With more than two decades of experience in the restaurant industry, owner and French Culinary Institute graduate Alberto Traficante could envision exactly what his Italian restaurant, Tosca, would be like. Authentic Neapolitan recipes would come to life with fresh, seasonal ingredients as well as homemade pastas, daily-made mozzarella, and pizzas baked in a wood-burning brick oven. It's safe to say Alberto fulfilled his dream, because since its inception, Tosca's has satisfied locals with these handcrafted and artfully plated Italian dishes. And now with head chef Alfredo Colle—an Italian native whose resume includes a stint as personal chef to Francis Ford Coppola—at the helm, Tosca's menu churns out authentic Italian entrees with a contemporary twist, including bruschetta topped with goat cheese and tender baked chicken an seasoned with a finely ground original Michelangelo fresco.
At Ah' Pizz, pizzas only leave the chefs' hands for 90 seconds during the creation process. That's how long it takes the hand-stretched, Neapolitan–style pies to bake inside the imported Italian pizza oven, which burns through enough oak wood logs to reach temperatures as high as 1,000 degrees. After 90 seconds, the thin pies emerge with a crispy, chewy crust and melted medallions of housemade mozzarella. By adhering to these rigorous, time-honored traditions, Ah' Pizz was one of four New Jersey eateries to receive a seal of approval from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana—an international non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the historic culinary arts of Neapolitan pizza makers. Although the oven imparts a signature, smoky flavor, Ah' Pizz's chefs further distinguish their pizzas by incorporating premium ingredients whenever possible. San Marzano tomatoes, ham, and burrata cheese are imported directly from Italy, lending distinctive, Mediterranean flavors to the 13 different pies. At the same time, the chefs keep the menu's flavors close to home by making everything from caesar dressing to ricotta gnocchi in-house. Much like the menu, the restaurant's ambiance aspires to be more refined than the typical neighborhood pizzeria. Pillars and archways of exposed brickwork lend a rustic vibe to the space, although it is balanced by sleek, modern touches, such as the dark wooden tables and the floating pendant lamps that are presumably operated by remote control.
With its conspicuously Italian name, Trattoria Rustica is not putting on airs, but rather paying homage to its authentic roots. Born in Calabria, Italy, owner and head chef Pat Turano naturally gravitates to the fresh ingredients and homespun cooking that breathe life into the cuisine of his native country. Drawing from his family background and a culinary career that spans 25 years, Pat whips up antipasti such as homemade, ricotta-stuffed meatballs and grilled calamari, as well as entrees that include rigatoni with vodka sauce and salmon served over cannelli beans and spinach. After conquering their entrees, diners can savor forkfuls of cannolli and tiramisu as their meal draws to an end. Trattoria Rustica's snug interior evokes Old World gentility with walls forged from a blend of vintage, exposed bricks and sandstone-hued stucco painted with murals of rustic Italy. Pendant lights and understated chandeliers envelope the eatery in a soft glow as guests nestle in dark wood chairs and fold the corners of white tablecloths into origami replicas of their meals.
Vintage olive oil bottles stand in line against Giuseppe's brick walls, and fuchsia tablecloths add a colorful splash of elegance. In similar fashion, the menu blends the classic Italian recipes with new-world American favorites. As cheese bubbles burst on hand-tossed pizzas, their steam mingles with aromas of baked ziti, hearty subs, and juicy grilled burgers. Diners are also free to enjoy their favorite BYOB beverage, or search how to make a wireless router out of lingini on the restaurant's complimentary WiFi.