102 CAN’T-MISS RESTAURANTS: FROM OLD WORLD ITALIAN BISTROS AND SWANKY STEAKHOUSES TO CHIC WATERFRONT CAFÉS WITH VIEWS OF THE NYC CITYSCAPE, THE GARDEN STATE IS BRIMMING WITH TOP-NOTCH DINING EXPERIENCES. WHETHER YOU’RE CRAVING PASTA, PORK SHANK, OR PEKING DUCK, HERE ARE 101 LOCAL RESTAURANTS TO TRY THIS AUTUMN

BY AMANDA MCCOY

 

 

DAVID BURKE
Nicknamed the Culinary Prankster, the celebrity chef and New Jersey native is a pioneer in American cooking and has built a wildly successful culinary empire, including several restaurants across the state and in New York, North Carolina, and Saudi Arabia. Chef Burke is also the author of two cookbooks, has a high-end cookware line (dubbed Freiling), launched a virtual online cooking demo program dubbed CookinDB IGTV, and founded #FeedtheHeroes, a program that cooked and delivered more than 100,000 meals to frontline workers and charities throughout the pandemic. chefdavidburke.com

 

 

Hand & Stone SPREAD

 

 

 

1776 BY DAVID BURKE
Brimming with energy, joviality, and style, this elevated American haunt from the beloved local chef features a global menu, artfully chic décor, and a substantial international wine list. Break bread over unconventional pizzas, creative pastas, and dry aged meats in the whimsical dining room and bar area. Or, for a more exhilarating dining experience, book the 1776 Top golf Swing Suite, featuring Burke’s menu, fully equipped bar, and state-of-the-art golf simulators. 67 E Park Pl, Morristown, 1776bydb.com

2ND JETTY
Casual Sea Bright staple famed for fresh, seasonal seafood served patio side. The menu is filled with odes to the owners’ many travels to tropical coastal locales and includes a raw bar, hearty handhelds, soups, salads, apps, and deluxe entrees like cashew crusted organic salmon, seared golden coravin, and heaping plates of lobster. 140 Ocean Ave N, Sea Bright, 2ndjetty.com

618 RESTAURANT
A true destination restaurant, this romantic rustic-chic eatery and event space is famed for creative hand-crafted cocktails, sizzling prime cut steaks, fresh fish delivered daily, and decadent homemade desserts. Additional highlights include stuffed poblano peppers, lobster ravioli, and Cajun BBQ shrimp and grits. 618 Park Ave, Freehold Township, 618nj.com

A SALUTE
A 19th century church was reborn as a chic, energetic Italian eatery and cocktail bar in Matawan. Feast on scratch-made pastas, Italian classics like eggplant rollatini and chicken parm, and the most authentic Detroit style pizza outside Motor City. Open for both lunch and dinner. There’s also a 180-seat outdoor bar with live entertainment and daily happy hour. 74 Main St, Matawan, asalutenj.com

AARZU MODERN INDIAN BISTRO
The piquant flavors of the East waft throughout the trendy dining room of this authentic Indian hotspot, from Tandoori salmon and potato pea samosas to coconut chicken and braised lamb roganjosh. There’s an assortment of classic Indian street food, too. 30 E Main St, Freehold, aarzu.com

ABBIOCCO RESTAURANT
Classic Italian fare in a luxurious yet laid-back setting in the Channel Club Marina along the Shrewsbury River. Here, hot meatball sliders are topped with fresh ricotta and arugula, fan-favorite halibut is abetted by asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes, and shrimp and scallop scampi is paired with Calabrian chili, garlic, parsley, and oregano and served over spaghetti. 2 Channel Dr, Monmouth Beach

AGRICOLA EATERY
Buzzy new American eatery loved for its farm-to-fork iterations of stateside classics. Think fresh, organic salads, wild mushroom pate, Barnegat Bay scallops, and fried green tomatoes with spiced red lentils and pepper relish. The wine list is equally impressive. 11 Witherspoon St, Princeton, agricolaeatery.com

ANEMOS
Get instantly transported to Santorini at this upscale Greek eatery, featuring Mediterranean-inspired fare in a bright, jovial space. A massive fish display showcases the day’s bounty, and the menu is filled with authentic Greek delicacies like falafel, baked sea bass, grilled swordfish steak, and pastichio, a thin Greek pasta with ground beef and lamb, topped with creamy bechamel. 333 US-9, Manalapan Township, anemosgreekcuisine.com

ANJELICA’S RESTAURANT
The family recipes at this cozy BYOB were inspired by the rich culinary traditions of southern and northern Italy, specifically Avellino, Sicily, and Lombardy, with thoughtful renditions of Italian-American adaptations. Dine indoors or in the charming outdoor garden under the glow of bistro lights as you feast on Italian street sammies by day and baked tagliolini, rigatoni Bolognese, and veal scallopini at night. 1070 Ocean Ave N, Sea Bright, anjelicas.com

ANGELINA’S RISTORANTE
Located just across the bridge but seemingly half a world away, this swanky Italian staple is housed in a tri-level mansion by the water. The flagship of the Malerba family’s collective of restaurants, Angelina’s has long been a favorite for special occasion dining, milestone events, and romantic date nights. Expect traditional Sicilian dishes like veal chops, spaghetti cacio e pepe, and homemade black squid ink linguine with fresh seafood. 399 Ellis St, Staten Island, angelinasristorante.com

ASBURY PARK YACHT CLUB
Hip, laid-back restaurant and surf bar aptly located just steps from the beach that doubles as a live music venue and hosts free weekend shows. The collection of local brews is equally impressive, inspired by its owner’s travels around the world to different surfing hotspots. 1000 Ocean Ave N, Asbury Park, apyachtclub.com

AUNT BUTCHIE’S OF BROOKLYN
The iconic Brooklyn-based café expanded first into Staten Island and then the Garden State. This lively, full service restaurant and bakery features coffee, cakes, and a copious selection of hyper-fresh Italian-American dishes. Menu highlights include artichokes stuffed with breadcrumbs, fresh garlic, and Locatelli Romano cheese; Chilean sea bass marinated in miso and garlic; and baked spaghetti with shrimp and prosciutto in a cream cognac sauce. Be sure to share the stuffed meatballs as an app. 430 US-9, Englishtown, auntbutchiesofbrooklyn.com

JAMES AVERY
With nearly two decades of hospitality experience (including starring alongside culinary czar Gordon Ramsay as a sous chef and restaurant patron on Hell’s Kitchen 2013-2015, and as a consultant chef on Kitchen Nightmares (2011), this Jersey Shore native currently leads a pair of Asbury Park restaurants, with plans to open more through his hospitality group, Nicely Done Hospitality. chefjamesavery.com

 

 

 

 

 

AQUA BLU KITCHEN & COCKTAILS
A convivial family dining destination serving seasonal farm-fresh American fare amid an energetic ambiance with live entertainment every Wednesday through Saturday. The shore side locale partners with more than 120 sustainable farms to source local, organic ingredients for dishes like crispy rock shrimp with Calabrian chili aioli, spaghetti with slow cooked pomodoro and homemade meatballs, and pan-roasted filet mignon. Gerard Esposito performs live every Wednesday. 3410 NJ-37, Toms River, aquablurestaurant.com

AVENUE LE CLUB
Mere steps from the beaches of Long Branch, this polished locale is a creative mix of modern French brasserie and St. Tropez day club. Food served across three venues: the restaurant, beach club, and beach bar. For more bites, the restaurant serves luxe hors d’oeuvres, raw seafood and caviar, elevated salads, steaks, and daily specials. 23 Ocean Ave N, Long Branch, leclubavenue.com

 

 

 

 

 

BEACH TAVERN
An eclectic dockside eatery serving an array of land and sea favorites, from steak frites and shellfi sh to sushi and sandwiches. Its Channel Club Marina location provides the perfect spot to dock your boat and kick back with a cocktail and local catch of the day. 33 West St, Monmouth Beach, beachtavern.net

BELMONT TAVERN
The quintessential New Jersey Italian restaurant for more than 50 years, serving an iconic menu of escarole salad, fiery hot peppers, simple pasta dishes, seafood, steaks, and espresso. 12 Bloomfield Ave, Belleville, belmonttavern.business.site

THE BLACK SWAN Authentic
European-style pub housed in a century-old former bank in historic Asbury Park from chef/restaurateur James Avery and Sebastian Walker. The menu features all the classics: shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, Scottish eggs, and a piquant chicken tikka masala plus English pints, of course! 601 Mattison Ave, Asbury Park, theblackswanap.com

BIRRAVINO
Authentic Italian favors are paired with a sweeping selection of local house beers at this vibrant concept restaurant from Vic Rallo, host of Eat! Drink! Italy! Begin with Italian cured meats and cheeses before devouring heartier options like bruschetta, bubbling pizzas, hot paninis, and pastas. For non-beer adult libations, the wine and spirits list is substantive, too. 183 Riverside Ave, Red Bank, birravino.com

THE BONNEY READ
A bright and buzzy chowder house in the heart of the Asbury Park action. Chef/owner James Avery crafts creative dishes using hyper-fresh, locally sourced seafood, from creamy chowders and Maine lobster to Alaskan snow crab and a catch of the day. Oysters and clams are shucked to order and served raw, hot, or in the rough. 525 Cookman Ave, Asbury Park, thebonneyread.com

STEVEN BOTTA AND ANGELO BONGIOVANNI
When industry powerhouses like chef Steven Botta and accomplished restaurateur Angelo Bongiovanni team up, magic happens. The pair co-own and operate several New Jersey staples, including the high-end Osteria Cucina Rustica in Marlboro (opened in 2013), the cozy Italian haunt Brando’s Citi Cucina (an Asbury Park mainstay since 2011), and their newest venture, Feast Italian Kitchen, which debuted in 2019. Fans should keep tabs on the power duo, as plans are in the works to continue expanding their culinary empire.

 

 

 

 

 

BOTTAGRA RESTAURANT
Hip, Italian haunt that brings the energy of Manhattan’s Meatpacking District to NJ, loved for lively weekend brunch, southern Italian spirit, heartfelt cooking, and locally famous Thursday Night Dinner parties. The latter features a full menu of pasta, sizzling steaks, raw favorites, and seafood, plus live DJs and bottle service. 80 Wagaraw Rd, Hawthorne, bottagra.com

BRANDO’S CITI CUCINA
A modern interpretation of the classic “Osteria” (a place where an owner personally hosts his guests), this romantic Italian hotspot from chef Steven Botta and Christine Benton is revered for its authentic flavors, dry-aged prime meats, slow cooked meatballs, and genial atmosphere. The pasta is made in small batches, the bufala mozzarella is imported from Italy weekly, and the seasonal produce is hand-picked at the peak of freshness. 162 Main St, Asbury Park, brandosnj.com

BUONA SERA RISTORANTE
Formal yet inviting, this traditional Italian restaurant is dressed in ornate décor, white linen-topped tables, and vintage lighting fixtures, all setting the mood for a romantic feast. Cocktails are mixed behind the 120-year-old tiger oak bar, while wines are pulled from the massive 10,000-bottle cellar to pair with the classic Italiano fare. Owner Chris Mariani is famed for his welcoming hospitality, often greeting guests by name. 50 Maple Ave, Red Bank, buona-sera.com

CENTRADA COCINA & COCKTAILS
Buzzy new pan-Latin hotspot spread over three levels, blending Tulum, Cuba, and Barcelona into one immersive dining experience in Red Bank. Chef Norman Reola leads the menu, which features colorful Latin American favorites like grilled octopus with yellow pepper sauce, coriander crusted tuna, and whole fried snapper with warm tomato salad and caper chimichurri. The sweeping tequila and mezcal library is quite impressive, too. 8 W Front St, Red Bank, centradarestaurant.com

THE BUTCHER’S BLOCK
A farm-to-table butcher shop and high-end restaurant in one rustic-chic setting. All meats are grass fed and sourced from New Jersey and New York farms, then sizzled in a wood fired oven and served with organic sides. The Butcher Blend Block Burger, featuring house ground meat, aged cheddar, house-cured bacon, signature black sauce, fried onions, and beef fat fries, is the stuff of legends. 235 West Ave, Long Branch, thebutchersblocknj.com

CAFE LUNA
For ten years, this upscale Italian bistro has been bringing scratch-made classics to Old Bridge. Bubbling pizzas, prime steaks, homemade pastas, and local seafood are served in a bright, modern atmosphere, complemented by a robust wine selection from Italy, France, California, Oregon, and more. There’s also a massive 50-oz Porterhouse for two, served with creamed spinach, lobster mac, and frizzled onions. 3679 US-9, Old Bridge, cafelunanj.com

CARPACCIO
Since its birth in Miami’s Bal Harbour Shops 25 years ago, this upscale Italian haunt has been providing the quintessential Sicilian experience: home-cooked comfort dishes, fresh authentic flavors, and great wine. The iconic restaurant recently debuted in East Rutherford’s American Dream, bringing its famed pastas, pizzas, antipasti favorites, and Italian mainstays to the Garden State. 1 American Dream Wy, East Rutherford, carpaccioamericandream.com

 

 

 

 

 

CATCH 19
Sleek, friendly seafood locale covered in local artwork, famed for fresh catches and beautifully presented dishes. Dishes include tuna carpaccio crudo, prime NY strip, fennel dusted cod, blackened swordfish, and a sky-high seafood tower with king crab, oysters, clams, lobster tail, and cocktail shrimp. 19 Broad St, Red Bank, catch19redbank.com

CENTRADA COCINA & COCKTAILS
Buzzy new pan-Latin hotspot spread over three levels, blending Tulum, Cuba, and Barcelona into one immersive dining experience in Red Bank. Chef Norman Reola leads the menu, which features colorful Latin American favorites like grilled octopus with yellow pepper sauce, coriander crusted tuna, and whole fried snapper with warm tomato salad and caper chimichurri. The sweeping tequila and mezcal library is quite impressive, too. 8 W Front St, Red Bank, centradarestaurant.com

 

 

 

 

 

CHARKOL
A contemporary twist on the traditional steakhouse, this lively haunt uses a hand-crafted oak cherrywood oven to create the perfect charred crust on each piece of prime meat. An assortment of seafood, garden-fresh salads, house-made pastas, and wood-fi red pizzas round out the menu. 38 South St, Freehold, charkol.com

CHARLIE’S OF BAY HEAD
Longstanding waterfront favorite featuring contemporary American cuisine in upscale digs, with panoramic views of Twilight Lake. Begin with the expansive drink selection 20 handles of beer, hundreds of wines from California and around the world, or a classic cocktail before diving into a menu of blue claw crab cakes, Belgian steamed mussels, gourmet burgers, and decadent entrees like fi let mignon, cumin dusted lamb chops, and ponzu glazed seared tuna. 72 Bridge Ave, Bay

 

 

 

 

 

CHARLIE’S OF LINCROFT
The proprietors of Charlie’s of Bay Head recently celebrated the grand opening of their newest culinary destination. The 264-seat tavern serves modern American fare amid a stunning backdrop of mahogany, white brick, and vintage chandeliers. Menu highlights include braised pork belly, duck prosciutto pizza, and a 45-day dry-aged prime porterhouse for two. 700 Newman Springs Rd, Lincroft, charliesoflincroft.com

CORBO & SONS OSTERIA
Dual-location laid-back Italian eatery serving creative artisanal pies, handmade pastas, and cozy comfort dishes in Shrewsbury and within Bell Market in Holmdel. Standouts include veal ricotta meatballs, wild Atlantic halibut, and slow roasted duck breast. For a pizza love affair, opt for the classic Nonna, made with local mozzarella, pomodoro, grana padano, and Sicilian oregano, or the sausage and peppadew topped with Italian sausage, peppadew pesto, thyme roasted potatoes, ricotta, and fresh mozz. 555 Shrewsbury Ave, Shrewsbury; 101 Crawford’s Corner Road, Holmdel, linktr.ee/CorboandSons

COMMON LOT
Trendy new American eatery with an open kitchen, open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday nights. On Friday and Saturday, prix-fixe-style dining reigns supreme, a four-course gustatory journey through sashimi, poached shrimp, pine nut risotto, Thai noodles, seared duck breast, pan-fried branzino, and more. 27 Main St, Millburn, commonlot.com

CUBACAN BAR & RESTAURANT
Enjoy flavors of Cuba without hopping a flight at this vibrant Asbury Park eatery, loved for its authentic Latin ambiance in addition to Cuban classics oh, and uninterrupted ocean views! Menu stars include esquite (street corn), smoked swordfish taquitos, grilled pork chop in a honey garlic glaze, and a loaded Cubano sandwich. 800 Ocean Ave N, Asbury Park, cubacanrestaurant.com

DRIFTHOUSE BY DAVID BURKE
This iconic shore side locale is lauded for its Italian-Mediterranean cuisine served with a side of sunset views. Choose from a large menu of a la carte options, including braised short rib cavatelli, skirt steak with polenta fries, and whole lobster. Or, for larger appetites, opt for Chef Toni’s Italian classic prix-fixe, featuring an appetizer, main, and dessert for under $50. 1485 Ocean Ave N, Sea Bright, drifthousedb.com

ELEMENTS
Chic, clean, and bright, this award winning fi ne-dining restaurant is famous for its playful, often edgy renditions of American classics. The menu is constantly changing to reflect the seasonality of its ingredients and whims of its chefs, but expect steak and seafood prepared in innovative ways. Diners can opt for either a 15- or five-course tasting menu. 66 Witherspoon St, Princeton, elementsprinceton.com

CUZIN’S SEAFOOD-CLAM BAR
Born from the owner’s love for fresh ocean fare, Cuzin’s in Marlboro quickly became one of the most lauded seafood establishments in all of NJ. The family-owned eatery recently expanded into New Brunswick, and both locales offer hyper fresh seafood and prime cut steaks in rustic-chic digs. The menus offer everything from Maine lobster and shellfish towers to crispy calamari, elegantly dressed fish dishes, and Alaskan king crab legs. Seafood might be the star, but don’t miss the steaks, chops, and pastas, either. 130 S Main St, Marlboro; 78 Albany St, New Brunswick, cuzinsclambar.com

 

 

 

 

ELIA MEDITERRANEAN RESTAURANT
Bright white walls and an open kitchen with a stunning fish display set the scene for this glamorous Mediterranean eatery, featuring inventive twists on traditional Greek fare. Clink specialty cocktails as you dive into pan-fried saganaki cheese, domestic lamb chops, and whole grilled fi sh. 240 Hackensack St, East Rutherford, elianj.com

DINO & HARRY’S
The art of old-world dining is thriving at this classic white tablecloth steakhouse, set in a 19th century saloon, featuring a 150-year-old clock, stained glass, and a tin roof. Diners are serenaded by live piano as they feast on blackened salmon, grilled whole branzino, and homemade ravioli along with an assortment of steaks and chops. 163 14th St, Hoboken, dinoandharrys.com

 

 

 

 

 

FASCINO
Top-rated Italian bistro that focuses on the art of fine dining, impeccable service, and modern seasonal dishes. The motto here is “Italian without borders,” so expect global spins on time-tested staples, like avocado bruschetta and cacio e pepe scrambled eggs for brunch, and mascarpone polenta fries and olive crusted Scottish salmon for dinner. 331 Bloomfield Ave, Montclair, fascinorestaurant.com

 

 

 

 

 

FAUBOURG RESTAURANT AND BAR
A pair of NYC hospitality pros launched this classic brasserie to bring a taste of France to Montclair. The elegant venue boasts massive windows to foster an indoor-outdoor vibe, and the menu is brimming with modern twists on French staples. In true Parisian fashion, there’s also a substantial wine list, too. 544 Bloomfield Ave, Montclair, faubourgmontclair.com

FELINA
Landmark Hospitality’s inaugural restaurant, Felina is housed in a former neoclassical bank and features gorgeous marble columns, towering ceilings, exposed brick, massive windows, and a wraparound terrace for sipping cocktails at sunset. Open for dinner and brunch, the restaurant serves creative interpretations of classic Italian dishes like meatballs, pizzas, pastas, and mainstays. 18 Prospect St, Ridgewood, felinarestaurant.com

FIORINO
Old-world culinary techniques are honored at this warm Italian locale, serving beautifully presented reinterpretations of Tuscan classics. Spread over several rooms, the restaurant’s interiors pay homage to the romanticism of Siena and Florence, from the rich 20-seat mahogany bar to the murals encasing the primary dining room. Guests can also opt to feast in the wine room surrounded by thousands of vintage labels. 38 Maple St, Summit, fiorino.com

FRANK BRUSCO AND GABRIELLA VARSHAVSKY
Brusco, a Brooklyn-born first generation Italian-American, took his two children to their nonna’s every Sunday for a family meal (and to feast on her homemade Sunday Sauce). He was inspired to bring her recipes to his Holmdel neighbors, first with the cozy Italian bistro Patricia’s of Holmdel, followed by his high-end Italian steakhouse concept Gabriella’s Italian Steakhouse with business partner Gabriella Varshavsky. The partners have their sights set on expansion within Gabriella’s, set to debut later this year.

 

 

 

 

 

GABRIELLA’S ITALIAN STEAKHOUSE
The classic steakhouse is redefined for the modern diner at this gorgeous property, featuring a bright, contemporary atmosphere accented with a wood paneled ceiling, indoor trees and hanging plants, and a massive glass-sided wine cellar. The menu is filled with premium steaks, raw bar favorites, and Italian staples like cacio e pepe, truffle lumache, and chicken alla parmigiana. 447 NJ-35, Red Bank, gabriellasnj.com

GIRASOLE RISTORANTE
This 25-year-old family-owned Italian Mediterranean locale celebrates the slow movement with each dish made to order from scratch. The menu spans antipasti like gourmet Italian cheese, baked eggplant, and house made sweet Italian sausage, crisp salads, raw seafood, pastas, risotto, and savory home-style entrées. 3108 Pacific Ave, Atlantic City, mygirasole.com

THE GOAT BY DAVID BURKE
Opened in April, this 110-seat Italian American bistro features an open kitchen and wood-burning oven for a sizzling selection of upscale comfort eats. Highlights include “Made Here Daily” fresh mozzarella, bubbling signature pizzas, and inventive mains like beef short rib mushroom mac ‘n cheese, BBQ pork chop with peach chutney, and a cheeseburger “royale” with hand-cut fries. 1411 NJ-36, Union Beach, thegoatbydb.com

GRISSINI RESTAURANT
This plush Italian bistro brings the authentic flavors of northern Italy to the Garden State with festive yet classic old-world staples of antipasti, pizza, house-made pasta, steaks, and mains. Menu highlights include rack of Colorado lamb, loin of veal chop, panseared scallops, and squid ink pasta with assorted seafood. The Sunday family dinner is an Englewood Cliffs institution. 484 Sylvan Ave, Englewood Cliffs, grissinirestaurant.com

HEARTHLY BURGER
Fast casual is reimagined at this high-quality hotspot, featuring comfort classics like burgers, chicken sandwiches, fries, and shakes, all crafted of clean, organic, non-GMO ingredients. Top your burger (beef, chicken, vegan, or seafood) with a variety of creative add-ons like kimchi, pickled seasonal peppers, and homemade specialty sauces. 520 Broad St, Shrewsbury, hearthlyburger.com

HEIRLOOM AT THE ST. LAURENT
Stylish social club boasting a sleek cocktail bar, restaurant, boutique hotel, and pool. James Beard Award nominated chef David Viana leads the kitchen, pulling from hyper-fresh, seasonal ingredients to craft the lunch and dinner menus. The three-course prix-fixe dinner includes elegantly dressed options like grilled swordfish with black truffle polenta, duck with beluga lentils, and a dry-aged rib-eye with charred shishito. 408 7th Ave, Asbury Park, thestlaurent.com

THE HIGHLAWN
This fine-dining restaurant and private event space boasts one of the most sweeping panoramic views of NYC from its home atop the Eagle Rock Reservation in West Orange. Expect dishes that are as exquisitely presented as they are delicious, from jumbo crab cakes with Calabrian chiles and beef carpaccio to miso glazed Chilean sea bass and Faroe Island salmon with wood grilled asparagus. 1 Crest Dr, West Orange, highlawn.com

 

 

 

 

 

IL CAPRICCIO
This upscale Italian eatery whisks diners across the Atlantic with its red pinstriped seating, soaring arched ceiling, and magnificent artworks by painters Anatoly Ivanov and Patrizia Scarpellini. The vegetables are grown on the chef’s personal farm, and the wild line-caught fish is delivered from all over the world. Beef and veal meatballs, imported bufala mozzarella, octopus salad, handmade ancient grain spaghetti, slow cooked short ribs, and more. 633 Rt. 10 East, Whippany, ilcapriccio.com

IL COLOSSEO RISTORANTE
Authentic Italian excellence served on white tablecloths: imported burrata with homemade caponatina; homemade ravioli stuffed with broccoli rabe and sausage; swordfish with artichoke hearts; 16-oz veal chop with creamy truffle cognac sauce, and more. 500 NJ-35, Red Bank, ilcolosseoristorante.com

IL NIDO
Upscale yet cozy, this modern Italian restaurant sets the bar in sustainability, sourcing only all-natural, non-GMO ingredients from local purveyors, plus a few staples straight from Italy. Dishes are served amid rustic farmhouse décor, and include a breadth of antipasti, fresh cheeses, local salads, homemade pastas, chops, seafood, and prime dry-aged beef. 184 Route 9 North, Marlboro, ilnidonj.com

 

 

 

 

 

INLET CAFE
Dine amid sweeping vistas of Sandy Hook and the Atlantic Ocean at this no-frills dockside locale, open for lunch and dinner. The seafood-forward menu features Blue point oysters, whole Maine lobster, tuna tacos, and Caribbean jerk shrimp, plus pastas, burgers, and a clambake for two. 3 Cornwall St, Highlands, inletcafe.com

METROPOLITAN CAFÉ
Jet-set to the Pacific Rim at this stylish American bistro, sushi bar, and lounge in Freehold, featuring a dizzying selection of sea-centric delicacies like crab cakes, sautéed clams, and scallop pinwheels. Landlubber highlights include Asian skirt steak, BBQ glazed short ribs, and center cut pork chop with apricot mustard sauce. 8 E Main St, Freehold, metrocafenj.com

 

 

 

 

 

LA LUPA Romantic, BYOB
Italian bistro serving scratch-made staples on dark wooden tables. Feast upon fresh focaccia and Roman-style rice balls to start, before diving into mains like rigatoni carbonara, Dutch county chicken, East Coast grouper, and a selection of Neapolitan pizzas. 123 NJ-33, Manalapan Township, lalupanj.com

LANDMARK HOSPITALITY
The Cretella family (husband and wife team Jeanne and Frank along with their daughter Maddy) built their prominent hospitality group from the ground up, which now encompasses several high-end restaurants, special event venues, and experiences across the state and in Pennsylvania, with more on the way. In addition to the restaurants on this list, the family operates restaurant Ferry + Main, hotel/event venue Hotel du Village, and the Logan inn, all in New Hope, PA, plus the wedding venue Hudson House in Jersey City. Be on the lookout for two new concepts, the Albion and Anzu, scheduled to debut soon. landmarkhospitality.com

 

 

 

 

 

LANGOSTA LOUNGE
An Asbury Park mainstay since 2008, this vibrant shore side restaurant and lounge features a lively, art-forward atmosphere, live music, and hip cocktails along with fresh, hand-rolled sushi and sashimi. Each night is tied to a theme, from Sunday’s Rhythm and Booze to Coastal Livin’ Tuesdays with steamed lobster and drink specials. 1000 Ocean Ave, Asbury Park, langostalounge.com

LE MALT LOUNGE
A fête extraordinaire from chef Duke (who also owns an exclusive member’s only cigar lounge in Red Bank, Le Malt Royale), this lively tapas and lounge concept serves creative American small plates alongside a lengthy wine and spirits list. On Thursdays, sip cocktails to the melodies of live jazz from talented local musician Melanie Marod and her jazz band. 1021 St Georges Ave #2, Colonia, lemaltlounge.com

LIBERTY HOUSE
Dine amid the lush gardens of Liberty State Park with views of NYC, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty in the background. The Library Room of Liberty House features glass walls that open to the outdoors, an open-air patio, fire pits, private garden, and menu of farm-to-table American favorites and sushi, including swordfish, roasted halibut, and a juicy rib-eye. 76 Audrey Zapp Dr, Jersey City, libertyhouserestaurant.com

LEFKES ESTIATORIO
This Santorini-inspired concept serves traditional Greek flavors with a trendy twist, combining ingredients sourced from local purveyors and farms to achieve authentic yet creative Mediterranean fare. Dish on lamb, seafood pasta, and mushroom risotto in the elegant dining room, upstairs lounge, outdoor patio with a fire pit, or private dining space. 495 Sylvan Ave, Englewood Cliffs, lefkesnj.com

PATRICIA’S OF HOLMDEL
Owner Frank Brusco brings his family recipes to his Holmdel neighbors at this cozy Italian spot, from pizzas and handmade pastas to his nonna’s famous meatballs. Menu standouts include the namesake pizza, topped with fresh seasonal figs, fig jam, baby arugula, and goat cheese with a balsamic and truffle oil drizzle; and the pappardelle Bolognese topped with veal, pork, and beef meat sauce. 2132 NJ-35, Holmdel, patriciasofholmdel.com

LUNELLO
A Cedar Grove institution since 1900, this romantic fi ne-dining bistro from chef Louis Seger serves a mix of Italian classics and innovative specialties. The pastas are made from scratch, and the fish is flown in from the Mediterranean and Hawaii. Creative presentation and a gregarious staff complete the experience. 182 Stevens Ave, Cedar Grove, lunello.com

MOLLY PITCHER INN RESTAURANT & BAR
Elegant new American dining for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch inside the historic Molly Pitcher Inn, boasting a menu of fresh local fare. Lighter options span berry, quinoa, and skirt steak salads plus American sturgeon caviar and a shrimp cocktail. For the famished, feast upon a buttermilk chicken sandwich, jumbo crab cakes, or classic chicken pot pie. 88 Riverside Ave, Red Bank, themollypitcher.com

NICHOLAS’S BARREL & ROOST
Chic but non-fussy locale that whips up classic American comfort fare, from creative bar snacks like crispy pork belly and fried house-made pickles to cozy mains like butter poached Nova Scotia lobster and bourbon braised suckling pig. There is also a variety of pizzas, pastas, and sammies on the menu, too. 160 NJ-35, Red Bank, barrelandroost.com

LOUIS SEGER
A 1978 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, this celebrated chef sharpened his skills at NYC’s famed Rainbow Room, first as an apprentice then saucier, before gaining experience in many other prominent New York locales and ultimately opening his own fine-dining Italian bistro, LuNello, in 1990. Toting several awards and accolades, chef Seger was also among 20 renowned chefs invited to “Evening of Tastings” sponsored by Vino-Cucina’s scholarship program.

 

 

 

 

 

NINETY ACRES AT NATIRAR
This sweeping culinary destination harbors a 12-acre sustainable farm, world-class cooking school, and fine dining restaurant. The latter features in-room and outdoor dining, offering a European American menu of house made pastas and pizzas, crisp salads, and decadent mains like duck breast with plum sauce, dry-aged striploin, and smoked pork rack. 200 Natirar Dr, Peapack, natirar.com

NONNA’S CITI CUCINA
With a crackling fire in the background, this rustic Italian haunt serves modern renditions of beloved classics. A warm, genial vibe complements the menu, which includes burrata mozzarella with heirloom tomato, prosciutto, and roasted peppers; a clam pizzetta topped with garlic and mozz; and classic spaghetti and meatballs, plus chops, steaks, and fresh seafood. Parties of four or more can also opt to dine family style. 448 Route 9 North Englishtown, nonnasnj.net

ORCHARD PARK BY DAVID BURKE
Tucked within the exquisite grounds of the Château Grande Hotel, this mod American eatery from the gregarious celebrity chef features a lively open kitchen, 1,500-bottle wine cellar, and cool mid-century modern décor. Dine under a glowing pink Himalayan salt wall, the same salt chef Burke uses to dry-age steaks like fi let mignon, New York strip, rib-eye, and a tender Chateaubriand for two. Creative pizzas, pastas, and surf-n-turf round out the menu. 670 Cranbury Rd, East Brunswick, orchardparkbydb.com

OSTERIA CUCINA RUSTICA
Old-world hospitality meets modern delights in this upscale Italian restaurant from chef Steve Botta and Angelo Bongiovanni. The menu is filled with family recipes passed down through the generations, including scratch-made meatballs, pizzas cooked in a 900-degree wood oven, and pappardelle with wild mushrooms and shaved black truffle. 91 S Main St, Marlboro, osterianj.com

OVER EASY KITCHEN
Following the rousing success of its first location in Marlboro, this brunch only concept now has three locations throughout the state. The menu centers on fresh, clean, seasonal ingredients, from local grass-fed beef to Bell & Evans organic chicken. All omelettes are prepared with EVOO, and the brioche is imported from France. 460 County Road 520, Marlboro; 2111 Route 35 South, Holmdel; 588 River Road, Fair Haven, overeasykitchen.com

PATRICIA’S OF HOLMDEL
Owner Frank Brusco brings his family recipes to his Holmdel neighbors at this cozy Italian spot, from pizzas and handmade pastas to his nonna’s famous meatballs. Menu standouts include the namesake pizza, topped with fresh seasonal figs, fig jam, baby arugula, and goat cheese with a balsamic and truffle oil drizzle; and the pappardelle Bolognese topped with veal, pork, and beef meat sauce. 2132 NJ-35, Holmdel, patriciasofholmdel.com

 

 

 

 

 

PEARL RESTAURANT AT OYSTER POINT
Located inside the famed Red Bank boutique hotel, this glamorous restaurant and bar is surrounded by oversized windows to bathe diners in views of the water as they dish on contemporary American cuisine with sprinkles of Asian influences. Crab cakes, quesadillas, chopped salads, burgers, fish and chips, and more. 146 Bodman Pl, Red Bank, theoysterpointhotel.com

PEKING PAVILION
For decades, this upscale Asian hotspot has been satiating appetites for authentic Chinese fare in Monmouth County. The ambiance is elegant yet relaxed, and the menu features beloved favorites like crispy steak with tangy tangerine sauce, rack of lamb, honey miso salmon, and (of course) a slow roasted Peking duck served with steamed crepes. 110 NJ33, Manalapan Township, pekingpavilion.com

 

 

 

 

 

POPS GARAGE
A trendy Mexican eatery on the Asbury Park boardwalk loved for its authentic Sayulita style fare and convivial vibe. Menu rock stars include juicy overstuffed burritos, homemade tacos, and Pop’s Cuban Corn. 1000 Ocean Ave N, Asbury Park, popsgaragenj.com

PRIME & VINE
The newest dining destination in Eagle Oaks Golf Club, this adults only steakhouse and wine bar takes patrons on a time capsule back to the roaring ‘20s. An Art Deco mural serves as the focal point of the glamorous space, offset by white tablecloth topped tables, edged glass doors, and a glass-sided wine cellar. There’s also a private dining room for up to 16 guests along with an outdoor terrace with a waterfall view. 20 Shore Oaks Dr, Farmingdale, eagleoaks.com

PROVING GROUND
Nestled along the Shrewsbury River, this luxurious, land-back eatery features inventive cocktails, local craft beers, and creative all-day and brunch menus, all with stunning views of the water. Highlights include bacon wrapped scallops, fresh ceviche, lobster rolls, and specialty tacos. 56 Shrewsbury Ave, Highlands, theprovingground.com

RED HORSE BY DAVID BURKE
A modern American steakhouse and sushi bar featuring chef Burke’s signature whimsy and award-winning dry-aged meats. In addition to juicy prime cuts (including a 4-oz A5 Miyazaki Wagyu on a salt brick), the menu spans oysters, Asian-inspired apps, and upscale surf-n-turf. The on-site Sushi Loft serves a selection of nigiri, sashimi, and maki rolls. Be sure to visit on Sundays for either the three-course prix-fixe brunch or burger night in the Sushi Loft. 26 Ridge Rd, Rumson, redhorsebydb.com

RISTORANTE MV
Channeling the essence of Italian culture, cuisine, ambiance, and service, this lovely, old-world restaurant is brimming with charm. Feast on home-cooked classics amid towering brick walls, hand-painted murals, and indoor trees. The menu flows from antipasti and small plates to rich, hearty portions of chicken, seafood, and veal. Pair your meal with a glass of vino, just be prepared to choose from a menu of hundreds. 1 Mill St, Bernardsville, ristorantemv.com

THE RIVER PALM TERRACE
Bergen County steakhouse famed for in-house 28-day dry-aged meats, hand-selected and cut by the restaurant’s resident butcher. Local seafood and sushi are also served alongside the steaks, in addition to expertly crafted cocktails and international wines. 1416 River Rd, Edgewater, riverpalm.com

STEAKHOUSE 85
The quintessential American steakhouse reimagined for the modern appetite. Since 2008, owner Matthew Terranova and team have been serving accolade-winning dry-aged steaks, rubbed with sea salt, black pepper, and fresh herbs and seared on a 1,200-degree cast iron grill. The lengthy wine list has also nabbed several awards, too. 85 Church St, New Brunswick, steakhouse85.com

 

 

 

 

 

THE RIVER PALM TERRACE
Bergen County steakhouse famed for in-house 28-day dry-aged meats, hand-selected and cut by the restaurant’s resident butcher. Local seafood and sushi are also served alongside the steaks, in addition to expertly crafted cocktails and international wines. 1416 River Rd, Edgewater, riverpalm.com

ROSALITA’S ROADSIDE CANTINA
This lively Tex-Mex extravaganza is famed for its farm-to-table, slow roasted meats, sizzling fajitas, massive hungry-man burritos, and margarita menu. Using organic, locally sourced ingredients, cuisiniers craft a culinary library: think 11 enchilada dishes, 12 fajita options, and even more tacos! 180 US-9, Englishtown; 1048 Cedarbridge Ave, Brick Township, rosiescantinanj.com

RUOCCO’S RESTAURANT
A bright, friendly, family-run restaurant lauded for its fresh Italian-American cuisine with global influences. The menu is a nod to old world comforts with a contemporary twist, from starters like Italian egg rolls and Sicilian rice balls to mains of honey roasted salmon and double cut pork chop. 345 rt 9 South, Manalapan Township, ruoccoson9.com

THE SADDLE RIVER INN
Rising from the banks of the Saddle River, this chateau-chic restaurant rests in a former sawmill and basket weaving factory circa 1840. Today, it lives on as a contemporary French eatery, serving elegant dishes like Wagyu steak tartare, Spanish octopus, and smoked salmon and caviar. 2 Barnstable Ct, Saddle River, saddleriverinn.com

SCALINI FEDELI
Embark on a culinary journey through Tuscany at this Chatham fine-dining restaurant, featuring soaring vaulted ceilings, antique pine floors, and white tablecloth-topped tables inside a 260-year-old farmhouse. The four-course prix-fixe menu features Tuscan staples like buffalo mozzarella, butternut agnolotti, breast of duck in a port and truffle reduction, veal Milanese, and more. 63 Main St, Chatham, scalinifedeli.com

THE RYLAND INN
This former country home and stagecoach stop was reborn as a romantic restaurant and event space, dressed with rustic wooden beams, glamorous chandeliers, stone fireplaces, and breathtaking 30-foot windows. The seasonal menu is crafted of local, sustainable ingredients from nearby farms and purveyors. 115 Old Hwy 28, Whitehouse Station, rylandinnnj.com

 

 

 

 

 

SIRENA RISTORANTE
Ultra-chic white tablecloth dining in Long Branch’s Pier Village, offering classic Italian dishes inspired by chef/owner Joseph Cetrulo’s travels throughout Italy. All ingredients are meticulously selected from either local or Italian purveyors, or otherwise made in house. Meatballs, homemade pastas, Neapolitan pizzas, fresh fish, chops, steaks, and more. 27 Ocean Ave N, Long Branch, sirenaristorante.com

 

 

 

 

 

SOFIA
An eclectic Italian steakhouse concept housed in a trendy bi-level space with floor-to-ceiling windows, a garden room with retractable roof, and a ventilated, speakeasy-style cigar lounge and bar. Dinner often turns to late-night cocktails and dancing as the restaurant regularly hosts live music and DJs. The seafood is flown in daily, meats are USDA prime, and the pastas are made in house. 36 Engle St, Englewood, sofiaenglewood.com

SOLO TRATTORIA
A cozy, intimate dining room sets the stage for the main event: authentic Italian gastronomy. Fried veal meatballs, Sicilian octopus carpaccio, house-made fusilli with seafood, center cut pork shanks, classic eggplant parm, and scoops of fresh mozzarella molto delizioso! 7 South St, Freehold, solotrattoria.com

SON CUBANO
Overlooking the Manhattan cityscape, this trendy Cuban supper club is an ultra-luxurious dining and entertainment destination with two dining rooms, two bars, a lounge area, and outdoor patio with sweeping NYC views. There’s live entertainment nearly every night of the week to pair with the classic Cubano fare, including churrasco, spicy ceviche, mango guacamole, and bone-in pork chops. 40-4 Riverwalk Pl, West New York, soncubanonj.com

SPRING LAKE SEAFOOD
A modern interpretation of the classic fish market, this relaxed seafood destination teams with local fishing boats, farms, and purveyors to bring hyper-fresh ocean and garden fare to Spring Lake. On the menu are lobster rolls, farm salads, clam chowder, day boat scallops, garlic shrimp, and more. There’s also a market to take a piece of the ocean home with you. 1300 3rd Ave, Spring Lake, springlakeseafood.com

STELLA MARINA
Chic Italian-forward eatery on the Asbury Park Boardwalk featuring floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the ocean along with an outdoor patio. Fare spans all the mainstays: creamy burrata, homemade spaghetti, linguini with fresh clams, charred-bottom pizzas, and whole grilled branzino, plus steaks, chops, and veal. 800 Ocean Ave N, Asbury Park, stellamarinarestaurant.com

STONE HOUSE AT STIRLING RIDGE
This stunning restaurant and event space from Landmark Hospitality stretches across ten acres in the Watching mountains. An open kitchen, commanding wine tower, and hearth fi replace set the ambiance, while the menu attempts to steal the show with upscale renditions of farm-to-fork classics like salmon tartare, roasted Amish chicken, and a signature burger with white cheddar and bacon and onion jam. 50 Stirling Rd, Warren, stonehouseatstirlingridge.com

TAKA
Swanky Japanese restaurant and bar rooted in family tradition but presented with modern flair. The Asbury Park favorite features a massive menu of classic apps like blistered shishito peppers and pan fried port gyoza, basic rolls, nigiri, sashimi, classic entrées, and specialty rolls like the Aburi Salon, stuffed with avocado, cucumber, and jalapeño and topped with torched salmon, Japanese mayo, caramelized soy sauce, and togarashi. 660 Cookman Ave, Asbury Park, takaasbury.com

TERRA E MARE
Nestled along the Hudson
River with sweeping vistas of the NYC skyline, this sleek, upscale dining experience is a “shrine to steaks, chops, and seafood.” Raw bar favorites, bone-in veal, dry-aged rib-eye, and homemade pastas pair perfectly with international wines and panoramic views. 2 Chapel Ave Unit 2, Jersey City, landmarkhospitality.com

TINIS FISH HOUSE
A casual Normandy Beach haunt serving up vacation-inspired grub by seasoned chef/restaurateur Marilyn Schlossbach. Colorful murals and leafy plants surround the dining tables as friendly servers bring out heaping plates of poke nachos, buffalo calamari, Caribbean blackened fish, and lobster curry. 3581 NJ-35, Normandy Beach, tinisfishhouse.com

TRE PIZZA, PASTA, BEER GARDEN
Bringing two iconic concepts under one industrial-chic roof, this pizzeria-meets-beer garden offers fresh, affordable Italian eats in a hip, welcoming hangout with bocci, skee-ball, and an outdoor garden with firepit. All Neapolitan-style pizzas arrive bubbling from the brick oven, designed to pair perfectly with the local ales and Italian wines. There’s also an assortment of apps, salads, pastas, and entrées, too. 611 Park Ave, Freehold; 1048 Cedarbridge Ave, Brick Township, trerestaurant.com

UNDICI
A celebration of the casual side of Italian dining, this Tuscan-inspired eatery serves rustic, countryside favorites like burrata pizza, crispy fried shrimp, house-made ravioli, and grilled Italian sweet sausage. The setting, filled with ancient stone, wood, tile, and plaster, feels straight out of a Tuscan farmhouse. 11 W River Rd, Rumson, undicirestaurant.com

UPROOT RESTAURANT
Upscale but inviting new American dining experience inspired by the laughter and joy associated with food. The menu is crafted of locally sourced ingredients and line-caught fish, and features creative dishes like tuna noodles with smashed avocado and puffed rice chip, miso butter glazed pork belly, goat cheese and bacon pizza, and tinga wontons with spicy roasted chicken. Steaks, chops, chicken, and fish dishes are on deck, too. 9 Mt Bethel Rd, Warren, uprootrestaurant.com

LANDMARK HOSPITALITY
The Cretella family (husband and wife team Jeanne and Frank along with their daughter Maddy) built their prominent hospitality group from the ground up, which now encompasses several high-end restaurants, special event venues, and experiences across the state and in Pennsylvania, with more on the way. In addition to the restaurants on this list, the family operates restaurant Ferry + Main, hotel/event venue Hotel du Village, and the Logan inn, all in New Hope, PA, plus the wedding venue Hudson House in Jersey City. Be on the lookout for two new concepts, the Albion and Anzu, scheduled to debut soon. landmarkhospitality.com

URBAN COALHOUSE PIZZA + BAR
Tri-location pizzeria and lively bar, famed for creative pies that arrive bubbling and hot from the 800-degree coal-fi red oven. Patrons can customize their pies or choose from a menu of artisan pre-selects, such as the Milano with artichokes, fresh garlic, mozzarella, provolone, basil, ricotta, and EVOO; or the Sweet Heat, topped with sweet soppressata, goat cheese, mozzarella and hot honey drizzle. 2 Bridge Ave, Red Bank; 515 Route 70, Brick; 116 14TH St, Hoboken, urbancoalhouse.com

VIAGGIO
The flavors of Tuscany are served in this charming Italian tavern, featuring exquisitely presented plates of scratch-made pasta, house secured charcuterie, and juicy main courses from land and sea. The venue plays a key role in the dining experience too, with exposed brick, raw wooden tables, and glowing bistro lights. 1055 Hamburg Turnpike, Wayne, viaggioristorante.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

VENTANAS RESTAURANT AND LOUNGE
From chef David Burke and restaurateur Alex Duran, a 7,000-square-foot, three-in-one vibe-dining destination in Fort Lee illuminated by hanging chandeliers and moody lighting. The menu is a melting pot of American, Asian, and Latin flavors, conceptualized by chef Burke. Think lobster dumplings, “K-town” wings and calamari rings, tuna tartare tacos, and octopus and chorizo kebabs. Open for lunch, brunch, and dinner, with live musicians or DJs on the weekends. 200 Park Ave, Fort Lee, ventanasatthemodern.com

ALEXANDER DURAN
This prolific restaurateur and successful businessman is behind some of the hottest reservations in the state, including the trendy supper club Son Cubano (which originally debuted in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District before relocating to its current home in West New York) and the massive nightlife and contemporary dining concept Ventanas, both partnerships with chef David Burke. The entrepreneur was the first in his family to graduate from college, and his first business venture was to build the country’s largest Hispanic exporting company serving Central and South America along with his father, before ultimately entering the restaurant trade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

VIA SPOSITO
Charming, family-run Italian bistro serving old-world staples along with a few modern surprises. Pizzas are sizzled in a coal-fi red oven, cheeses and cured meats are imported from Italy, and all pastas and fresh mozz are made in house daily. Arancini, stuffed mushrooms, baked clams, spaghetti and meatballs, veal parm, and more. Third location in Colts Neck opening soon. 3857 County Rd 516, Old Bridge; 20 Broad St, Red Bank, viasposito.com

 

 

 

 

 

WAHOO’S
This hip counter-style seafood joint is revered for its fresh, California-style fish tacos along with a variety of other handhelds, bowls, and plates. Pair your meal with a tangy refreshing coconut margarita for the full experience. 1147 NJ-35, Middletown Township, wahoos.com

WOLFGANG’S STEAKHOUSE
One of eight high-end locations in the U.S. (including NYC, Beverly Hills, and Tokyo), this Somerville outpost of the Manhattan staple serves 28-day dry-aged steaks along with Canadian bacon, Ahi tuna tartare, grilled Chilean sea bass, and more. The signature dish is the Porterhouse, aged 28 days then sizzled in a 1,600-degree broiler. 119 W Main St, Somerville, wolfgangssteakhouse.net

WHITECHAPEL PROJECTS
Inspired by the vibrancy of London’s Whitechapel District, this urban destination is a farm-to-table restaurant, brewery, artist’s showcase, event venue, outdoor bar, and community incubator, all in one mural wrapped package. Feast on fresh European-American selects like poutine, French onion burger, beer braised short rib, and a famous Hungarian flatbread topped with mushrooms grown on site. 15 2nd Ave, Long Branch, whitechapelprojects.com