Sunday, August 15, 2010
Review of Cafe Italiano in Englewood Cliffs
Located on 9W, just over the border of Fort Lee in Englewood Cliffs, Cafe Italiano is one of those neighborhood restaurants that always pleases. In my past life I reviewed restaurants and Cafe Italiano can stand up with the best of them.
Through the years, Cafe Italiano has been the place I've hosted birthday parties, bridal showers, and baby showers. What I like most about it is that the interior space is small and intimate, and lined with windows that allow sunlight to pour through giving it a very Mediterranean feel. For history buffs, the restaurant was the summer house of Jimmy Walker, the mayor of New York City from 1926-1932.
Tonight our family gathered here for a birthday celebration for my mom. You have a choice of sitting outdoors on their beautifully appointed patio, or indoors. Because the skies threatened rain, we dined indoors. From the moment we entered the service was impeccable. We told the maitre de that it was my mom's birthday and they went overboard making sure that she was treated like a queen, complimenting her on every turn.
Now, we had the kids with us and I have to say that the waitstaff was more than accomodating. They took great effort to make sure that the kids felt special. They delivered to my daughter a Shirley Temple in a "fancy" glass making her feel very grown up. And they made sure that very little time elapsed from the time that we ordered our drinks to the time that they were delivered. There's nothing worse than waiting more than five minutes for your drinks to arrive. When you host a dinner party at your house you don't keep your guests waiting for a drink, so why would you want to wait when you're paying?
A complimentary dish of bruschetta is served and the tomatoes were ripe, the onions fresh, and the olive oil of the highest quality. The bread in the basket arrived perfectly warmed and tasted freshly made, not soggy as some bread baskets can taste. For appetizers we ordered plates of oysters and mussels in white wine sauce. I am extremely particular about shellfish and the oysters were fresh and the mussels were tender and fragrant in a light white wine garlic sauce. It was so good that my picky nine-year-old ate the oysters and the mussels and announced them terrific! She has never eaten shellfish before, but said it all looked too good not to try.
All of our dinners were over the moon. I ordered the special, Tilapia Francese. A huge portion of fish arrived on my plate with fresh vegetables. The fish was flaky, moist and perfectly sauteed in butter, egg and lemon. My son ordered the fried calamari and I have to say, it was one of the best prepared calamari I've ever tasted. It would stand up to Rudy's in Cliffside Park and Garden Pizza in Fairview. My daughter had fussili with eggplant, zucchini and fresh mozzarella in a red sauce--OMG--to die for! My mom had linguine in clam sauce and it was loaded with fresh clams. It was the perfect balance of garlic and oil. And the clams were soooo fresh! My husband ordered veal wrapped in prosciutto in a brown sauce. I almost stole the plate from him--I never make veal at home and CI's veal is among the best I've ever tasted! My brother had chicken breast topped with mozzarella in a red sauce. I didn't get a chance to taste it because he pretty much inhaled it! He said it was out of this world.
We skipped dessert only because we had a cake waiting for us at home, but my daughter almost pushed the dessert cart out the door to bring home with us.
So, in a nutshell, if you want a small, romantic restaurant in Bergen County with an Italian Meditteranean flare, try Cafe Italiano. It never gets old to me!