Having lived on the East Coast for thirty years, and the West Coast for twenty, I have come to notice some differences. Besides climate, demographics and so on, there are also more specific issues that crop up and pretty starkly set out the difference between the two parts of the country. And none of them is more clear-cut, and perhaps meaningful, than food.
There are things you can get on the East Coast as a matter of course that are simply done badly, or not at all, on the West Coast. Bagels, for instance. Scrapple. And really good, generally available, Italian food. Milano is an example of all this. It’s a completely generic, run-of-the-mill Italian place in basically Nowhere, New Jersey, that turns out excellent Italian food without any fanfare.
Absolutely classic East Coast Italian. Outstanding, really, and evidence of someone who’s spent YEAR whipping this stuff up, and really, really knows what he’s doing.
To introduce all this, it’s helpful to note that we had spent the entire day at a backyard barbecue. This means, essentially, sitting outside eating bad (meaning delicious but really unhealthy) food and drinking bad beer. We were tired, stuffed, and had spent the entire day amidst the antics and shrieks of a bunch of kids. We badly needed some quiet, and civilization. Milano was perfect.
For appetizers, we started with Minestrone soup and bruschetta. Both were terrific. The minestrone was absolutely classic – hearty, rich and perfectly seasoned. The bruschetta was the same way – fresh, chopped tomato, basil and seasoning on toasted Italian bread.
After salads, the entrees arrived, and they were, not to put too fine a point on it, absolutely amazing. Beth ordered Chicken parmesan, that staple of every cafeteria, was perfectly prepared.
The revelation, frankly, was my dish. It was a special, and was essentially a tuna steak with some kind of sauce. The waiter asked me how I wanted it cooked, and I answered “Medium” which is my default. You never know if what you think is “medium” is what someone else thinks, or if the kitchen is paying attention or cares, and so on. I frankly didn’t hold out a lot of hope for this dish, and have had (and prepared) a lot of messed-up tuna. It’s easy to overcook, at which point it instantly tastes like the kitchen sponge.
Wrong. What arrived was perhaps the best tuna steak I have ever had. Absolutely incredible. Fresh, perfectly seasoned, savory and flawlessly sauced. I am not sure I can properly describe how good it was, but it was absolutely incredible. It was one of those things which, when shared, causes the other person’s eyes to widen when they taste how incredible it was.
And that pretty much did it. We didn’t need dessert. The meal itself was amazing. Well worth the search.
Standard-issue East Coast Italian – big, open room, dropped ceiling, carpeting, nice heavy chairs and tables. Quiet, dark and comfortable.
Fine. Our server was the cook/owner’s son, and he really knew his stuff.
Milano is, again, in a pretty remote part of Northern New Jersey, so to get there, you need Google Maps and some patience. They have their own parking lot, however, so that’s easy. And what awaits you is worth the trip, believe me.
Address: 3673 Route 94, Hardyston, New Jersey 07419
Phone: (973) 209-1212
Tuesday – Thursday 11:30 – 21:30; Friday 11:30 – 20:30; Saturday 13:00 – 22:30; Sunday 13:00 – 21:00.
Pretty reasonable -- $57 before tip. This was partially because Milano does not have a liquor license, so we did not have drinks (or dessert).Published On: Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014