Fascino Guest Chef Dinner with Chef Anthony Bucco

Fascino Guest Chef Dinner with Chef Anthony Bucco


Photo Credit: Fascino

On February 28th at 7PM, Fascino Chef/Owner Ryan DePersio will welcome Chef Anthony Bucco of the soon-to-open Ridgewood restaurant, Felina.

The five-course dinner held at Fascino is $75 and features the following menu:

CO U R S E 1

Heirloom Beets, Burnt Bread, Robiolina, Horseradish, Dill

CO U R S E 2

Local Bass Crudo, Uni, Citrus, Pistachio, Castelvetrano Olives

CO U R S E 3

Gnocchi, Delicata Squash, Pecorino, Sage, Hazelnut

CO U R S E 4

Coppa Wrapped Veal Loin, Salsa Verde, Polenta, Punterella, Sweetbreads

CO U R S E 5

Budino, Whipped Cream, Biscotti

Reservations can be made by calling Fascino at 973-233-0350. The dinner is Bring Your Own.

Fascino – 331 Bloomfield Ave., Montclair, NJ 07042. http://www.fascinorestaurant.com

Hope to see you there,


Demetri Malki Returns to Montclair with De Novo European Pub

Demetri Malki Returns to Montclair with De Novo European Pub

Demetri MalkDe Novo Logoi of beloved Table 8 and D’metri’s, is opening De Novo European Pub at the Upper Montclair Train Station in late August. The space was previously occupied by the defunct 12 West.

De Novo will be styled after the family-oriented casual pubs of Europe with menus created by Executive Chef Marika Villik, who headed the kitchens at Malki’s earlier restaurants. Guests can expect a recognizable and comforting menu with house-made breads, small plates, charcuterie, flatbreads, salads, burgers, house-made pastas, entrées and late-night bar bites. De Novo will also offer a selection of tempting housemade desserts created by Pastry Consultant Risa Magid.

The restaurant is housed inside an historic former train station and updated with rustic touches such as reclaimed barn wood tables and Provençal linens. Banquettes lining the dining room may be configured to accommodate parties of varying size, while the lounge features bar and communal seating. The space’s previous acoustic issues have also been addressed with the addition of sound-absorbing panels to minimize noise.

De Novo, Latin for “beginning again,” is an appropriate name for Malki’s new endeavor, which comes four years after selling the critically acclaimed Table 8 to concentrate on building a house in Westfield for his growing family and joining the service team at the much-lauded Osteria Giotto in Montclair.

“I’m modeling De Novo after the kind of places I want to go after a long day at work,” says 41-year-old Malki with enthusiasm. “Delicious food that appeals to everyone, fairly priced and presented with hospitality. I see commuters grabbing a bite and drinks with the family after the train pulls in; I also see a late-night scene with folks hanging out enjoying summer sangrias and signature cocktails.”

The focus at De Novo will be on value. Small plates range from $6-$15; entrées priced up to $20. Lunch and dinner will feature the same menu; special brunch menu offered on Sundays. De Novo will be open noon to 10 p.m. Sunday – Thursday and until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a late night bar bite menu offered until midnight daily.

De Novo – 275 Bellevue Ave., Upper Montclair, NJ 07043.



Fricassée Brings Back Solid French Bistro Fare to Montclair

Fricassée Brings Back Solid French Bistro Fare to Montclair

BreadWhen he owned Epernay from 2000 – 2006, Chef Mark Papera was beloved by Montclair diners. After he sold and moved away, what was once a cozy place to devour a great meal was no longer. To the delight of northern New Jersey foodies, Chef Papera is back in the space previously housing Epernay, and this time, he’s not going anywhere. “Former clients of mine come in and tell me I can’t ever leave again. I tell them I’m back where I belong”, says Papera.



The menu at Fricassée reads like many French bistros but the food is superior to any I’ve enjoyed outside Paris. One Plats du Jour, daily specials, sounds better than the next: Monday – Chateaubriand, Tuesday – Cassoulet, Wednesday – Bouillabaisse, Thursday – Cotes de Boeuf, Friday – Pot au Feu and Saturday – Boeuf Bourguignon.



Our meal began with three kinds of bread with herb butter presented in a mini cast iron pan. I don’t eat much butter, but when I do, I want it to be Chef Papera’s butter – herbaceous and lightly salty.

Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese

Our starters were outstanding: beef tartare and mussels. The tartare was fresh and actually tasted like beef, which appears to not be something so easily accomplished by other bistros. The portion of mussels was gigantic and offered a very flavorful white wine, garlic and cherry tomato saucy broth bursting with thyme, basil and mint flavors. I highly recommend this dish, especially with the crusty bread served at Fricassée.

Cotes de Boeuf

Cotes de Boeuf

We dined on a Thursday and the Cotes de Boeuf for two was absolutely delectable. Chef Papera shared that the meat purveyor he used to secure the unusual cut of beef from at Epernay is once again providing it for Fricassée. The beef is seared to a gorgeous crusty exterior and was served rare, as ordered, with a beefy, rosemary-laced jus. It’s just an outstanding dish.

Don’t pass up the sides at this place. The frites served with garlic aioli are what French fries should taste like and the Gratins de Macaroni, dressed up mac & cheese, is creamy and rich. We sampled the five-cheese macaroni and it was super. Other variations include wild mushroom and truffle, short rib and blue cheese and vegetable.

Creme Brulee and Chocolate Mousse

Creme Brulee and Chocolate Mousse

It’s unlikely you’ll have room for dessert, but splurge and perhaps share with fellow diners. The crème brulée and chocolate mousse are above-par examples of these popular dishes.

Fricassée is a BYOB so grab your favorite bottle of Bordeaux and celebrate the return of Mark Papera to Montclair with a visit to what will surely be one of the hottest restaurants in northern New Jersey.


6 Park Street
Montclair, New Jersey 07042
(973) 744-2191

Mon – Sat: 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm

Zod Arifai Does Blu So Well

Zod Arifai Does Blu So Well


Could it be that the 45-seat restaurant in bustling downtown Montclair serves up the best food in New Jersey?  It is quite possible. At his award-winning restaurant, chef and owner, Zod Arifai, masters modern cuisine with French, Italian and Asian influences.

Born in Kosovo to parents who were both good cooks, chef Arifai is self-taught with an inquisitive mind and short stints at Bouley and Aureole in Manhattan that have proven to be better at helping him transform in the chef he is today than formal training at a culinary school might have been.

On a recent visit, our party sampled dishes that blew us away. For starters, the Spaghetti Carbonara with Crispy Duck is creamy, velvety with rich duck morsels, the Risotto with Wild Mushrooms and White Truffle Oil is pure decadence with its unctuous texture, earthy mushrooms and drizzle of fragrant truffle oil.  The Seafood Dumplings with Spicy Coconut Broth showcases the thinnest, most delicate wrappers over a tasty seafood mixture that bathes in an ultra-flavorful, just-spicy-enough broth.

Veal Belly

Must-have entrées are the Salmon, Forbidden Rice served with peanuts, scallions and coconut-chili broth, the Duck Breast, Red Cabbage served with a caramelized turnip with a red wine-fig emulsion and the Veal Belly with Soft Polenta, Wild Mushrooms and Sweet and Sour Glaze. The salmon is of the finest quality and the forbidden rice is of toothy perfection. The duck is cooked to a flawless medium-rare and the red wine emulsion is a perfect complement to the protein. The absolute star is the veal belly. For those of us who think pork belly is the perfect food, chef Arifai’s veal counterpart is heavenly. The sweet and sour glaze is tart and cuts through some of the veal’s richness and the polenta is the best I have had, even in Italy – order this dish without fault.

Spaghetti Carbonara

At Blu, chef Arifai creates dishes from techniques and ingredients he tests out extensively and the results are simply spectacular. Nearly seven years after opening, Blu is more at the top of its game than ever.

554 Bloomfield Avenue
Montclair, NJ



Tuesday – Thursday: Open at 5:30PM

Friday – Sunday: Open at 5PM

Upstairs Ups the Stakes in Montclair

Upstairs Ups the Stakes in Montclair

Housemade Gnocchi

Last night, I dined at Upstairs in Montclair at the suggestion of fellow New Jersey foodies.  The ordinary stops at the glass door with “Upstairs” stenciled on it on a non-descript street in Upper Montclair.  After opening the street-level door, I was taken up a flight of stairs that appeared to be made of glowing blocks of ice.  As I walked up the steps, I was curious to see what waited for me…Upstairs.  Chic South Beach club meets trendy Manhattan hot spot – that’s what I found.  Very neat and unexpected room.

The open kitchen right off the bar showcases a team of hard-working chefs.  I enjoyed seeing the hectic staff prepare the food and to savor the aromas coming off the kitchen.

Mackenzie, our server, was fun, knowledgeable about the dishes and helpful with drink and food selections.  The menu is made up of small and large plates and we opted for a few small plates to share.  A special of the evening was brown sugar-caramelized slab bacon.  We couldn’t resist ordering it and absolutely loved it with the ripe peaches it was paired with.  Another good dish is the Sautéed Calamari ($12) in a basil, garlic and chilis broth and topped with breadcrumbs.  The only thing that would have made this dish better is not having to share it with my fellow diners.  The calamari perfectly prepared to optimal tenderness.  We also had the Pork Terrine ($11) a “slice” of melt-in-your-mouth slow cooked pork slathered with tangy barbeque sauce and served with grilled bread and pickles.  The last dish we sampled was the Housemade Ricotta Gnocchi ($12) with sautéed mushrooms, basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.  All the dishes were delectable and have me looking forward to my next visit.

Sauteed Calamari

The wine list offers interesting options and several wines by the glass and the cocktails are creative and fun.

The place was busy by 8PM on a Friday night, so arrive early for a prime table in the bar area.  The dining room is somewhat more relaxed but has a hip feel about it. A friend recommended I eat in the bar area and am very grateful for that insider tip – fun atmosphere.

Beautifully styled space, solid food and a smart wait and kitchen staff await you at Upstairs.  Another jewel in Montclair’s restaurant crown.





608 Valley Road

Upper Montclair, NJ 07043


Tuesday – Thursday: 5PM – 10PM

Friday – Saturday: 5PM – 11PM

Sunday: 5PM – 9PM

Closed on Monday


Adara – New Jewel in Montclair’s Upscale Restaurant Crown

Adara – New Jewel in Montclair’s Upscale Restaurant Crown

White Truffle Envelope

10/21/12 Update: After a visit on 10/20/12, I can no longer recommend Adara. The food is still delicious, but the new staff’s poor job and the 4-hour wait for three courses is not worth the food.

Adara, located in a secluded area off busy Bloomfield Avenue, offers perhaps the best culinary experience to be had in New Jersey.  The restaurant dubs its food as “Modernist” in style, and paired with top notch service and an elegant, understated space, it is simply fabulous.

Acqua di Gio

Wylie Dufresne, Grant Achatz and Ferran Adrià have popularized molecular gastronomy and have made it an exciting part of American culinary culture.  At Adara, Art Institute of New York City graduate and ACF certified Master Chef, Tre Ghoshal runs with the concept, flawlessly.

The menu at Adara offers a la carte options and three-course ($65), five-course ($85) and seven-course ($110) prix fixe tour menus.  Feeling adventurous?  There is also the grand tour, featuring 12 inventive courses ($175).

On a recent visit, General Manager, Philip Dowling and his attentive staff, eagerly guided our party through the 5-course menu that featured such dishes as the New England Clam Chowder – a bowl of complex flavors served with quail egg, masago, maple pancetta and tasty foam that Adara calls “deep sea wind”, the Campania – chef Ghoshal’s version of Caprese salad with vine ripe tomatoes, a mozzarella ‘balloon’, an extra virgin olive oil sorbet and basil, the White Truffle Envelope – a Hudson Valley foie gras-filled raviolo served with kumquat mostarda, cappuccino and pistachio, and the Acqua di Gio – dry sea scallop with baby squid, bacon, English pea and popcorn.

Adara is a BYO and is a perfect occasion for guests to dust off those great bottles and create their own wine pairings.

Adara is a must-try establishment with its creative, flavorful and breathtaking food.  It is participating in Montclair Restaurant Week with a $31, 3-course menu from March 19th through April 1st.

77 Walnut Street
Montclair, NJ 07042






New Jersey Cult Cook Triumphs at CulinAriane

New Jersey Cult Cook Triumphs at CulinAriane

Tuna Amuse Bouche

CulinAriane, as the name suggests, is all about graduate, Chef-Owner Ariane Duarte’s culinary prowess.  The staff is courteous and knowledgeable, the space in foodie mecca, Montclair, is warm and inviting, but the reason patrons are drawn to this cozy spot is the fabulous food.

On a recent visit, my party was offered an outdoor, curbside table.  The evening was warm and this seating arrangement was perfect for a group of six guests interested in catching up with one another.  Right upon arriving, guests know the dining experience at CulinAriane will be special.  From the great glassware (nice touch for a BYO), the fine china and flatware and the antique serving pieces, attention to detail is not spared and helps set the mood for the coming evening.

The menu is creative, albeit condensed.  Each starter and entrée is more appealing than the next, and the nightly specials encompass amazing combinations.

Tuna Sashimi

Some outstanding starters ($12 – $16) my group sampled are the Sashimi Tuna Flower ($14), the Venison Carpaccio (nightly special), the Cornmeal Crusted Oysters ($12) and the Tempura Rock Shrimp Salad (nightly special).  The tuna sashimi flower is a signature dish, and absolutely beautiful, fresh and delicious.  The venison Carpaccio was more than seared causing it to be somewhat dry and grayish in appearance.  The fried oysters with a horseradish sauce were crisp, juicy and succulent.  The rock shrimp salad featured lightly fried Tempura shrimps over perfectly-dressed greens.

The entrees ($30 – $42) were not overshadowed by the starters.  Some stellar choices are the Pan Seared Scallops ($30), the Grilled Bronzini ($30) and the Focaccia-Crusted Hake (nightly special).  The scallops were perfectly seared and of the highest quality and the forest mushroom ragout they were paired with were an ideal match.  The portion of Bronzini served was considerable and the fish was masterly cooked.  The pan-fried hake was served over fiddleheads, broccoli rabe and fingerling potatoes and a great dish.

Maple Creme Caramel

Not to be outdone by wife Ariane, Pastry Chef / Co-Owner / Gracious Host, Michael Duarte, also a Culinary Institute of America graduate, completes the top-notch foodie experience with his dessert creations ($8 – $10).  Can’t-miss finales are the Callebaut Chocolate Ganache Tart with Orange Whipped Cream ($10), the Maple Syrup Crème Caramel ($10) and the Lemon Meringue Martini ($9).  Don’t skip on coffee which is strong, bold and a perfect accompaniment to the super desserts.

Word of warning, reservations are challenging to secure at this uber-popular restaurant, so plan in advance.

Yes, Chef Ariane amassed a cult following through her appearance on Bravo’s Top Chef series.  Is CulinAriane all media hype without culinary substance?  No, it is not.  It’s about quality ingredients, skillful preparation and clever presentation.


33 Walnut St
Montclair, NJ 07042
Website: www.culinariane.com

Social Side of CulinAriane:

Ariane’s blog: http://blog.dinnertool.com/

Twitter: @Culinariane

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/CulinAriane/174585542583637

Upscale Taste Hits Fast Food at Smashburger

Upscale Taste Hits Fast Food at Smashburger

Smashburger Fried Egg Burger

When Smashburger moved into Montclair New Jersey, I just had to see what the hype was all about.  Could a fast food joint possibly serve up tasty quality burgers?  I soon found out that the answer was: YES!  I was hooked from the first juicy bite.  The concept is simple: Fresh, never frozen, 100% Angus Beef, smashed, seared and seasoned on the grill.

On a recent visit, I sampled some of the items on a new menu it’s testing and wasn’t disappointed.

Smashburger Beef Chili

First, I tasted the Beefy Chili ($2.59), then I feasted on the Taylor ham, egg and cheese Smashburger ($5.99 for 1/3 pound or $6.99 for 1/2 pound).  The chili, which was served with slices of jalapeno peppers, was meaty and rich with chunks of beef instead of the more commonly-served ground meat chili served in the northeast.  It was really pretty outstanding and would be perfect ladled atop a Smashdog.  The burger’s the true reason for being here and I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into this new twist on the perfectly prepared classic.  Smashburger’s managed to take its Certified Angus Beef to the next level by topping it with a generous slice of Taylor ham, a fried egg, American cheese and haystack onions.  The juiciness of the meat, the crunch of the onions and the slightly runny egg are a combination that would have even the strictest of herbivores drooling.  Smashburger makes some of the best milkshakes ($3.99) I’ve ever had.  Haagen-Dazs is the ice cream they use and vanilla, chocolate and strawberry are the flavors they offer.  Basics, done well.

Smashburger Milk Shake

Some of the other limited-time menu options being served are the Smashchicken sandwiches ($5.99) (grilled or crispy) and the Smashsalads ($6.99 whole and $4.39 half) (Honey-Mustard, Chicken Caesar or Harvest Chicken).

Did I need to get a couple extra workouts in after eating this meal? Yes.  Was it completely worthwhile? Absolutely.

The Denver-based chain hopes to have over 500 franchise locations in the next five years and I’m praying for a location nearer to my home.  Are you lucky enough to have a Smashburger location in your neck of the woods?  See for yourself: www.smashburger.com