A good restaurant can be hard to find, but for chefs Ted and Heather Rozzi, that’s just the way they like it. The husband-and-wife team, who have been making a big splash in the kitchen at Stella Artisan Italian Café and Market, are now also dipping their toes into a new top-secret new restaurant in Ridgewood NJ called No. 12. It’s all very hush-hush, but when we heard about this most delicious dining adventure, our inner Nancy Drew was fast on the case. Here’s what we’ve uncovered.
We showed up at Stella last Saturday night and checked in with the host, who stealthily handed us a card with a code written on it, and whispered instructions for us to head around the corner to a not-so-obvious blue door with a keypad installed on it. We punched in the code, held our breath, turned the doorknob, and sure enough, it opened—we were in!
Once we’d slipped inside, we understood what all the secrecy was about. It was like stepping into a Prohibition-era speakeasy, except this one was playing late-80s and early-90s hip-hop and was decked out with a beautiful, long raw bar packed with some of the freshest crustaceans and shellfish to come out of the Atlantic. With only about 50 seats in the entire place, it’s a tight squeeze, but well worth booking ahead for.
After being greeted by our hip host, we were whisked to our table. But wait, where were the menus, our inner detective asked. Turns out there are none. Nightly offerings—primarily tapas-style small-plate dishes that are meant to be shared— are written on the wall. The Rozzis, who currently only operate No. 12 on Fridays and Saturdays (but may extend hours to Thursday, if there’s a demand), will cook whatever they feel like that particular night. Only the raw bar—including its 10 varieties of oysters will be a constant.
This particular evening offered up an assortment of shareable “toasts,” foie gras, a wedge salad, a special pasta, and a few creative steak, chicken, and fish dishes. After digging in to an oven-fresh warm popover, we ordered up an assortment of oysters and shrimp from the raw bar as well as the Mushroom Toast with Cream and a Tarte Flambé (think mini pizza topped with onions and ham). All were amazing.
Still hungry from all our sleuthing, we also asked for the Flank Steak, which arrived on a bed of sautéed onions and spinach, and a side of Honey Carrots, which sounds simple but was an absolute standout thanks to the spicy honey sauce covering the perfectly roasted heirloom carrots. All were washed down with a glass of red. (Note: This place is BYOB, but they do offer a small selection of NJ wines by the bottle.)
Desserts included freshly fried beignets and something called “Fancy Cake,” which we would've loved to have tried, but like the size of the place, there just wasn’t any room left in our stomachs. We’ll be sure to investigate that part of the menu next time!No. 12 12 E. Ridgewood Ave., Ridgewood (201) 857-2677 Reservations accepted