Maplewood, NJ 07040
- Cost: $$
- Alcohol: BYO
- Parking: Public Lot
- Take Out: Yes
July 3, 2011
Arturo’s meatball sandwich – on that delicious brick oven bread – has become one of my favorite food groups. Still haven’t tried the reservations-only Saturday night tasting menu at this uber-popular spot. Even longer waiting list since this Spring’s James Beard “Best New Rising Chef” nomination for Dan Richer.
Update – September 2010
We had dinner here yesterday. Since Arturo’s is just around the corner, I’m rooting for these guys to succeed. The “Osteria” dinner menu and specials feature pasta, salads, cured meats and a few small plates, emphasizing seasonal, local ingredients. Still a mixed review, but promising changes are underway, and I’ve found my new go-to source for Italian bread.
My wife and I tried the pastas this time; the kids had pizza. The pasta itself is very good, nicely al dente. The pancetta, red onion and tomato sauce on the Pasta Pancia is flavorful, but oily. The Cavatelli Siciliani (chiles, garlic, capers, anchovies and pine nuts) tastes fine, but could use stronger chiles and more anchovies. Pasta portions are large. Even I didn’t finish mine. What really stood out on this visit was one of the blackboard specials – bruschetta with ricotta, olive oil and pink salt, served on Arturo’s own freshly-baked Italian bread – absolutely delicious. The bread has a crispy, lightly charred crust, with just the right amount of soft chewiness inside. Tastes wonderful. They’ve nailed the bread recipe. Loaves are available to go.
Stealing some Bianco pizza off my son’s plate, I sill prefer the “traditional” pizza crust here, which is improving. In fact, in a letter to customers attached to the pizza box (kudos for communication), the owners announce the discontinuation of delivery service (because “the quality of our food is vastly compromised”), the development of a new pizza dough recipe (which “will eventually replace our current styles of dough and crust”), and a transition to dinnertime table service. All welcome changes. Table service in particular is sorely needed. The current system – a server describes the specials at your table and serves the food, but you have to go up to the crowded counter to order it, all in a very tight dining room – doesn’t work well. Any way to knock down a wall for more space?
Arturo’s is an ambitious, steadily improving neighborhood restaurant. There is a Saturday night tasting menu that we need to try (without the kids).
Noteworthy: The owner deserves credit for adopting eco-friendly pizza boxes, and taking the uncommon step of explaining why in a video on the restaurant’s website. Nice example of local corporate responsibility.
Review – March 2010
Arturo’s is trying hard with its brick oven pizzas, and they put out decent pies. All in all, it’s the best pizza I’ve had so far in Maplewood – headquarters of EthnicNJ.com. Fresh toppings and a solid sauce. But the crust just doesn’t do it for me. The thin crust is too thin and the “traditional” crust is missing something. Not sure what, but other places, like my all time favorite De Lucia’s and nearby Star Tavern in Orange get more flavor into their crusts. Might be the age of the ovens – Arturo’s are just too young. If you go for pizza, eat it there, fresh out of the oven. The pizza doesn’t travel well.
Since we moved to town, Arturo’s has transformed itself from a pizza joint into a cozy BYO restaurant serving both pizza and well made Italian dishes.