As I’ve documented in the past, I’m a fan of the Spuntino concept. I like the idea of stopping in for a glass of wine and a few tapas after a long day at work or to meet a group of friends for an affordable evening of small plates sharing over a few bottles of vino.
Spuntino, the popular wine and tapas bar and restaurant in Clifton is now 2 ½ years old and judging by the convivial crowd we encountered on our last two weeknight visits, I’m guessing doing well. With nearly 50 wines by the glass and an extensive selection of tapas, shareable small plates, Spuntino offers something for everyone.
Something I especially enjoyed on my last visit, a Thursday night, was the flight of three Italian wines, available on that particular night of the week, for $12. The three pours of three ounces each offer diners not familiar with Italian wines a chance to sample three wines from various regions at an attractive value. On the night we were there, I sampled a 2009 La Chiara Gavi, a 2011 Boroli Langhe Anna Nebbiolo Blend and a 2007 Il Chiosso Ghemme. All three paired well with the various tapas we selected and I’ll review each of these wines in future posts.
Besides the tasty food and outstanding wine selection, Spuntino does a great job at doing special events and hosting food celebrations. This month through August 21, it held the Feast of Ferragosto, an Italian fête dating back centuries recognizing the end of the harvest season. The celebration features a five-course tasting menu at an incredible price of $35 – simply an unbelievable value. Another exclusive event Spuntino’s having soon is a Castello di Bossi wine dinner with special guest Pasquale Depinto. The award-winning Chianti wines will be paired with Spuntino’s delicious food on September 16 at 7PM and the cost of the limited-space dinner is $75.
On the evening we were invited, peaches were the celebrated food staple. At our waiter’s urging, we sampled the crostino of roasted peaches with Mascarpone and a drizzle of honey on grilled Italian bread. What a delicious combination! Another crostino we tried and absolutely loved was a special that evening – chicken liver pâté with fried sage leaves and pickled red onion, a delight of creamy, rich chicken liver with a bit of crunch and earthiness from the sage and acidity from the red onion.
A favorite of ours when dining at Spuntino, and a dish we don’t ever not order, is the Arancini – risotto balls. The creamy risotto interior with the deep golden, crunchy exterior are a winning formula only enhanced by the flavorful tomato sauce served on the side.
Something else we’re fond of is the meat and cheese plate. Spuntino offers an interesting lineup of Italian cheeses and cured meats that can be ordered in a combination of one item for $5 or 3 for $14. We opted for high-quality Pecorino cheese, Wild Boar Cacciatorini, a dried sausage with heirloom spices and Speck, a smoked Prosciutto from Alto Adige. The three items were served on a wooden board with Prosecco mustard and perfectly-grilled bread.
A special of the evening that we couldn’t pass up when our waiter described it was the spaghetti tossed with white wine and olive oil then topped with shaved mullet roe – delicious in its simplicity and extra brownie points for perfectly al dente pasta.
We’re fans of Spuntino’s pizza and couldn’t leave without ordering one. This time, we opted for the Salsiccia with sausage, onions and peppers. While the personal-sized pie (enough for two) had the nicely charred and a bit-chewy crust we’ve come to love, the toppings just weren’t our favorites. The onion and pepper caused the surface of the pie to be slightly wet and not on par with the Fig and Prosciutto or the Funghi pizzas we’ve enjoyed in the past.
In keeping with the peach theme, we sampled the peach crostini for dessert. The buttery crumbly topping paired with the juicy, ripe yet slightly tart peaches worked well and we thoroughly enjoyed this dessert.
Another delicious visit to Spuntino under our belts, literally. If you’ve not experienced this welcoming restaurant with its friendly staff and open kitchen concept, stop in and join the rest of us who have a difficult time selecting wine and tapas from the extensive menus.
Spuntino Wine Bar & Italian Tapas – 94 Kingsland Road, Clifton, NJ, 07014. (973) 661-2435.