Restaurants & Bars 15

Due Terre in Bernardsville -- Part 'Due'

mmgpsych | Jan 10, 200806:38 PM

Since Due Terre is still the best Italian food we’ve had this side of the Hudson (with some qualifications) after a second visit, I feel compelled to write the review as an aria (of sorts):

DUE TERRE (Pronounced ‘Do-eh Tare-eh’ and sung to the tune of Dean Martin’s ‘That’s Amore’)

When the noise hits your ears
It will bring you to tears
Due Terre
But we suffer the din
Food so good it’s a sin
Due Terre
You must shout, boom your voices out, even to be heard, just a single word
‘Cross the table
Eat and play, but the sound, oy vay, noise gets in the way
Of some very good food.

When you eat rigatoni
You’ll need megaphoni
For talking
If you slurp your spaghett’
Slurp with joy ‘cause you bet
No one hears
Though we loved antipasti, the noise was still nah-sty, Signiore
Don’t be surly, go early, and you too will soon fall in love.

The above is a bit of hyperbole because this Thursday evening, Due Terre presented us with its own version of ‘Reversal Of Fortune’. We arrived at 7 and left at 9:15 (rather than arriving at 8 and leaving at 10:25 during holiday season) and the ambient noise was significantly less assaulting since the space was less full. Though it was hardly a hushed romantic hide-away, we were able to converse and hear each other with ease. We befriended the owner, Francois, who was receptive to criticism and seemed well aware of the noise problem during peak hours. He’s working on it, he says, and he values the feedback.
Part two of the reversal of fortune was, alas, the food. Given the prices, we feel justified in holding Due Terre to the highest of standards, and while the noise level was bearable, the cuisine fell a tad short of last visit’s near perfection.
For appetizers, we had the special-of-the-day crab cake and the Kobe beef carpaccio. The crab cake (thankfully much more crab than cake) was pan fried and wonderful, crispy on the surface, and moist and tender on the inside. The beef carpaccio, too, was quite good. But it was served buried under an overdressed mound of greens and cheese, and had to be excavated to be enjoyed.
For the main course, we had pasta with lobster and shrimp, and lamb chops ‘scottadita’ (it means ‘burn your fingers’; you eat it without utensils). The lamb was surrounded by a small army of exquisitely carmelized sweet potatoes ‘lardon’, the bits of bacon adding the perfect contrast. While the lamb itself was as good as any I’ve had (seriously) the sauce was a tad too sweet, though not too sweet to ruin things. My wife’s pasta was sauced and spiced perfectly with fresh tarragon in a brandy reduction, and further seasoned with just the right amount of chili peppers to add some afterburner heat. But the shrimp and lobster were slightly overdone and a bit too chewy. Desserts were pedestrian.
Despite these misgiving, do keep in mind that to our palates, Due Terre still blows the doors off of any other Italian food this side of the Hudson, including the renowned and ridiculously over rated Il Mondo Vecchio in Madison (If I have a reservation and you’re still routinely going to make me wait a half hour for a table, I suggest you practice yoga until you’re flexible enough to go . . . er … uh . . .perform unnatural acts with yourself.) Though Due Terre still has room for improvement, even if you’re noise phobic, I’d recommend that you give Due Terre a chance. Do dine there early. If you go late, or during peak hours on a weekend, you’re still liable to walk out half deaf (which could be a good thing if you were dining with me and I walked out singing again.) But if you’re serious about Italian food, you’ll probably walk out at least humming, if not singing, too.

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