Newark, NJ 07105
- Cost: $$$
- Credit Cards: All Major
- Alcohol: Full Bar
- Parking: Private Lot
March 30, 2015
For almost forty years, the Aurre family has served Basque home cooking in Newark’s Ironbound.
The cuisine of the Basque region of northern Spain – perched between the Pyrenees and the Bay of Biscay – features grilled meats, savory stews with peppers, tomatoes and olive oil, and plenty of fresh seafood.
Casa Vasca, the popular Ironbound restaurant, has been cooking up all of the above since 1976. Maria Aurre presides over this well-run neighborhood spot.
When we visited on a recent Saturday night, the EthnicNJ team (i.e. me, my wife and the kids) focused on the restaurant’s seafood dishes. Mariscada al la Marinera, a shellfish stew with a rich white wine sauce serves in a metal pot, is very good, especially in cold weather. Calamari a la Romana, a Basque interpretation of Italian fried calamari is very nicely done – the squid rings taste freshly prepared and the breading is light and crispy. Scallops stuffed to overflowing with a mixture of crab meat and buttered bread crumbs are not for the diet conscious. Portions, let’s say, are quite generous. Other popular dishes on the menu are a traditional salted cod in olive oil (bacalao al pil-pil) and Paella Marinera, a seafood version of the traditional Spanish paella Valenciana.
Among the many meat and poultry options, Casa Vasca serves steaks, chops, veal, tripe and even kidneys in sherry sauce. Look for the deceptively good chicken with mushrooms, which my youngest daughter absolutely loved. The soup of the day, a chickpea puree with ham bits the night we visited, served family style, comes with your meal.
Street parking is always a challenge in the Ironbound. The restaurant has an extremely narrow, free parking lot with an attendant, off of Prospect Street around the corner. Service at Casa Vasca is attentive and the host’s welcome is heartfelt. The bar in the outer room was standing room only with families waiting for tables when we arrived without a reservation. Relax with some wine or a pitcher of sangria while you wait for a table in the tight dining room inside.