This outpost of Chef Michael White’s flagship Manhattan restaurant aims to bring the flavorful foods of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region to New Jersey. The space, formerly occupied by Chef White’s Due Terre, has been completely transformed to feel relaxed and comfortable yet still upscale. Rich hues, Italian meats on display and a bustling semi-open kitchen help set a warm ambiance.
The food is unpretentious and simply spectacular. Chef White, the 2011 James Beard Award for Best Chef in New York, along with Chef de Cuisine, Kevin Knevals, uses ingredients from Emilia-Romagna like prosciutto, mortadella, parmigiano, and balsamic vinegar and locally-grown foods to concoct dishes that are both refined and rustic.
For starters, the cured meats board is a must and can be ordered in a choice of one ($7), three ($17) or five ($25) meats. There are six delectable options to select from: Prosciutto di Parma, Speck, Cacciatorini, Mortadella, Capocollo and Bresaola. The calamari ($12) with herbed bread crumbs, tomato and kale is tender yet crunchy and my absolute favorite starter. The Polpettines ($10) – prosciutto and mortadella meatballs baked in tomato sauce are incredible and should not be missed.
The pizzettes, individual pizzas baked in the kitchen’s brick oven, are also stellar ($11-$14). Popular options are the classic Margherita with tomato, bufalo mozzarella and basil, the Salsiccia with fennel sausage, pomodoro and mozzarella and the Funghi with salsa bianca, wild mushrooms, mozzarella and garlic oil.
Pastas are hand-made, cooked-to-order and the star at Osteria Morini. Each pasta can be ordered as a half or full dish. Do not kid yourself. You will want the full order. Some favorites are the Lumache Verde ($19) – spinach pasta, lamb ragu, artichoke, fava and ricotta salata and the Garganelli ($20) – pasta quills, cream, radicchio, truffle butter, prosciutto and peas.
Entrées to try are the Branzino ($28) – grilled sea bass, salsa verde, wild arugula and lemon, the Anatra ($29) – crispy duck breast, lentils, braised red cabbage and saba and the Stracotto ($26) – Sangiovese-braised beef short rib, potato and caramelized root vegetables.
The wine list is impressive with many Italian options but also New World wines. There are several wines served by the glass also.
Desserts ($10), if one can contemplate them after this feast, are all solid and some standouts are the Panna Cotta with citrus cream and the Torta Barozzi, a rich chocolate almond torte.
107 Morristown Road, Bernardsville, NJ 07924
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. (brunch) and 3 to 9 p.m. (dinner) Sundays.
Veronique Deblois, Food & Wine Chickie: Veronique is a food and wine writer based in Morris County, NJ. As the author of the popular blog, Food & Wine Chickie Insider, Veronique shares recipes, wine and restaurant reviews and insight into the travel industry of which she’s a 15-year veteran. Follow Veronique on Twitter or like her Facebook page.