A native of Chianti, Tuscany, La Focaccia's chef and proprietor Joe Bitici brought a slice of the old country to his home in Summit, New Jersey, with this Tuscan-style trattoria. Though he moved to the States at the age of 14, Joe learned to cook beside his mother and grandmother, gleaning recipes for pasta and authentic sauce. These early lessons are on full display at La Focaccia, where housemade pastas bolster a menu that balances the conventional, such as linguine with white clam sauce, and the exotic, such as black spaghettini—a dish that blends squid-ink-darkened noodles with spicy sauce and seafood. Shrimp-and-truffle-oil risotto and marinated game hen headline the seafood and meat options, but guests are advised to try a variety of dishes—the eclectic menu gives a number of choices to the regulars who visit multiple times a week. Aside from the gelati, La Focaccia's desserts are also made in-house and include tiramisu and chocolate mousse. Populated with tables swathed in white linens, La Focaccia's dining room pairs minimalistic floral decor with a snug floor plan that enhances the neighborhood feel. Though the eatery does not serve its own adult beverages, guests are welcome to enjoy drinks from their own bottles or moonshine distilleries as they dine.
Classic Northern Italian specialties such as black-ink tagliarini and veal scaloppini bring Fiorino Ristorante’s Renaissance-style fresco murals a bit closer to the 21st century. The menu features antipasti—try the almond-crusted calamari with saffron aioli—as well as pastas and artfully plated meat and seafood dishes. All pair well with varietals from the cellar and the dining room’s wine library. Chocolate Grand Marnier molten cake with hazelnut gelato and vanilla anglaise makes for sweet endings to meals, and the festive, singles-oriented bar is a good place to enjoy a postmeal cocktail with a date or a premeal drink with a likeminded drink coaster.
At L'Allegria, founders Saverio and Giovanni Allocca seek to transport diners to an al fresco Mediterranean courtyard with their authentic cuisine and decor that evokes a breezy villa. The menu brims with classic italian pastas and succulent veal dishes, made with hormone-free meats. Extensive wine lists complement entrees with dozens of varietals from Italy and California.
Patrons sit upon floral-patterned chairs in the high-ceilinged dining room, amid beige walls and exposed brick. At times, a pianist's melodies reverberate throughout the eatery, relaxing diners and reminding the walls' paintings of a simpler time when they were young, impressionable canvases.
The dough wizards at Papa John's Pizza hand toss circular masterpieces with original and thin crusts made from high-protein flour to support warm bouquets of toppings. Hand-cut produce crowns all of Papa John's pizzas, mingling with the sun-soaked sweetness of sauce made from fresh, California-grown tomatoes. By adhering to its brand promise of "better ingredients, better pizza," Papa John's grew from a back-tavern pizzeria into more than 3,500 restaurants within three decades' time, or the amount of time it takes to grow a single pizzeria from a small seed.
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.