Last night we went to dinner at this rather old-school Northern Italian on Route 22 (966 East Route 22, to be exact - it's the over the top looking place with marble lions outside). I'm very new to NJ dining so not sure what the decor and atmosphere tend to be like - this place was pretty swanky, but kind of overly swanky, in an old fashioned way. The closest thing I can think of to compare it to is those very stuffy old world places in NYC like Lespinasse or Le Chantilly before it closed. Very large, dim dining room with intimate tables. The menu was not as costly as the pomp and circumstance would indicate (service was as grand as setting) - around $10 for appetizers, $15 for pastas and $20 for secondi.
We started with: 1. soft-shell crab special available as an appetizer - despite the fact that we are past prime soft shell season, this was delicious, very simply prepared, sauted in perhaps a touch of garlic, butter and wine. 2. carpaccio (beef). Also very good. Served with a little pot of pesto, which was unusual as far as I have experienced, and a nice touch. 3. mozzarela di bufala, served classic, cold, with tomato, roasted red pepper, and a couple of sundrieds. Truffle oil on top was a nice touch. The mozzarella of course is the centerpiece here and it was top nptch.
Main courses: 1. ravioli special - veal ravioli with a vodka sauce. Heavy, but the portion was a very sensible size. Very good. 2. Veal "capriccio" - very nice - sort of a marsala with an addition of some prosciutto. Excellent quality veal, rich and tasty sauce. 3. Sole a la Catena - this was GREAT. A really nice piece of sole with a simple picatta preparation and some butterflied scampi on top. Fantastic. Both secodni came with very old school sides - one potato croquette and some slghtly overcooked but still tasty mange tout. There were additional contorni available but it was nice to get something thrown in.
Good wine list and full cocktail bar with a bartender who knows what he's doing. We didn;t have a bottle of wine but I did have a glass of pinot grigio which was decent. Much better I'm sure to order a bottle as the by the glass selection was short. Great zabaglione with fresh berries (mixed raspberry, blueberry and starwberry).
All in all, a great choice in what seems like an area with limited options. Not cheap but good value. My parents just moved out here (right in Bridgewater) and we are big Chowhounders so exploring all the areas around here. Last night we just happened to try one which I can find no refewrence to on these boards, and can now add our recommendation. Tonight we're off to Deccani in Edison.