style grow even more appetizing with the addition of gourmet touches and combinations, such as shrimp and arugula, tomatoes and basil, savory pesto, and vodka sauce. The menu's impressive seafood section features dishes as varied as shrimp scampi with roasted garlic, mussels marinara over linguine, and broiled salmon.
At Il Vicolo Ristorante, Italian tradition comes above all else—a mantra the kitchen staffers demonstrate by making fresh mozzarella in-house. The fruits of their labor help create the cozy flavors of the menu’s comfort foods, bolstered by fresh vegetables and piping-hot sauces. One such sauce, the tomato basil, lends a bit of savory tang to the ravioli’s creamy filling of ricotta and pecorino cheeses, and a sherry sauce highlights the sweetness of the pollo danzis' pears and sun-dried cranberries. These dishes arrive at tables amid a rustic setting in the dining room. Faux-textured walls, leafy potted plants, and paintings of Venetian waterways and Mediterranean beaches emphasize the eatery’s homespun, Old-World charm and the suitability of the walls for hanging pictures. At its core, Il Vicolo Ristorante strives for familiarity by bringing both the spirit and the flavors of the Mediterranean to the mid-Atlantic.
Fortissimo's kitchens produce steaming family-style platters of rich, classic Italian dishes, including pizzas, pastas and subs. Summon the satiety rains by seeding stomachs with house-made crab cakes accented by roasted peppered puree ($11.95), or channel Poseidon sans the seaweed-festooned beard with Fortissimo's salad homage, brimming with mixed baby greens, fried calamari, and balsamic vinaigrette ($8.95–$10.95). For the main event, pick a flavorful fistfight over platters of meatier munchums such as the family classic chicken parmigiana ($14.95). Alternately, savory pie lovers delight as specialty pizzas twirl about in suits of tasty toppings, such as the glitzy Las Vegas ($9.95–$18.95), topped with potato wedges, bacon, gorgonzola-cream sauce, sequins, and a live tiger show.
Fascino's skilled chefs utilize fresh, seasonal ingredients to create a menu of authentic Italian dishes that led New Jersey Monthly to name it one of the 25 Best Restaurants in 2010. Diners start satiety by swimming cornmeal-crusted calamari through pools of tomato-fennel compote ($12) before picking a flavorful fistfight of tender, braised short ribs luxuriating in a port-celery-seed glaze ($32). House-made pumpkin mezzaluna, bathing in oregano brown butter and crushed candied walnuts ($14–$24), demonstrates a brilliant use of fresh-made pasta and extruders, aside from Play-Doh hair plugs. Sweet teeth polish hunger to a sweet sheen by indulging in the New York State mcintosh apple crostata paired with cinnamon gelato ($9). Resourceful imbibers can indulge the BYO wine policy, and the waived corkage fee allows for a free show from the corkscrew-fanged vampire kept on retainer.