Ahhh, the Jersey Shore in the fall. A slight chill is in the night air, the crowds are gone, you can get a restaurant reservation for a Saturday night, and the traffic on the Garden State Parkway is bearable. These reasons are what drove me to Rumson last Saturday for dinner at Ristorante Giorgia (well, that, and the “worth it” review from the New York Times). My usual pattern of reading the restaurant reviews in the Times is to jump to the bottom of the article for the rating. If it’s anything other than “worth it,” I turn the page or swipe the screen.
I enjoyed this restaurant so much that at the end of the meal, I turned to my husband and said “I want to come back next week!” It’s very rare that I feel like that about a restaurant and I haven’t said that since my first dinner at Maialino two years ago.
Ristorante Giorgia is owned by Francesco Panucci, who grew up in southern Italy near Calabria. The restaurant is named for his mother, who has been his biggest influence.
On a quiet street (diagonally across from the famed Fromagerie), there is only a small sign with the initial “G” to signal you have arrived. A good omen is the fresh herbs growing in boxes alongside the building. Inside, the restaurant is warmly decorated – soft lighting, rustic art, and about 12 tables for lucky patrons.
Our dinner began with the zucchini stuffed with veal, parsley, Parmigiano reggiano, and mortadella, and surrounded by the lightest, sweetest tomato sauce. The second appetizer was a special: grilled artichokes over perfectly dressed arugula. After my first bite of the artichoke, I knew we were in for a good meal.
I had read that Francesco makes pasta every day, and even though there were many wonderful sounding entrees offered, I was not passing up fresh, house-made pasta. I chose the tagliatelle Bolognese. Pure delight on every level. A hearty, savory meat sauce clung to the pasta like it was emotionally involved.
My husband’s standard test meal at every new Italian restaurant is veal saltimbocca alla Romana. And he’s disappointed 9 out of 10 times. Happily, the 10th time was the charm. Tender veal scaloppini topped with prosciutto, sage, and sautéed with white wine and served over spinach, but my husband asked for escarole instead and they were happy to accommodate his request. What makes this stand out from other saltimboccas (besides the ethereal veal) was the lack of cheese, which usually tops this dish. Hands down, this was the best veal saltimbocca we’ve tasted in years.
All the desserts are homemade (other than the gelato) and I’m sure you would not go wrong with any of them. However, I am a biscotti girl through and through and Francesco’s right-out-of-the-village Italian cookies served with exquisite cannoli cream called me. And, as Snoopy says, when a cookie calls, you answer. Nary was a crumb or drop of cream left when we got done. I managed to snag two cookies from the quick hands around the table and counted myself lucky!
I can see we are going to be making a lot of trips to Rumson over the next few months. We better get our fill in before summer returns and we can’t get a table.
102 Avenue of Two Rivers
Rumson, NJ 07760
Open for dinner every night except Tuesday.
Terry Krongold is a life-long passionate baker. In addition to a full-time job in the pharmaceutical industry, Terry has been involved with food for many years, including co-ownership of a dessert catering company in the late eighties called I Love Cheesecake, specializing in fine cheesecake and unique desserts. Terry is the author of The Cook’s Tour, a blog focused on food, baking, and travel. When not working, writing, or baking, she spends time planning vacations around restaurants to visit. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.