Forget Lifetime and their “Seven Days of Sex.” You know what’s really going to get those juices flowing? Flatbread pizzas. And tapas. Maybe some Cannoli for dessert. And BYOB restaurants in Bergen County. Priorities! You’ve been so busy this summer you’ve barely noticed the new crop of eateries opening in our area, and North Jersey’s “culinary renaissance” really warrants some attention. So after checking out casual burger and hot dog joints in June we set out on a more serious dining tour of seven newcomers- to give you a taste of what’s out there.
Newcomer: Mezza (31 Westwood Ave, Westwood, (201) 722-8822)
With Who and When: Monday, table for two, just Mama and her tot for an early dinner.
Why You Should Hit it: Fresh, Tasty Mediterranean Cuisine: a local favorite as evidenced by the lively crowd and almost packed house on a Monday night.
Standouts: Naan with Eggplant Dip (the best we’ve tasted), Asparagus Salad, Moroccan Chicken, Branzino with Hen of the Woods Mushrooms and Cockles.
Notes: Was just named “Worth It” in a recent New York Times review, and chef Michael Merida has a resume that includes stints in European kitchens and Mia Dona in NYC. BYOB.
Newcomer: Spuntino Wine Bar and Italian Tapas (70 Kingsland Road, Clifton, (973) 661-2435)
With Who and When: Tuesday, table for four, dinner with friends
Why You Should Hit it: The industrial styled bustling space is perfect for pre or post Meadowlands fun or with a group for a night out of sharing Italian tapas plates. Killer wine list and sommelier included.
Standouts: The Bruschetta Sampler and Salsiccia and Broccoli Rabe Pasta finished off with the Ciambelle (house donuts with chocolate sauce)
Notes: Spuntino, meaning “snack” in Italian, opened its doors on April 23rd and has more locations planned.
Newcomer: Cafe 37 (37 South Broad Street, Ridgewood, 201-857-0437)
With Who and When: Wednesday, table for 2, with a gal pal for a quick midday bite
Why You Should Hit it: Delicious seasonal contemporary American cuisine served in a pretty, serene space that just opened last month. The constantly changing menu includes chicken, steak and fish prepared daily. All desserts are also made in house.
Standouts: The Café 37 Chopped Salad with Grilled Chicken and the Smoked Turkey and Avocado Tartine for lunch. Filet Mignon with a Red Wine Reduction for Dinner.
Notes: Chef/Owner Sotomayor previously manned the helm at Village Green and did a stint at Latour. Tucked away on a side street, the BYOB is a great place to steal away to for a romantic dinner, especially the outdoor tables on a breezy summer eve.
Newcomer: Café Doma Doma (215D RiverVale Road, Rivervale, 201-497-8191)
With Who and When: Thursday, table for 3, with Bergen Mama staffers for a business lunch
Why You Should Hit it: This casual café, next door to Mindy’s Munchies serves up authentic, fresh and light Japanese and Korean dishes prepared open kitchen style. We love it for lunch or an easy dine in or take out with the kids.
Standouts: Vegetable Gyoza with an Edamame mash inside, Chicken Teriyaki Bento Box and Chicken Yakisoba.
Notes: Chef/owner Maryanne Lee trained at the Swiss School of Tourism and Hospitality in Switzerland.
Newcomer: Zana D (50 Prospect Terrace, Tenafly, (201) 894-1211)
With Who and When: Friday, table for 3, with our 5 year old in tow
Why You Should Hit it: Menu is traditional southern Italian, but taste and service is better than most- even our preschooler felt special. We loved the extras like valet parking and the varied wine list.
Standouts: The perfectly crisp and lightly Fried Calamari, Burrata and Chopped Salad for Starters. Chicken Barta as a main course and the Cannoli for dessert.
Notes: The veteran restaurateurs’ behind Zana also own Arta in Ringwood and Momento in West Milford.
Newcomer: O lar (587 Piermont Ave, Piermont, NY, (845) 848-2207)
With Who and When: Saturday, table for 6, dinner with friends
Why You Should Hit it: Piermont rocks. And we loved watching the food prep in the closely situated open kitchen. This inventive Mediterranean serves up fresh tapas style dishes and brick oven pizzas made to order.
Standouts: Thin Crust Pizzas and Flatbread with three dipping sauces, Paella Overflowing Out of a Steamy Pot, House Made Spanish Fries and Nutella Pizza for dessert.
Notes: BYOB, cash only, no reservations and only 7 tables make this a tough spot to get into on a Friday or Saturday.
Newcomer: The Farmhouse (15 E Madison Avenue, Cresskill, (201) 266-8931)
With Who and When: Sunday, table for 8, brunch with another family
Why You Should Hit it: An authentic, campy farmhouse space serving up fresh salads, sandwiches, soups and all day breakfast from the moms who brought us “Moms Cooking” in Cresskill.
Standouts: Asian Chopped Salad With Chicken, Cobb Salad, and the house made soups and quiches.
Notes: We pretended we were in a camp bunk but with much better food; great for casual lunches and early family dinners when cooking is out of the question.