The writer was invited to visit Mama Dag’s and the meal was complimentary.
Old-school, comforting, stick-to-your-ribs Italian food, the type of meal Nonna spent hours stirring and seasoning on a Sunday. If this is your kind of dinner, I highly recommend taking a trip to Mama Dag’s Seafood & Pasta House, in West Orange. Formerly Patsy’s Seafood & Pasta House, this establishment has just rebranded itself and expanded its already popular menu.
Owner Anthony Dagostino, a previous bar owner (The Pour House, in West Orange, and The Boiler Room, in Garfield), had a clear idea for his first restaurant. He wanted to pay homage to his beloved mother, who instilled in him a love of homestyle food and hospitality. Opened in 2019, his restaurant weathered through tremendously difficult times in both the world and specifically, the restaurant industry, amidst the pandemic. Entering into its new phase, under a new name and menu, he strives to continue what will be an overall excellent dining experience for his diners with ambiance, food, and drink.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend a wine dinner hosted by Josh Cellars and Joseph Carr Wines. It was a five-course meal designed by Dagostino to showcase new menu items and to provide a glimpse of what guests can expect to see over the coming year.
We started with zuppa di gamberi, a shrimp bisque studded with roasted wild mushrooms and topped with perfectly fried squares of pancetta. A light drizzle of lemon chive oil rounded out the velvety dish, and my spoon kept going back for more long after I had finished!
An insalata arancia followed and it, too, wowed. Oversized yet inviting, the shaved fennel, charred artichoke, and blood orange vinaigrette made it unique and memorable. The best part? The goat cheese gnoccho: this large pancake-like rice ball filled with goat cheese and crisped to that desired rich golden brown pillowed beneath the salad. Every forkful created a new experience when it included a piece of that gem!
Third Course and Dessert
A squash crespelle defined the third course. An Italian-style crepe with roasted butternut squash and whipped burrata, this dish was light as a feather. Still, it was heavy on flavor, with balsamic brown butter drizzled atop.
We completed our main meal with a variation of surf and turf. In Dagostino’s rendition, it was chianti-braised short ribs alongside a lobster spiedini. Talk about decadent! The beef was fall-apart tender with its deep aroma lingering, complementing the battered, skewered, and fried lobster. This showstopper of a plate was, ultimately, my favorite dish of the night.
Dessert followed, with fall meeting winter in the house-made pear, fig, and pistachio strudel. A sweet prosecco capped off this event for me.
Feels Like Family
My evening at Mama Dag’s was time well spent. I sensed overwhelming vibes of warmth, tradition, and welcomeness. This is clearly a restaurant where you can expect a consistent experience, with a staff that makes it a priority to treat all as family. There’s no question: Dagostino’s mother, the original Mama Dag, would be so very proud.