It would be easy to pass an entire afternoon in Frank Anthony's lush garden courtyard, reclining on comfortable patio chairs and slowly polishing off a bottle of BYOB wine. Servers stroll through the forest of linen umbrellas, expertly balancing trays of Italian dishes while refilling glasses of San Pellegrino. Inside the elegant dining hall, intimate tabletops host guests, whose faces are illuminated by the glow of soft hanging lights. In the kitchen, chefs fold fresh meats, seafood, and seasonal vegetables into traditional Italian dishes, tossing crispy calamari in garlic, baking crusty Italian rolls, and crushing plum tomatoes using only their minds. Meanwhile, pizzas rise in the oven, speckled with toppings of wild mushrooms, savory sausage, and spicy peppers.
With a menu that proudly proclaims sundry authentic Italian delights, Trattoria Rustica palliates anxious palates with hearty helpings of gourmet pollo plates and al dente pasta. Taste buds begin their flavorful Italian tour with antipasti such as the garlic shrimp ($9) or bite-size bruschetta topped with ricotta cheese and honey or any of four other delectable toupées ($6). The pappardella bolognese nourishes parched noodles with thirst-quenching meat sauce ($17), and the vitello con funghi arranges marsala-doused mushrooms and veal ($20) into cryptic treasure maps. Trattoria Rustica’s brick-walled dining room and dark-wood chairs create an elegant backdrop for first dates or paper-football playoffs.
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.
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.
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.
It would be easy to spend an entire day at Calandra's Italian Village—perusing the colorful packaged Italian imports in the market, lingering over a cup of pistachio gelato in the gelateria, and finishing off with a glass of wine in the bar. Wanderers who stroll to the left of the village stumble into Il Vecchio Cafe, where Italian tapestries adorn the walls and diners chat animatedly at wooden tabletops. Servers dart across the sunlit floors, bearing plates of homemade penne alla vodka, eggplant caprese panini, and broiled tilapia and refilling glasses of wine. A counter overlooks the kitchen, where a wood-burning oven bakes thin-crust pizzas. Wooden beams and vintage-style walls enclose the tabletops that speckle the outdoor stone deck, creating the look of a rustic Italian farm or the set of a movie where a rich businessman learns the value of friendship from a talking countryside mouse.
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.