As many residents of Bergen County know, the Fort Lee/Cliffside Park area has some of the best sources of Italian specialties in New Jersey. There's Fairway Market (also found in Manhatten) and Bertoloti for pastries and gelato (they supply many restaurants in the city, too). But the best well known secret was Dino's Bakery on Anderson Avenue in Cliffside Park, next to the It's Greek to Me restaurant (good, shabby-casual, greek food).
When we lived in Fort Lee, we would go to Dino's for his fresh mozzerella and other imported cheeses, arancini (large rice balls stuffed with either meat and peas or spinach and cheese), fresh sausages, antipasti, deli meats (including prosciutto di Parma), and a fabulous variety of breads (including several flavors of tirelli). (He supplied bread to many of the restaurants in the area and some supermarkets, as well.) Even when we moved away to Morristown, we would occasionally stop by when in the area for a sandwich or to bring home a box full of goodies. This might include some marinated stuffed mushrooms, roasted peppers, olives, a stuffed artichoke or two, prepared chicken cutlets, an eggplant dish (parmesan or rollatini), some soup, pasta sauce, or whatever else this inspired cook had made fresh that day. On Fridays, he has wonderful fried shrimp, flounder and calimari sitting on the counter, all of which sells out very quickly.
This past spring a tragedy happened. We arrived at Dino's only to discover he was closed. There had been a fire and the store was boarded up. There was a sign on the door saying that he would be back as soon as possible. We would drive by on occasion and kept asking our friends in the area if he had reopened yet. Many months passed. Finally, last month, word came that Dino's Bakery was open!
At his first opportunity, Jason stopped by after work to verify the report and get us some provisions. Dino was so happy to see him again he gave Jason a hug and fed him lots of samples. He came home with a box laden with yummies, including some wonderful vegetable frittis (Rachel's favorite was the baby artichokes) and sausage bread (not a stromboli, a loaf of bread studded with sausage, ham and cheese. Store in the fridge, it can go bad quickly). He stopped by again this past Friday for some of the indescribably delicious fried shrimp and manicotti (among other things).
Dino says so many of his former customers have been coming back. The restaurants are ordering the bread again. And, even though insurance only paid for about half of what it took to restore the shop, he's so happy with the overwhelming support of his friends. We encourage all of you to seek out Dino's Bakery. The address is 352 Anderson Avenue, Cliffside Park, NJ, 201-945-7372. The only difference is he no longer accepts credit cards. The food is not overly expensive, but it's not cheap either, so be prepared with plenty of cash, because you'll be surprised at all you'll want to buy.