Classic Italian Hospitality
Last week, I was invited to dine at Grissini Restaurant in Englewood Cliffs with a small group of foodies. For 21 years, owner Tony Del Gatto has shared his love of vera cucina Italiana, aka true Italian cuisine. I’d not yet been to this classic Italian restaurant and we were immediately made to feel welcomed by the staff and Enzo Lentini who was brought onboard as Maitre d’ in 2013.
This is old-school Italian in the best possible way. From the knowledgeable staff to the convivial atmosphere to the delicious, approachable food, Grissini offered us a classic Italian dining experience. Enzo Lentini embraces the concept of Grissini “we can do 80 percent of the menu at tableside and we have guests who come in regularly just for the show of it.”
The atmosphere is casual elegance and the space reflects Tuscan tones of rust, deep brown and rich cream. The walls feature tiger maple and the floors rustic terra cotta tiles.
When guests first arrive, the focal point is the antipasto station showcasing all the favorites: salumi, a Parmigiano Reggiano wheel for fresh-carved chunks, roasted vegetables and bins of crusty Balthazar bread. There’s also a view of the open kitchen with its wood-burning oven.
With his goal of keeping classics while remaining current, Del Gatto recently hired Executive Chef Giuseppe Lentini, formerly of New York’s Due, Elio’s and Lentini to refresh the menu while keeping it approachable. Yes, Enzo’s brother.
For our starters, my guest and I opted for classics: Spiedino alla Romano, think pan-fried grilled cheese with anchovy butter, and Carpaccio di Manzo, thinly-sliced filet mignon, baby arugula, marinated artichoke and truffle oil. Both were flavorful and set the tone for the fine meal to follow.
Pastas are served in entrée portions and for those who can’t select just one of the mouthwatering options, Grissini offers pasta in samplers of two or three. While we opted for Tagliolini Neri Ai Frutti di Mare, squid ink pasta with assorted seafood in a Fra Diavolo sauce and a pasta special similar to a carbonara gilded with shaved white truffle from Umbra. The seafood was beautifully cooked and the sauce slightly spicy and comforting. The ‘carbonara’ was pea and pancetta-packed with al dente pasta, lightly coated in a creamy sauce – delectable. Other handmade favorites include Gnocchi di Ricotta with guanciale, peas and cherry tomatoes and Pappardelle con Funghi Selvatici.
While pasta is front and center at Grissini, carnivores will also delight in the offerings. Our options included Pollo Scarpariello, chicken on the bone with sweet sausage, Bistecca Ai Ferri, grilled 16 ounce sirloin steak, and one dish I’ll be sure to order on my next visit : Carre d’Agnello, rack of Colorado lamb with lentil-rosemary sauce. All the meat dishes ordered at our table were cooked to perfection and of high quality.
The 350-bottle wine list, focused mostly on Italy and California, needs to be mentioned for its classics and interesting finds. There are also 30 wines by the glass for guests to enjoy with gems like the aged Brunello I sipped. On the night of our visit, Enzo shaved some white truffle into our cocktail to create a luxurious experience. There are a variety of tempting, less overindulgent drinks to be enjoyed.
Grissini is open for lunch, dinner, late-night supper and special events, as well as off-premise catering.
TIP: Be sure to visit Grissini on Sundays when the kitchen serves meatballs in Sunday sauce that Del Gatto makes himself.
484 Sylvan Avenue
Veronique Deblois, Food & Wine Chickie: Veronique is a food and wine writer based in Morris County. 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.