Orange, NJ 07050
- Cost: $$
- Credit Cards: All Major
- Alcohol: Full Bar
- Parking: Private Lot
December 16, 2016
Nostalgia for Italian-American classics has been very profitable across the Hudson lately. In Jersey, we don’t have to turn back the clock. Some places – like Libretti’s – have never left.
Entering Libretti’s is like stepping into a Mad Men set. The restaurant is dark and a little gaudy, with way too many mirrors. You half expect to see a table of wise guys with their girlfriends in the lounge. What you do see, however, are multi-generational families, of all backgrounds, enjoying the Italian-American dishes that have been on the menu for decades.
On a recent visit, I indulged a sudden craving for one of these classics. I wasn’t planning on ordering it, but as soon as I saw homemade meat lasagna on the menu, I couldn’t resist. Growing up, lasagna was only served on holidays at family gatherings, typically between the antipasto and the main course. Lasagna became the focus of the meal. (Our Thanksgiving turkey was often an afterthought.) At Libretti’s, the substantial rectangle of layered pasta, chesses, and ground meat – slathered with plenty of bright red, tangy tomato sauce – is not necessarily the prettiest dish on a plate, but the flavors and textures are spot on. It had been a long time since I had eaten lasagna, and this version satisfies.
Libretti’s in Orange, New Jersey is worth a visit for the Italian-American food you remember, without the celebrity buzz, crazy portions or prices of the red sauce revival elsewhere.
One of the better old school Italian restaurants in the Oranges, Libretti’s is still worth a visit for red sauce classics.
Among the cluster of old Italian restaurants north of the NJ Transit tracks in this formerly industrial section of Orange, NJ, Libretti’s, established in 1950, stands out for its classic Italian-American dishes.
On the corner of Nassau and South Jefferson Streets, Libretti’s competes in the Valley neighborhood of Orange with nearby Bella Italia and The Appian Way, all established when this was a predominantly Italian-American community.
You enter the restaurant through a full bar and lounge (hosting Karaoke on Friday and Saturday nights). Around a corner, there are tables and booths in the heavily mirrored dining room. Libretti’s also has two banquet rooms.
I was impressed by the strong flavors in the dishes we tried. The excellent mussels with hot peppers are very spicy – the way I like them. Spaghetti Putanesca features forceful quantities of capers and anchovies. Pasta dishes here are a good bet. The menu also includes Italian-American classics like Chicken Murphy, Veal Francaise and Shrimp Scampi. I noticed, but didn’t try, the House Specialty: Trippa alla Romano. For dessert, try a cannoli. The filling is homemade and not too sweet.
With moderate prices and solid food, Libretti’s has earned a loyal clientele.