Italy in New Jersey: Arturo's in Maplewood
Though we live 20 miles from New York City, the Garden State (NJ) is a wasteland for good food.
All joking aside. It is mind boggling that once you enter thru the Holland or Lincoln Tunnels into Manhattan, you can get great pizza, great bagels and great anything. Why is that? I don't have the answer.
A reader of this blog named Stephanie told me about a pizzeria where my husband grew up in a town called Maplewood, NJ. The name is Arturo's Osteria (not the Arturo's in nyc where we had the bacon pizza last week, sorry to confuse you).
She told me they do tastings and make great homemade mozzarella and amazing pastas.
This was the 3rd time I have heard this place mentioned to me in a month, so we decided to try it Friday night.
I usually don't do restaurant reviews because I know many people will never have the opportunity to try these local places, but I felt this place warranted a mention.
All I can say is WOW!
We met the owner, who is just out of diapers, no kidding, he is a 20 something, adorable guy named Dan, so friendly and so knowledgeable without that culinary school pedigree b.s. (& I am not talking Bachelor of Science), just good old street smarts. Born and raised in NJ, lived at the Jersey shore and Italy.
What could be better?
This is a BYOB family place, lots of kids, noisy, a takeout pizzeria with 2 wood fired ovens going and a great vibe.
We brought a nice bottle of Northern Italian wine and started our feast.
After chatting with Dan, we let him take the reins and bring us stuff to try. He knew we were big eaters!
We started with beef carpaccio with hazelnuts and hazelnut oil. Tender skinny slices of fresh raw beef that was out of this world.
On to a roasted beet salad with tender greens on top and a local goat cheese. Do I have to say anything more?
OK, this place is a pizzeria??????
Next bring on the polpette.
House made meatballs roasted in the wood burning oven. I loved these. Nice and light with lots of herbs, cheese flavors and bread. (I am not a meatball lover, for the record).
Cheese course to sample was a Vermont cow's milk cheese made by Lazy Lady Farms on crostini. Ok, I am loving this place.
Next course was a handmade tagliolini with truffle oil and Parmigiano Reggiano. CRAZY GOOD.
ok, you full yet? we are now trying the pork shoulder ragu, cooked for 6 hours and out of this world.
Now for the pizza from the wood fired oven. A margherita pizza with house made mozzarella and basil, a nice crispy crust and great sauce.
Next................how much food can you two put down? A LOT.
Then crazy Dan brings out the main dish. Are you kidding?
It was penne with a homemade sausage bolognese sauce that was just so delicious filled with fennel seeds and other wonderful flavors.
He says he doesn't do dessert, and I am almost glad he doesn't. We had some ginger biscotti to finish our wine.
This place used to be a hardware store back when my husband was a kid.
I felt like for an hour and half we were transported to Italy.
Great service, no attitude, amazing food, happy people, kisses and hugs and the total bill? Let's put it this way, this place is recession proof.
Loved Arturo's in Maplewood, can't wait to go back.
and thank you Stephanie for the nice recommendation!
update on 9/2011.......Dan Richer was nominated for a James Beard Award for "Best New Chef"!! and the place no longer does Sat. night tastings. The pizza and food is even better than when I first reviewed in 2009!