Chances are you know someone who insists that her grandmother makes the best gravy or pasta sauce. After all, New Jersey is home to more than 2 million Italian descendants, and it’s probably no coincidence that there’s no shortage of Italian restaurants in the state. For a sampling of some of the best for private dining, read on. Buon appetito!
Due Mari, or “two seas,” is a sleek, airy Italian restaurant in the heart of New Brunswick. Opened in 2008, Due Mari offers fine dining in an upscale, yet comfortable, setting. Executive Chef Bill Dorrler’s innovative Italian dishes include fresh oysters from the United State’s east and west coasts, house made pasta and freshly grilled meat and seafood. And don’t skip dessert. “Our desserts are like pieces of art,” says General Manager Mona Carbona. “We take special pride in the presentation of all of our dishes. Guests are always commenting about how good the food looks, and then they taste it, and it’s just as delicious as it is beautiful.” Due Mari can accommodate almost any private dining request. The windowed Amalfi room seats 70 guests, the Liguria room seats 40, and both rooms may be partially screened off to offer guests a feel for the restaurant’s convivial atmosphere while maintaining privacy. Downstairs, a private dining room hosts up to 30 people for a sit-down dinner or 45 guests for a reception-style event. For parties of 70-120 people, Due Mari also offers a full
buyout of the restaurant.
“Charm” is the English translation of Fascino, a modern Italian restaurant located in Montclair launched by Chef/Partner Ryan DePersio when he was just 25. And in the 11 years since Fascino’s opening, DePersio has charmed them all with his sophisticated Italian cuisine—diners, reviewers and the media alike (he has appeared on both The Today Show and The Food Network). “We really have evolved over that time,” notes DePersio. “My cooking, which I call ‘Italian Without Borders,’ is a modern, market-driven menu. I cook with the ingredients of the season, and I rework old Italian dishes my way. We also change the menu seasonally.” Similar to many other Italian restaurants, Fascino is a family affair, with DePersio’s mother Cynthia working as the pastry chef, and his brother Anthony in the role of general manager. And although the décor is similar to what you might find in a hip Manhattan restaurant— gray leather tufted banquettes, exposed-bulb wall sconces with mirrors—the ambiance is welcoming and lively. For private dining, Fascino offers three rooms, subject to availability: The front room seats 35-60 guests, the middle room seats 28-35 guests and the back room seats 15-26 guests. Fascino also offers full buyouts for parties of up to 100 guests (additional room fees may apply). A meal at Fascino might begin with the peekytoe crab crostini, chorizo-stuffed arancini or wagyu beef carpaccio, followed by the truffle scented rigatoni, lamb shank cacciatore or the locals’ favorite ricotta gnocchi. For dessert, you can’t go wrong with the molten chocolate cake or the Tuscan olive oil cake (or maybe both!).
Stepping through the doorway of Il Capriccio in Whippany, you might think you’ve magically been transported to an estate in Florence. From the arched ceilings to the giant urns filled with fresh flowers, Il Capriccio exudes Italian flair. The restaurant, which translates to “the whim,” may have begun as just a dream of chef Antonio Grande and his wife Clara when they opened the doors in 1984, but it has evolved thanks to consistent innovation, impeccable service and outstanding attention to detail. Il Capriccio serves sophisticated, gourmet Italian dishes representing all parts of Italy using the very freshest ingredients, and is run by some of Tony and Clara’s most dedicated team: their family. Today, the Grandes’ son, Natale, is the restaurant’s executive chef, their daughter Teresa is pastry chef, their daughter Paola is the hostess and their nephew Salvatore Le Rose is the maitre d’ and sommelier.
“My uncle Tony has dedicated 30 years of his life to cooking here,” says Le Rose. “But he still bends over backward to send every guest away happy and well-fed. As long as we have the ingredients in-house, Chef Tony will do his best to accommodate every type of special request.” Event planners have several options for private parties at Il Capriccio: Two private rooms seat 45 and 50 guests, respectively, and full buyouts are available on Sundays for parties of 45-90 guests. Planners looking for a truly stupendo epicurean event for up to 20 guests will be able to arrange An Evening in the Country which is still in the works—on Chef Tony’s 190-acre farm in Sussex County, where guests can observe a cooking demonstration, take a class or just relax and take in the sights of the beautiful rolling countryside while a fresh, unforgettable gourmet meal is prepared especially for your group.
Tre Famiglia in Haddonfield has perhaps the most traditional menu, and there’s a good reason why: The Cippolone family has been serving homemade Italian food in Philadelphia and South Jersey for four generations since 1903, and their recipes have stood the test of time. “Our consistency and quality is what brings the customers back time and again,” says Angela Martinelli Cipollone, daughter of the restaurant’s founder. “Honestly, you will not find a can of anything, other than imported tomatoes from Rome, in Tre Famiglia’s kitchen. Our chefs even squeeze pomegranate seeds by hand.” Although Tre Famiglia is best known for its reliable, traditional Italian cuisine and homemade desserts, all prepared under the watchful eye of the family patriarch Robert Cippolone, guests can count on 8-10 menu specials every evening that highlight the season’s freshest ingredients. The ambiance is bar casual at Tre Famiglia, with a relaxed, yet refined décor. Tre Famiglia can accommodate private dining ranging from 8-80 guests. Planning a larger affair? The restaurant also regularly does off-site catering for parties of up to 200 guests.
Like its Florentine coin namesake, Summit’s Fiorino Ristorante is golden. Known for its excellent service, full bar and delicious food, this northern Jersey Italian restaurant offers a wide-ranging menu from the more traditional selections (pasta e’ fagioli) to the more creative choices (pappardelle with rabbit ragu and shiitake mushrooms). Fiorino’s dark woods, candle-lit tables and murals add a touch of Old World elegance, making guests feel as if they are in on a well-kept secret. Fiorino has two private dining rooms: the elegant Wine Room seats 55 guests, while the rustic Wine Cellar seats 30. “We’ve been here 19 years now and we’ve hosted hundreds of events in our private rooms. Our pricing is very competitive, and our staff goes out of their way to ensure that every private party runs smoothly,” says Mentor Bitici, general manager.
Looking for an unbeatable view? Look no further than Ama Ristorante at the Driftwood in Sea Bright. Ama offers traditional Tuscan fare overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the Shrewsbury River. Reopened in a new location in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy, Ama Ristorante has enjoyed numerous awards and favorable reviews over the past two years. Ama’s menu focuses on “delicious traditional Tuscan cuisine that uses seasonal, local ingredients,” says Tyler Osborn, general manager. “But our most popular dish is the Prince Edward Island mussels in tomato bread gravy.” The private dining room features a central stone fireplace, a gorgeous Tuscan landscape mural and breathtaking views, especially at sunset. The room also contains a large wooden barn door that can be used to separate the space from the main restaurant, offering complete privacy. The room can accommodate between 16 and 62 people for a special event. From spring through fall, private parties are also able to use the outdoor terrace, which can seat up to 100 guests.