Where I Was
Undici, Rumson, NJ
Tuesday, January 30, 4:44 p.m.
Where I Sat
I sat at my spot. And at Undici the corner of the bar is perfectly cut to a flat edge so you can take full advantage of dining easily. The place was empty aside from the abundance of working staff as they always expect a crowd. I had the place to myself as Undici opens at 4 p.m. and it’s not exactly dinner time, even for the early bird. I had a great view of the beautiful seating area complete with low, gorgeously carved, knotty wooden furniture arranged around a provincial, flaming hearth.
Who Served Me
Louis, who was quiet at first. Ultimately charming, fully engaged, and deeply committed to my experiential and culinary pleasure.
Bartender’s Favorite Bite
When I asked Louis his favorite item on the menu, he quipped, “Well, I feel like that’s an unfair question.”
So, being the gal I am, and having dealt with this special kind of bartender trepidation in the past, I quickly retort, “OK. If this was the last meal you were ever able to eat from Undici what would it be?”
“Oh, well, I’m a guy, and a carnivore, so it would definitely be the bistecca. It’s just a really nice, big piece of meat. Cooked just right: super juicy and tender. A bit of fresh cracked pepper and salt on there—just sooooo good.”
Louis was referring to the steak on special (the January special menu so please check back as it’s already February!). Here’s the description: Bistecca ($65) 18 oz. 20-day, dry-aged prime sirloin steak with sea salt and cracked pepper. Served with rosemary potatoes. Doesn’t it sound divine?
The Vibe and My Vantage Point
The vibe is chic-rustic-Italian farmhouse. As you enter through the heavy wood-and-metal door, you are transported to light and surrounded by glass with the gorgeously designed wine cellars to each side as you enter the restaurant. To the left is the marble bar and seating and to the right is the dining room proper. Large rounds of cheese and cured meats hang from the ceiling while vibrant, fresh vegetables captivate the eye as you try to take it all in. Having lived in Italy for some time (a lifetime ago when I was in my 20s), I remember most restaurants leaving me with this feeling—from simple pizzerias to an authentic, Tuscan, Michelin-rated restaurant. At Undici they get it right, too.
What Quenched My Thirst
Hendriks gin, Antica Formula sweet vermouth, Campari, 21-day barrel-aged served on the rocks with a fresh orange twist
I grew up in a traditional Italian family where each Christmas Eve we gathered 20+ at my Aunt Joyce and Uncle Bill’s home. And inside the small bar that sat between the living room and dining room stood a gorgeous crystal pitcher of this gorgeously deep red, mysterious cocktail donning orange curls. It took me moving to Italy, just before I turned 21, to fall passionately in love with Campari, and all that comes with this incredibly sexy, if not complexly flavored apéritif. This traditional Negroni, made with love by Louis, hit the spot. The balance was beautiful, where every ingredient danced beautifully with the others, creating the perfect moves along the tongue and palate. Indeed, Negronis can go terribly wrong but this one most certainly did not. Perfetto!
What Fed My Soul
Cavolfiore, $17 (on January specials menu)
Local roasted cauliflower, local apples, baby arugula, toasted hazelnuts, crumbled farm goat cheese, and housemade vinaigrette
The past few times I’ve ordered something off the menu, I’ve had a vivid idea of the plate and what it would look like when it arrived. This time was no different and I realized two things: The first? I’m often quite wrong! The second? Maybe I am not being present to the magic somehow. So when the not-quite-what-I-expected dish arrived with what I would call a “quaint” mound of white beneath glistening arugula leaves (and I mean I could count them), I was a little taken aback. It was gorgeous; don’t get me wrong. But I was expecting more color for some reason—large heads of cauliflower to be poking out—brown against the goat cheese. Instead, there was so much white.
I decided to take a breath and sip my luscious cocktail to recenter. I had a quick chat with the always-in-motion brain which had some preconceived notion of disappointment in a dish full of ingredients I loved and hadn’t even tasted yet! I dove in. Full forkful making darn sure I had a bit everything—the crunchy hazelnut, wilted arugula leaf, goat cheese crumble, and the precious bits of cauliflower not so well balanced atop a piece of crisp and thin-sliced apple. I clumsily pile into my mouth and start to taste—opening up the experience to a completely visceral response. So many competing flavors and textures my tastebuds didn’t know where to focus. As I continued to take a second taste, my mouth delighted in the lemony essence of the vinaigrette balancing against the crunch of the nut and the smoothness of the lightly fragrant goat cheese. The cauliflower added a woodiness that balanced beautifully against the very mild pepper in the arugula. As I mentioned, the arugula was almost scant on the plate, clearly intentional, to ensure the bite-balance of all the ingredients until the very last bite. It was far beyond what I expected and in the end a plentiful portion in spite of its somewhat precious appearance.
Housemade spaghetti, smoked pancetta, egg, Pecorino Romano, and fresh cracked pepper
Nutella Cheesecake, $11
Homemade Nutella cheesecake topped with fresh whipped cream and garnished with a sprig of mint
As I was about to order, Louis proactively asked, “The apple tart?”
What’s on Tap
Wet Ticket Blood Orange Belgian Pale Ale ABV 6.2%, Rahway, NJ
Carton Boat Session Ale ABV 4.2%, Atlantic Highlands, NJ
Kane Head High American-India Pale Ale ABV 6.5%, Ocean, NJ
Sixpoint Crisp Pilsner ABV 5.4%, Brooklyn, NY
Brotherton IPA ABV 6.6 % Shamong, NJ
Check with the bar for details and changes.
Undici offers an extensive wine list. Here’s their list of hand-curated list of seasonal favorites only available by the glass on Thursday nights. Wednesdays are half-price bottles and Thursdays half-price glasses so be sure to check it out!
Il Giro Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo Rosé 2017 (Abruzzo) – 100% Montepulciano
Saladini Pilastri Pecorino 2016 (Marche) – 100% Pecorino Organic
Tormaresca Chardonnay 2017 (Puglia) – 100% Chardonnay
Prodigo Friuli Grave Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Friuli-Venezia) – 100% Sauvignon Blanc
La Capranera Falanghina 2016 (Campania) – 100% Falanghina
Vie di Romans Dessimis Pinot Grigio 2014 (Friuli) – 100% Pinot Grigio
Saladini Pilastri Rosso Piceno 2015 (Marche) – Organic blend of Sangiovese & Montepulciano
Prodigo Appassite Nero d’Avola 2016 (Sicilia) – 100% Nero d’Avola
Masi Agricola Alighieri Poderi del Bello Ovile 2015 (Toscana) – Organic blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Ciliegiolo
Michele Chiarlo Nebbiolo Langhe “Il Principe” 2014 (Piemonte) – 100% Nebbiolo
Agricola Punica Montessu 2014 (Sardegna) – 60% Carignano, 10% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot
Tolaini Valdisanti 2012 (Toscana) – 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Franc
Vecchio Marone Amarone della Valpolicella 2013 (Veneto) – Valpolicella blend of Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara
What Else to Know
Located on River Road in Rumson just before the Oceanic Bridge with street parking across the street and behind the restaurant. In warmer weather, an outdoor patio sits in front along River Road with ample seating.
When to Show
Monday through Thursday: 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Friday: 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Saturday: Noon to 11:00 p.m.
Sunday: 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Know Before You Go!
Please check the website for more information.
Hours, prices, and menus are subject to change.
11 West River Road
Rumson, NJ 07760