Back to the Motherland, and La Cucina di Clemenza

You guys, I’m back in New Jersey!  I know I haven’t written in a little while.  Wrapping up work in Spain was a little hectic, but after a much-needed vacation through Mallorca and Paris, I got to come back home.  While I was incredibly fortunate to get to work and live in Europe, I love home, and my home state.  To ease back into blogging, I thought a nice food review would be great.  I’d been dreaming about the first meal I’d eat on Jersey soil for at least a month – a Swiss cheese burger from a local burger bar – and it didn’t disappoint.  I’m not willing to divulge the name of my burger connection just yet, but I do have another delicious place to share.

Not my first meal back, but equally as good, I got to try a new (for me) Italian restaurant, and I think it’s a new favorite.  What better way to get back into the swing of things than with an Italian restaurant review in New Jersey?  Any Godfather fans out there?  I know I am.  Little did I know that a few miles from my hometown is a restaurant owned by the family of the late Richard Castellano, the man who played the role of Peter Clemenza in The Godfather.  The place is called, of course, La Cucina di Clemenza, and it was really good.  For you people in Northern NJ, it’s right around the corner from the Papermill Playhouse in Millburn, which makes it great for a pre or post-show meal.  {We saw Ever After, which was fantastic.  Charles Shaughnessy has been one of my favorite actors since he was on the Nanny, and he did not disappoint on stage.  The rest of the cast was also really great!}

La Cucina di Clemenza is a really fun place.  You know you’re in an Italian restaurant when you walk in.  Above the doorway is a mural of the New York City skyline, circa 1945.  The menu was filled with Godfather quotes, and the staff was really friendly and helpful.  I’m not entirely sure that our waiter’s real name was the very Italian name he told us it was, but it added to the ambiance.  For the wine people out there, the restaurant is BYOB, but they also have a liquor license that I think allows them to sell Jersey-made wines by the bottle.  I’m a little fuzzy on the details, since we brought our own, but just know it’s there and you can bring your favorite bottle if you’d prefer.

Attached to La Cucina is a pizza place by the same name, which also looks interesting.  I’ve heard they have good garlic knots, but I didn’t order any, so I can’t really say.  My table ordered a salad to start with, and several pasta dishes; Rigatoni Salciccia – with ground sausage in a pink sauce, Penne alla Cinque Cinque – with fresh tomatoes, shrimp, and arugula in garlic and oil, and my favorite, Rigatoni Siciliano – with filet mignon, eggplant, and fresh mozzarella in a red sauce.  Everything was delicious!  There was no time for dessert, since we had to get to the theater, but I know I will be back!

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Slightly fuzzy menu photo, but had to share.

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Misto della casa salad. Mixed greens, tomatoes, and topped with pecorino romano cheese.

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Rigatoni Salciccia

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Penne alla Cinque Cinque

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Rigatoni Siciliano

What’s the best new restaurant you’ve discovered lately?  What did you order?

*I wasn’t endorsed or compensated in any way for my review, I just thought it might make an interesting post.  If you want to check out the online menu for yourself, the link to the restaurant is La Cucina di Clemenza.