It's been awhile since I posted a restaurant review. It's not that we haven't been going out, we've just been hitting our favorites - Emma's for pizza, Ginger Sushi, and Splash of Thai. But Valentine's weekend came along and Jeff decided to take me to Ristorante Da Benito in Union, NJ. He'd read about it in the Star-Ledger and it got rave reviews so we made a reservation and headed out.
Upon entering we were seated in the small dining room by the charming maitre d'. The dining room is fairly modern with a small bar. A large screen tv and the paraphernalia over the bar seemed a bit out of place in the otherwise upscale surroundings. Customers around us were dressed in everything from jacket and tie to jeans and sweatshirts. We landed in the middle and I'd say we had hit the right note for attire.
We were promptly served water and bread with delicious olive oil, as well as two small bruschetta topped with a vegetable and cannelini bean mixture. A nice start to the meal, the bruschetta was full of flavor and the creamy texture of the beans combined nicely with the crunchy bread and surprisingly good tomatoes (it is February, after all!)
We shared two appeatizers: one a cold stacked grilled eggplant, tomato and goat cheese. It had some baby arugula and was topped with a few caramelized onions. Drizzled around the plate were an aged balsamic and extra virgin olive oil. The flavors were fresh and bold - I loved the tangy goat cheese with the creamy eggplant! Our second appetizer was a special: a portabello mushroom cap filled with minced veal. This was served warm over baby greens. It, too, was delicious, but topped with a bit too much marjoram. The luxurious texture of the minced veal helped me past that small imperfection, however.
Entrees were served quickly. Mine was a bowl of homemade pappardelle with bolognese. It may have been the best bolognese I've ever had. I would say there was a bit more sauce than I would have preferred, but every bite was delicious. Jeff ordered veal over Swiss chard with white wine, grape tomatoes and ricotta salata. The veal scallopine were cooked to perfection - fork-tender, but a bit caramelized around the edges. I particularly liked the Swiss Chard - so many places put a heap of Spinach (I love Spinach, but was very please to see something different). All in all, both dishes were outstanding.
The menu features a number of pasta dishes as well as several veal, beef, chicken and fish entrees. There was also one lamb dish on the menu.
Our final decision on Ristorante Da Benito is that it was a nice change for a special occasion, but we'll stick with Bel Paese in Cranford when we want Italian - it's closer to home, less expensive and the food is superb. But if you're in Union looking for a nice evening out, you wan't be disappointed.