1:15. My sister and I arrive at Gervasi’s Ristorante, or Uncle Nino’s, as we call it. One of my “Italian Uncles” is the owner and executive chef. I use the term “Italian Uncle”, because it’s one of those people that aren’t really related, but you call them uncle/aunt/cousin/etc. anyway. I learned at a young age, I had many relatives that weren’t really related, but were still part of the family. This “Italian Uncle” is one that you’re always proud to say is yours, considering the reputation of the restaurant and the delicious food he produces!
Anyway, we met my mom in the parking lot, who only had 45 minutes for lunch. So, as soon as we got in, we quickly grabbed a table and started perusing the menu. When the waitress came over, she mentioned they had Crab Bisque soup du jour, and Mom and Andrea quickly jumped on that option. I, knowing better, decided on a small Antipasto Platter appetizer. Now, when I say “knowing better”, I simply mean I can get a good crab bisque anywhere in Maryland, but when it comes to being home in New Jersey, I’ll take whatever I have been missing over the past couple weeks or months.
1:30. The soup arrived first, and truthfully, it didn’t look that bad. It was a nice orange color, sprinkled with Old Bay seasoning, and propped on top was a crostini and extra lumps of jumbo crab meat. It wasn’t thick enough for my liking, but if the thickness were there, I would say it matched up to any Maryland bisque I’ve eaten. (May have even been better!) My antipasto arrived soon after, and it was just what I hoped for -- fresh mozzarella, sharp provolone, roasted red peppers, marinated olives, cappicola, prosciutto, salami, etc. I’m pretty sure you can’t go wrong with any of those items, especially when they are all on one plate, so I was very happy. Next time, I would ask for them to drizzle it very, very lightly with olive oil, as the excess amount of oil not only inflicted buyer’s remorse (as I felt like I was gaining pounds by the bite), but also overpowered the taste of the delicious Italian meats and cheeses. If I was particularly watching my weight, I wouldn’t have opted for an appetizer in the first place, and definitely not that one, so I totally let the oil slide (no pun intended).
1:40. I could hear my Uncle Nino yelling broken English/Italian from back in the kitchen, so, don’t ask why, but I knew that meant the food would probably be out in a minute or two. Mom got her salad, a grilled shrimp salad with bruschetta tomatoes, green olives, and croutons in the house balsamic vinaigrette, and Andrea got Chicken and Spinach Risotto. Mom’s salad wasn’t really anything special, a large bowl of mixed green tossed in the house balsamic-- which was really good!-- topped with grilled shrimp. The shrimp were a nice size, and the diced tomatoes added a nice touch, as opposed to just having cherry tomatoes plopped on top.
Andrea’s risotto, however, was amazing!! I will be honest, as much as a “foodie” I like to think of myself as, I had never had risotto -- I know, very weird. Anyway, after I tasted Andrea’s dish, I hoped that every risotto dish I had in the future would taste as good as that one! It tasted like they didn’t let the white wine cook out all the way, but that was the best part about it. I really like when the taste of wine comes out heavily in food, so maybe that’s why I liked it so much... or maybe it was the parmesan cheese and spinach combination. Or how perfectly the risotto was cooked. Either way, I will be getting that next time I get around to going to Uncle Nino’s.
My sandwich, however, was the highlight of the meal. Perfectly crispy, breaded chicken cutlet, topped with delicious garlic and olive oil seasoned broccoli rabe, then roasted red peppers, then-- my favorite-- sharp provolone cheese! I had saved some of my roasted red peppers from my antipasto platter so I could put them on my sandwich (as the menu description didn’t include them), but when my sandwich came out, they were already there. I guess great minds think alike. All of this was piled high on crispy, flaky bread -- the bread I so badly wanted Pasticcio to get right. I could only eat half of my sandwich, but I was very happy, because that just meant I still had half for a later date!
I know there are people out there who don’t want to forgo great taste just because they are limited on time during their lunch break -- Gervasi’s is the perfect place that won’t make you choose! Mom got back to work on time, and she still had a delightful lunch with her girls ... Every time I go home to Jersey, it’s hard not to want to go to Gervasi’s Ristorante.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★