One of my favorite restaurants in NYC is Chef Michael White‘s Osteria Morini located on Lafayette Street. Chef White is a true master of his craft, which he perfected in the kitchen of Ristorante San Domenico in Imola, Italy under the tutelage of Chef Valentino Marcattilii.
The Wisconsin born Chef White has the finesse and passion for Italian cuisine, namely the cuisine of Emilia-Romagna, as a well seasoned nonna. So when I found out my wife & I had an appointment near Chef White’s New Jersey outpost of Osteria Morini in Bernardsville, I knew where we would be eating dinner.
The last time we were at an Osteria Morini was at the Washington, D.C. location during out summer vacation. My family & I were treated like kings & queens by Chef Matthew Adler and staff. So I knew we were in for a real treat the other night under the very capable hands of Chef Kevin Knevals and the staff in Bernardsville.
One thing, besides the grilled meats, that Chef White & his Osteria Morini are very well-known for are their house made pastas. The pasta dishes I’ve eaten at Osteria Morini are as delicious as the ones I’ve eaten in Italy. So we knew that we had to order at least one pasta dish, which we did. We started with the lasagna, which was layers of spinach pasta with ragu antico, béchamel, & Parmigiano-Reggiano. Italian lasagna is quite different from what we know here in the States. Béchamel is the star of a true Northern Italian lasagna, not ricotta & mozzarella. We also had an order of the super rich and delectable polpettine (prosciutto & mortadella meatballs baked in pomodoro sauce).
We were also treated to two special dishes that were part of the Thursday night Feast of the Beast featuring red snapper. The red snapper crudo was a nice touch. The snapper was super fresh and overall the dish was quite light. The other dish was red snapper & shrimp polpette, mussels, fregola, & broccoli rabe. To be honest, I was a little skeptical about the red snapper & shrimp polpette, which are meatballs. WOW! Was I wrong to judge. The polpette were excellent. The broth was a real star of the dish. I could have easily dunked half a loaf of ciabatta to sop up all that delicious broth.
My wife order the pollo al forno, which was roasted organic chicken, roasted Brussels sprouts, & butternut squash served with a pancetta ragu. I loved the crispy chicken skin and the moist meat. The Brussels sprouts had a nice char from high heat roasting. Delicious!
I was in the mood for a hearty dish, so I decided on the stracotto, which was Sangiovese braised beef short ribs, roasted root vegetables, & horseradish gremolata. The short ribs were oh so rich and fork tender. The horseradish gremolata gave a nice bite that helped to cut the fat. And who doesn’t love roasted root vegetables on a cold Fall night?
If you know me, you know I cannot end a meal without something a little sweet. Tonight was no exception. We were torn between the panna cotta and the tiramisu. We settled on the tiramisu (espresso soaked ladyfinger, mascarpone mousse, coffee crema, cocoa nib). I’m a huge tiramisu fan. And when it’s done well, it’s really a tough dessert to beat. Osteria Morini’s version was done exceptionally well. It was a perfect way to end a delectable dinner at one of New Jersey’s finest restaurants. If you happen to find yourself out in Somerset County, New Jersey & are looking for a great dinner is a casual & comfortable atmosphere then look no further than Osteria Morini in Bernardsville.
Pax et bonum,
Anthony “Tony Mangia” Scillia