Richard Castellano had two passions in life: acting and cooking. He pursued the former, taking on the role of Peter Clemenza in The Godfather and earning an Academy Award nomination for his role in the 1970 film, Lovers and Other Strangers. Castellano passed away before he could pursue his passion in the kitchen, so his nieces and nephews decided to do so in his honor. The result is La Cucina de Clemenza Ristorante, where chefs prepare Italian fare from fresh ingredients. Grass-fed veal scaloppini, shrimp scampi, and chicken balsalmico emerge from the kitchen alongside hearty pasta dishes, such as the penne alla cinque cinque, which features jumbo shrimp and arugula sautéed in extra-virgin olive oil. Diners twirl their forks and swirl glasses of wine amid decor that makes the restaurant’s silver-screen inspiration known. Alongside portraits of Castellano and quotes from his Godfather alter ego, a pastoral mural depicts the Italian countryside where Don Corleone and Pete Clemenza played hide-and-go-seek in the director’s cut.
Pizzeta Enoteca dishes up Italian fare, but nothing about this eatery is stuffily traditional. Instead, the staff strives to create a fresh, hip atmosphere, one that appeals to New Jersey’s young families. The menu makes the concept clearer with its headlining pizzetas and their unique toppings. The small-serving, thin-crust pies come crowned with everything from buffalo chicken to four-cheese blends to garden vegetables, mozzarella, and garlic to mimic the flavors of caprese salad. Although Millburn-Short Hills Patch says that “pizza is the way to go at Pizzeta,” the menu boasts a slew of tasty antipasti, paninis, and pastas. It also has dessert covered. Ricotta-filled cannoli and espresso-soaked tiramisu end meals more sweetly than a hug from a waiter who happens to be a kitten.
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.
Two guys, Sam and Bob, walk into a bar. There, the two lament the price of food and decide to do something about it on the spot. As the owner of more than 50 pizza joints in Colorado, Bob had the know how and resources; so, with cost in mind, the duo created Take Or Bake Pizza. Today, Sam and Bob preside over chefs as they hand toss and bake 14-inch pizzas as well as craft uncooked pies bound for warming in home ovens or slow melting on the hood of an Italian–made Ferrari.
Cioffi's was founded by Carmen and Antonietta Cioffi in 1963 after moving from Naples, Italy. Thanks to a loyal following and delicious pizza, the Cioffis began cooking up other Italian classics from the Old World, eventually moving to a larger eatery to accommodate their growing fan base. Today, the family still oversees the homey Italian eatery, offering a menu bustling with classics from Europe's boot, including Sicilian pizza, eggplant parmigiana, and shrimp scampi. They also hold events that may include free wine tastings, Italian feasts, and meet-and-greets with local celebrities.
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.