REVIEWS – The VOICE Campus and Local News Since 1968 Wed, 20 Sep 2017 19:51:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 REVIEW: Mochi, a dessert you don’t want to sink your teeth into Fri, 28 Apr 2017 14:34:32 +0000

Whole Foods of Princeton is one of five of the stores in the nation to feature a mochi ice cream bar, so The VOICE staff set about figuring out exactly what we think of the confections. Although there were dissenting opinions, the overall response can be summed up as “no way, no thanks,” though the staff acknowledges a certain distrust for the pricey Whole Foods brand and a general lack of fondness for cold foods and/or ice cream.

News Editor Tim O’Boyle explained he is not the sort of person who “will bite into a popsicle. I’ve got to savor and taste. I don’t bite.” This perhaps presaged his response to the round, rice flour paste wrapped ice cream balls that come in Easter egg colors and are usually eaten in three to four bites in the same manner as a filled puff pastry.

O’Boyle’s first response: “I think basically, they are gentrified munchkins.” Indeed, the orbs are just slightly larger in size, but identical in shape, to doughnut munchkins.

His second response: “Honestly, when I ate the first bite I knew this would be the first and last time I ever put one of these in my mouth.”

VOICE Opinions Editor, Oscar Trigueros was similarly unenthused. He said, “I like anything I put into my mouth to be warm. I’m not a cold foods fan.”

According to her Nov. 7, 2012 obituary in the Los Angeles Times, Mochi ice cream was invented by Frances Hashimoto, a businesswoman and community activist who lived in the Little Tokyo district of the city. The treat has roots in Japanese Daifuku. Hashimoto’s husband is credited with suggesting filling traditional Japanese mochi with ice cream. The idea took hold and became mass produced as a Japanese American restaurant staple starting in 1993.

Notably, the one Asian American on the VOICE staff, Jackson Thompson, expressed more affection for the confections. Moreover he was able to explain the pronunciation for the non-ice cream version of mochi is closer to moo-chee.

VOICE co-adviser, Prof. Matt Kochis, likened the dessert balls to his most familiar starting point as an American of Slovak descent, pierogis, but not in a complementary way. He eyed the cornstarch dusted exteriors–used to keep the items from sticking in their case–with suspicion. Each mouthful required lengthy, concentrated chewing to get down and brought discussion to a halt. His response, “You just want to follow it with a glass of water.”

All present noted that the colors of the mochi exteriors did not always correspond to the actual flavors, which were revealed by co-advisor, Prof. Holly Johnson, after they had been tested. Yes, pink was strawberry and white vanilla, but the green ones? Wasabi? Pesto? Lawn clippings? No, it was matcha green tea. This was one of the few flavors the group generally agreed was worth eating.

“If the only thing you brought me was a tub of the green ones, I might consider eating them again,” said Trigueros.

Mango also received slightly less hatred than the other flavors. Whereas the black sesame was described by O’Boyle saying, “I imagine it’s similar to what vape water would taste like.”

Trigueros added, “It finishes by dripping down the throat like mucus. It’s like clearing your throat.”

When asked to guess the price of a single mochi ball staffers, adamant that Whole Foods overcharges for everything, guessed from $3 to $5. The actual price is $1.50 for one and $12 for a box of 10. You can select the flavors yourself, so a box of only matcha green tea mochi is easy to come by, however, staffers indicated the price point did not fit a typical community college student’s budget.

In short: mochi = NO-chi.

Habit Burger: A habit that may become an addiction Wed, 22 Mar 2017 16:00:31 +0000

Habit Burger located on Rt 1 in Lawrenceville, has given Central Jersey a touch of sunny Southern California–where the franchise began–in only three months of it being opened.

It is the perfect combination of cheap, but good quality, food, excellent customer service, and an overall friendly environment, which makes visits to this restaurant your first good habit.

On a recent visit, the majority of customers were there for the first or second time. They only had good things to say.

“It’s a great place,” said Habit Burger customer Vinicio, adding, “It’s our second time coming here.”

Though it’s new to central New Jersey, The first Habit Burger was opened in Santa Barbara, California in 1969, and can now be found nation wide.

Habit focuses on freshness and visitors compliment the availability of fresh food on the menu.

“I got the cobb salad, she got the double burger, and the kids got chicken nuggets.” said Habit Burger customer Paul, while out for a bite with his family, “We don’t go to too many fast food places, but everything was pretty good.”

Habit Burger tries to differentiate themselves from other fast food chains, despite sharing similar qualities.

Khala Bagwell of Hamilton said, “This place kind of reminds me of a fast paced Red Robin.”

One of the best items on the menu is the teriyaki charburger, which is packed with an almost overwhelming number of flavors. This burger is topped with ingredients such as grilled pineapple, teriyaki sauce, as well as classic burger toppings like fresh lettuce, onions, juicy tomatoes, mayo and a pickle. Ordering the sweet potato fries adds an even bigger punch to the meal.

The total cost of a burger and fries is around $7 which, when compared to McDonald’s prices of a regular cheeseburger meal being $8, makes the options at Habit Burger a steal!

When asked about the freshness of the food, General Manager, Brian Berry said, “The food is never frozen. We have a special meat packing plant in New York, and all of the toppings are fresh.”

The freshness of the meat can be easily tasted in the juiciness of their burgers. Habit Burger also has a dedication to the freshness of their vegetables. According to the kitchen Manager Brian Pierce, “In the morning there is no prep besides lettuce, tomato, and salads. At around 2 pm we send employees to the back to prep some more so that it’s not cut and open all day long.”

The Habit Burger staff are friendly and welcoming, and will offer help with any questions on the food. After placing the order, you can either wait and watch, since it is prepared right in front of you, or you can sit back at a table and have a mental vacation imagining you are in Southern California where Habit burger began.

REVIEW: Asbury Biergarten: A taste of the Old World at the Jersey shore Wed, 22 Mar 2017 15:55:54 +0000

Resembling an old, weathered factory with its red brick walls and charcoal color stairs, the Asbury Biergarten in Asbury Park, NJ is hard to miss. Upon entrance customers are given two menus where they are able to choose their drink from an array of 80 percent imported, and 20 percent American craft beers, and an authentic Austro-Hungarian food menu that will make customers feel like they are vacationing in Europe.

Asbury Biergarten was opened on Feb. 7, 2015 by three friends and business partners. The each say they had a different reason for doing so.

For Andre Ivanov this is not his first Biergarten; he also owns Radegast Hall & Biergarten and Pilsener Haus & Biergarten which are both in Brooklyn. The idea of a biergarten is not unfamiliar to him. For Jennifer Lampert, her involvement was by chance and opportunity, and for Jaro Marcin, his involvement hits closer to home. He was born and raised in Slovakia,  and later moved to America in search of the “American Dream.”

Serving entrees like garlic smoked Polish pork sausage with sour pickled cabbage, among other sausage varieties and bratwursts, it’s no wonder how the Asbury Biergarten transforms the feel of the restaurant.

First-time customer, Brian Hugn and wife Alisa, from Barnegat NJ, said, “We love trying new places together, and the food here is definitely new and interesting. But I have also been to Germany and taking the first sip of beer brought me right back to that trip.”

Another customer, Lourdes Torres from Westchester, NY, told The VOICE “the beer keeps me coming back,” adding, “Asbury Biergarten is the summer hangout because it’s refreshing; they know what is cool and the service is great.”

The staff is not only personable and helpful, they are also very knowledgeable about European culture.

Bartender Ryan Cornell from Asbury Park, NJ, says if a customer comes in wanting a certain type of beer “the staff is very good at matching you to what you want.” He continues, “it’s all about establishing trust with your customers, and to do that you must engage with them in a different way.”

The College VOICE also asked staff what they thought set Asbury Biergarten apart from all the others, “we are very attentive and make sure our customers know we are paying attention,”said Sarah Mohamed server staff.

Marcin says, “[the Biergarten] reminds me of my young age in Slovakia.” He continues, “I live this passion because I am beer freak; it’s not alcohol, it’s a refreshment.”

The Asbury Biergarten has communal seating, imported beers, and authentic European food, which keeps customers coming back. It’s not the cheapest spot for college students, but it’s got a lot to offer. Find it at 527 Lake Ave, Asbury Park, NJ weekdays from 4pm-2am and weekends from 12pm-2am.

REVIEW: Vegan food and coffee at The Moth in Allentown, NJ Fri, 24 Feb 2017 15:54:08 +0000

The Moth Coffeehouse is a small, family owned vegan/vegetarian restaurant located in Allentown, NJ overlooking the Conines Millpond. The vegan fare at The Moth sets it apart from other local establishments. They serve everything meat and dairy free, including vegan egg salads ($7.75), chickpea sliders ($8), and regular coffee ($1.85/$2.85) to Reese’s Cup cappuccinos ($5) and lattés ($3.75/$4.75). The wooden chairs and tables add to the warm, rustic vibe inside.

Corky and Kris Danch opened The Moth in October 2015. Their daughters Zoë and Alia now help their parents run the place.

“My whole family and I are vegetarian. So it just made sense for us to kind of use our own values and ethics into our business,” Zoë said. “My dad has been a vegetarian for 50 years and my sister and I have never eaten meat.” Her mom adds, “I was born and raised in a farm and got to see how meat came on your plate.”

Vegetarians do not eat meat but may consume eggs, dairy products or fish. Vegans abstain from animal consumption entirely, choosing not to use animal products whatsoever..

Something intangible about The Moth makes it enticing. It might be sounds of the coffee machine steaming milk for a latté, the rich aromas of fresh ground coffee beans, the laughing and chattering of customers, the friendly thank you’s and goodbye’s. It could be the familiarity, the welcoming warmth you can only get from a family owned and operated establishment.

Kris Danch said “Our client base seem to be very open minded. We have a lot of high school students who stop on the way home who are not vegetarian, nor vegan but they are open minded and are trying the food, liking it and coming back.”

Melinda Brown, 65, of Allentown, NJ said, “I am not a vegan but everything is delicious. I love the atmosphere, casualness, the menu is unique, and the staff is beyond friendly. I love that it is a family owned business, and I think it is a wonderful asset to the town. My favorite menu item is the quiche.”

The coffeehouse is very active in the local community, allowing its spaces to be used for support groups and meetings of any sort. The Moth even hosted the HGTV show Tiny House Hunters, which filmed a meet up in the restaurant in 2016.

“I love that it’s artsy and it’s short walk from school.” said Sierra Cottrell, 16, from Cream Ridge told The VOICE.

The restaurant serves their most popular menu item, the beet burger ($9), composed of beets, lentils, spices and other vegetables. Their vegan options include the vegan mac n’ cheese ($6.75), and vegan sausage sandwich ($9). The milks range from whole milk to rice milk to add into your preferred cappuccino or fresh iced coffee.

Their meals, such as the beet burger and the vegan mac n’ cheese are served with a fresh side salad, adorned with a drizzle of creamy balsamic vinaigrette. The beet burger is a rich purple color, crispy on the outside and served on a flatbread, topped by homemade vegan spread and pickles.

When you bite into it the flavors from the spices and the vegan spread combine together perfectly. The vegan mac n’ cheese is covered in their flavorful sauce all made from vegetables with a texture like that of regular cheese.

The Moth Coffeehouse is located in 42 So. Main St. Allentown, NJ.

REVIEW: Brick oven pizza at Nomad Pizza Mon, 31 Oct 2016 05:14:08 +0000

Walking into Nomad Pizza in Princeton on a Friday night, the smell of an old-fashioned brick oven pizza came out of the door. The sound of people chatting and wine glasses clinking filled the room. People seemed to be enjoying themselves.

The owner of Nomad Pizza, Stalin Bedon started his business with a pizza truck he named the Nomad. The business was first for serving at events and continued to gain high popularity. As a result, Nomad Pizza opened a restaurant in Hopewell, New Jersey. Later on, they opened two more in Philadelphia, and their more recent restaurant located in Princeton.

  The Princeton location brings the cozy atmosphere, but it also gives a twist to make it more fun for local students and customers. Other local pizzerias cannot compare to Nomad and their organic, fresh products.Their Napolitano-style pizza is made of very basic ingredients: water, yeast, flour and salt along with fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella cheese. Nomad it is BYOB and in addition they offer wines from Thomas Henry Winery, Sonoma Ca.

“The most important ingredient in our pizzas is love, all the pizzas that we made are made with love because we love pizza,” said Laura Caponi, manager of Nomad Pizza.

The middle has a soft and chewy texture , while the crust is crunchy but not too hard. Just right.

“This may be my new favorite spot for pizza! But you have to really like the specialty, brick-oven type pizza or else this place is not for you. I’ve had dinner here twice now and each time it was incredible.” Wrote Yelena P, from Sellersville, PA on September 14, 2016.

Besides having a typical Italian pizza, they offer different varieties, including a Nutella pizza, which is perfect for dessert; it is covered with Nutella and strawberries on top.

Nomad Pizza is a great place to gather with your friends, family or colleagues either for lunch or dinner. Pizzas are sold by the pie.

    “I enjoy working at Nomad, even in the busy days, since we all work as the team to keep up with all the orders,” said John, one of the pizza makers. The staff was very friendly and provided quick service.

Outdoor seating was available, and the area included a foosball table to keep the people on waiting list entertained, the waiting list it was around twenty minutes even that ht ebusy was pretty busy, the staff was doing their best for have the tables ready, also with some Friday night live music to spice up the ambiance. Every two weeks they have different kind of bands from 6:30 to 9:30 pm.

It is easy to see why Nomad Pizza has reached five stars on

Nomad Pizza is located at 301 N Harrison St. Princeton, NJ 08540, open Tuesday to Sunday for lunch and dinner.

REVIEW: Big Easy Restaurant provides most mouth-watering soul food in Trenton Fri, 24 Apr 2015 09:36:41 +0000

Soul Food at Big EasyThe Big Easy Restaurant is located on 120 South Warren Street, just a five minute walk from Mercer’s Trenton campus. This local favorite is specialized in soul food, and during a recent lunch visit, business was busy.

The first thing you notice when walking into the restaurant is the mosaic tile floor that gives off an aesthetic feeling. Next there was a large chalk board lit with track lights, that displayed the daily menu and specials. The tables were neatly set for two with fresh flowers on each table.

After I was directed to a table by a charming young server, I asked for an Iced Tea and she promptly suggested a house special made with lemon and orange.

Items on the menu are reasonably priced. A typical meal with entree and beverage costs about $9 per person and they also have a $20 dinner menu for two. Some of their favorite dishes are turkey wings, salmon, jerk chicken, mac & cheese, fried fish, candied yams, and lobster.

I chose the grilled salmon which was delicious. It was cooked to perfection, seasoned properly and it kind melted in your mouth.

According to Andrea Baxter, a state worker for Taxation, who eats at Big Easy three to four times a week, “The prices are fair for the amount of portions that you get.” Baxter said that her favorite dish on the menu is the mac and cheese, salmon and the fried bass.

Baxter is not the only one who likes the big easy because of the prices. Alex Bethea, a Trenton city councilman, was back at the Big Easy for the second time for the lunch specials. “You can get a decent amount of food for a reasonable price compared to other competitors in the city,” he said.

The dessert menu includes carrot cake, sweet potato pie, red velvet cake and chocolate cake. I tried a slice of the House special which was a homemade red velvet cake and to be honest it tasted better than some of the cakes you would get from a bakery.

The owner of Big Easy is Olugbala Sababu who is a Trenton native. Sababu has been in the food business for the past 37 years and the Big Easy has been open for the past three years. In an interview for The VOICE, Sababu said that “business is good but it is a work in progress.”

Sababu said that he believes the success of his business is in the quality of the food. “We have the best product in the Trenton area.”

There are several other restaurants that serve soul food in Trenton, including Ila Mae’s, Howards, and HeaVenly Divine Soul Food. Compared to them the Big Easy is one of the best restaurants in the downtown Trenton area.

Besides the price, another attraction at the Big Easy is the lunch buffet. You can create your own meal or you can choose from a variety of many dishes and desserts.

Overall, Big Easy is a must go.They offer quality of food at reasonable prices, the perfect combination for a student on a budget.

INFO: The Big Easy Restaurant
120 South Warren Street,
Downtown Trenton, NJ 08608
(609) 989-7900
Cuisine: Soul Food/ Seafood
8:00am-7:00pm Mondays – Thursdays,
10:00am – 10:00pm Fridays,
12:00 am – 10:pm Saturdays
( Closed Sundays)
Prices: $9 Lunch menu 11:30 – 4pm  Approx. $20 Dinner for 2 – After 5:00

Rock band No Reason records “Every Path Has a Purpose”, goes on tour Fri, 28 Mar 2014 00:38:33 +0000

Up and coming local rock band No Reason has been playing in the area lately.

Founded in January 2011 as just a couple friends getting together to play a couple of covers at a birthday party, they are now played shows with as many as 2000 people in the audience.

The band has just finished recording the first single off their first full-length album at Dancing Pepper Studios in Nazareth, PA, entitled “Every Path Has a Purpose.”

The band consists of Andrew Hartzell on lead vocals, Adam Delgado playing the lead guitar, Travis Humza playing the rhythm guitar, Mike Oleniacz on bass guitar and vocals, and Christian Jackson banging the drums and singing some vocals.

“We have been together as a full band for I think 3 years now, but to be honest it feels like forever.” says Mike Oleniacz, bassist for the band.

“We are always writing new music. This new album will consist of 9 of our own songs and a cover that we spent a lot of time making our own.” Oleniacz goes on to say.

According to Christian Jackson, drummer for the band, “We are making a lot of progress on the album and hope to have it done before the summer comes!”

The new song “Every Path Has a Purpose” blends punk, rock and metal as well as adding a catchy, sing along style chorus.

The band also does covers, including a cover of Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble.”

This past November, the band played Reckless Fest II, a sold-out show with over 2,000 people in attendance at the Lancaster County Convention Center in Lancaster, PA.

They opened for head-lining bands such as Asking Alexandria. They cite as their primary influences All that Remains, Sevendust, and Emmure.

“Playing that show was a dream come true for me,” says Jackson. He continued, “I never in my wildest dreams did I think that we would ever play a sold out arena show. It just goes to show that hard work, dedication, and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears really does pay off in the long run.”

The band members say they were treated like rock stars, with many audience members asking for autographs and pictures.

Future concerts will be scheduled in the summer months.

C&C Cafe in Trenton features great Caribbean food Fri, 28 Mar 2014 00:32:19 +0000

A mixture of Caribbean and soul food can be found at C&C Cafe which is located on the bottom level of Carteret Arms on 333 West State Street in Trenton.

Delinia Gardner, Charlene Walker, and Chris Matthews, owners of C&C Café, have found an unusual but popular combination of tastes that set their business apart from all the others in the state capital area.

“We chose the mix of caribbean and soul because in this area you can’t find anything like that,” said Gardner.

Matthews, one of the owners and also the cook, told the VOICE why he opened the restaurant. “I came up with the idea of C&C Cafe because I enjoy the feeling of owning a restaurant and being able to cook for the public.”

Matthews also told the VOICE about his experience in the kitchen. “I have 10 years of experience from working side by side with the soldiers overseas. I owned a former restaurant called Cassava Tree, and also [have experience from] schooling in New York.”

The restaurant offers short order items such as fried chicken and fish, french fries and more Caribbean inspired dishes such as oxtail and jerk chicken. The menu also includes traditional diner breakfast items and beverages.

The jerk chicken wings are a specialty. The jerk sauce has a spicy sweet flavor to it. The chicken is very moist and so tender that it fell off the bone with ease.

For a main course the oxtail, rice, peas and sweet potatoes is an excellent option from the Caribbean inspired dishes. Unlike Jamaican style oxtail, which is spicier, the oxtail served at C&C Café is a bit sweeter. For those not up for full force Jamaican spice, C&C’s version is a great option.

Cooking rice properly isn’t easy, as anyone who watches competitive TV cooking shows can tell you. Undercooked it can be hard and flaky, even burnt, overcooked it gets mushy. C&C’s rice is done just right. It is soft, aromatic and provides the right cut for the spice of the savory elements that top it. For those who prefer the comfort of traditional soul food, the sweet potatoes are tender like a warm slice of sweet potato pie.

A loyal customer since C&C’s opening in August, Nadirah Emmanuel of Trenton told The VOICE, “I have tried a bunch of the items on the menu and one of my favorites is the C&C burger. It is huge, has all the toppings that any fast food would offer but with better portions and a more homemade taste.”

Emmanuel added: “I have recommended this place to many of my friends and family members and haven’t heard any complaints.”

Elouise Kelley, a long time resident from Trenton says: “I’ve been living in this area for a very long time and this is the first time I have seen a place like this. I come here in the morning to get breakfast. The French toast is good, so are the pancakes.”

Prices at C&C are no higher than $13 for an entree, including a meat, a starch, and a vegetable. The food is great and the price is right for a student budget. Even if you don’t take classes on Mercer’s Trenton campus, it’s worth taking the school shuttle bus downtown to try out C&C’s excellent offerings.

Caribbean Restaurant Hot on D Spot feels like Trinidad in Trenton Fri, 28 Mar 2014 00:03:51 +0000

The second you step inside the door of Hot on D Spot Roti Shop you’re transported from Hamilton, New Jersey to Trinidad’s white sand beaches, crystal clear waters and a warm, tempered sun.

The mouthwatering sound of hot oil frying home-made roti dough and sizzling chicken is immediately audible. Beef and shrimp being tossed together into vats of hot peppers, chickpeas, potatoes, pumpkin and spinach – all prepared in mere minutes after ordering.

Relax and wait comfortably watching a cricket match on the screen above a large Trinidad flag.

The taste of cold, sweet mango juice lingers on your lips as you eagerly await the man who brings you your food from behind the counter, a confident smile dances across his face because he knows the second you take a bite, you’ll be coming back for more.

Alwas in the pursuit of odd flavors and spices, Hot on D Spot is a wonderful tropical destination for local foodies. Located at 1469 Nottingham Way in a strip mall, the restaurant blends the flavors of India and Africa in handcrafted and authentic Trinidadian cuisine.

Here, the food tells the story of its journey from across the seas to your plate.

The owner and manager, Ramesh Hayban, or Roy, as he is known to his customers, was born in Trinidad. He grew up eating the homemade food he serves today. His ancestry can be traced back to India, and Roy infuses Indian flavors into traditional Trinidadian cuisine.

“In Trinidad we have no dairy, so what we use in here comes from that,” he says.

Afer a bite of Aloo pie he says “We use the Roti and Dhal Puri and put some meat maybe. Many of us are even vegetarian or vegan, so we make food for the people who are too.”

The restaurant offers a diverse selection of both meat and vegetarian dishes. Hot on D Spot only uses vegetable oil in their cuisine. Most of the food is comprised of a Roti, a type of flatbread made of ground yellow split peas; a staple in many Trinidadian diets.

The bread can be made several different ways: fried, tossed or patched, the latter of which involves a turning process to create a savory layer in between the sides of a Roti where some loose patches of whole-wheat flour remain after cooking.

Roy serves your filling of choice over the roti. A curried blend of meats and vegetables is a popular choice. The most popular choice is Channa; the blend used in other foods like Aloo Pie or Doubles. Channa is a chickpea-derived curry made for the sole purpose of entertaining the palate.

A sprinkle of hot sauce containing the legendary Scorpion pepper, the hottest pepper on the planet, crowns the entree. According to Roy, the pepper is so hot he only needs one per gallon of hot sauce, and even then he only applies it sparingly.

“Most of the ingredients I buy from Brooklyn and Queens because of the great Trinidad population there,” Roy said. He will pile on more of Scorpion pepper hot sauce and offer you to try some if you’re feeling daring.

“I can get all the fresh foods I need there and bring them back here for you and my other customers,” Roy said.

The preparation process for creating such authentic cuisine doesn’t come easy, though. “It usually takes us about 2-3 hours to make a batch of roti,” said Seeta Hayban, Roy’s wife. Seeta works everyday in the restaurant, preparing and compiling the homemade cuisine.

“Where I come from, after school, women come back home and help their mothers make food for the rest of the family. It is not easy. It takes time and practice to do well,” Seeta said. “Usually, my mother would expect me to be able to cook something perfectly after only three times of practice. My mother loved to cook for festivities, and I always by her side to help.”

For the patrons it is worth every second. The combination of homemade roti, curry and spices tossed in lightly with precision creates an authentic Trinidadian dish you won’t soon forget.

Piccolo Trattoria in Pennington is provides warm atmosphere and excellent Italian fare Mon, 18 Nov 2013 03:43:48 +0000

Douglas Garcia, a waiter of four years at Piccolo Trattoria in Pennington NJ, serving chicken parmesan.  Photo by Zac Santanello

Douglas Garcia, a waiter of four years at Piccolo Trattoria in Pennington NJ, serving chicken parmesan. Photo by Zac Santanello

Family owned Piccolo Trattoria features both an affordable pizzeria and upscale Italian Restaurant. Located at 800 A Denow Rd in Pennington, Piccolo Trattoria has 12 years of success. Originating in Newtown, PA the restaurant has now three locations including Langhorne, PA.

Along with the great food, the restaurant has different elements of italian culture. When you walk, besides the refrigerated desserts display, you can see are the pictures and paintings of Italy. The background music, iconic italian singer/songwriter Andrea Bocelli, sets the atmosphere.

The main dining room also features three beautiful large light fixtures and large windows. Although the restaurant is not very large in size, it has a seating arrangement of about 20 tables, but provides enough space to be comfortable.

The decoration and music are assets on the success of the restaurant. Eric Szymanski, restaurant Manager at the Pennington location said that the difference between Piccolo Trattoria and other Italian restaurants is the value and quality of their menu.

“We provide a better value for our food and each dish is made with the freshest ingredients.” He continued by saying “Our chefs have a strong culinary background in Italian food.”

The restaurant menu features both classic and unique pasta, seafood, chicken and veal dishes. All meals on the dinner menu come with a homemade soup such as pasta fagioli or fresh salad.

The dinner menu appetizers range between 10 to 13 dollars and the entrees range from 15 to 23 dollars.

Prior to the first course, fresh baked Italian rolls were served with a warm, chunky tomato dip that had a hint of italian seasoning. The dip was flavorful and the tomatoes were extremely fresh.

After placing an order, they bring you the first course, a salad of romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and carrots. The house dressing, which was an incredibly sweet balsamic dressing, gave an amazing taste.

The chicken parmesan with a side of angel hair pasta ($16) had a steaming hot, breaded large piece of chicken topped with a layer of warm melted mozzarella cheese and topped with more sauce and and fair amount of pasta to go with it.

Patrons seem to be happy with the food and service offered at Piccolo Trattoria. “The quality of the food can’t be beat and the service is always really great. It has that family owned atmosphere and that’s one-of-a-kind,” said Paul Dorio, Mercer County Sheriffs Officer and resident of Ewing Township.

During his second time dining at Piccolo Trattoria Restaurant, Dorio ordered the Penne Pasta with Shrimp and Chicken in a Pesto Sauce ($17).

He said “The pesto sauce was very creamy. I could taste the freshness of the basil with garlic and parmesan cheese. The chicken and shrimp were cooked just right and complimented the dish nicely. It was outstanding!”

Dorio said that the prices of the dining menu are more expensive but worth it. “I usually order from the pizzeria because it is significantly less expensive, but it’s occasionally nice to splurge on dining out.” Dorio said.

Server Alexandra Lang said “I’ve been working here for 10 months now and I really enjoy it. It’s a great restaurant to work for. Because this is a family owned business, everyone is close and that’s what makes this a great place.”

The restaurant operates seven days a week and serves dinner all day on Sunday.

Midori Sushi in Princeton is becoming a local hot spot Mon, 18 Nov 2013 03:33:38 +0000

Midori Sushi of Princeton's sushi chefs from L-R, Vincent Ming, Lin Wang and Jun Tao prepare hand rolls and specialty rolls. Photo by Sam Foster.

Midori Sushi of Princeton’s sushi chefs from L-R, Vincent Ming, Lin Wang and Jun Tao prepare hand rolls and specialty rolls. Photo by Sam Foster.

The Princeton North Shopping Center on Rt 206, houses Midori Sushi, where the food is excellent but the price tag is a little hard to swallow.

“This location is the third Midori sushi, all owned by the same people so they know what they are doing” said Jennifer Huang, a waitress at Midori.

Opened a year ago, Midori has been doing well, according to Huang. “The community has embraced the restaurant completely.”

From the exterior the restaurant is unassuming and run-of-the-mill, but inside it is tranquil and modern.

The spicy calamari is a great start for people who like plenty of heat; the more timid may want to go for the miso soup.

If you opt for the Kani salad, don’t expect anything simple or predictable. Bursting beads of caviar compliment the crunchy crab and cucumber paired with a mayo based dressing. It is bliss in an oval shape bowl.

Sushi, steaks and hibachi are all offered here. Among the sushi options, the Lobster Fest Roll is the most expensive, priced at 16$. But you get what you pay for. It is the perfect bite of sweet and tender Boston lobster stuffed with creamy avocado, crisp cucumber and eggs from heaven all wrapped inside of soy paper and finished with a spicy uzu based sauce.

The Midori roll was named after the restaurant so you know that is done right. It includes three mouthwatering pieces of tuna, salmon, and yellowtail inside of one roll.

When this restaurant advertises “Special Rolls” it really means special. From the samurai roll to the caterpillar roll, both the presentation and the taste sensations will delight. Lets just say that the only thing I left on that plate was the flower decoration.

Midori is one of those places that your friends will be glad you told them about. Choose it for a splurge or a special night out (you can order online which is useful for party platters that will wow your guests). Go for the unusual offerings like the “blue crab fantastic roll” that includes bar-be-que eel and avocado. You won’t be disappointed.

Award winning restaurant, Barbara’s Hungarian offers best comfort food in Mercer County Mon, 18 Nov 2013 03:12:08 +0000

Lazlo and Barbara Kolarovszki working at Barbara's Hungarian Restaurant om Ewing, NJ. Photo by louise Traberg-Nielsen

Lazlo and Barbara Kolarovszki working at Barbara’s Hungarian Restaurant om Ewing, NJ. Photo by louise Traberg-Nielsen

Hidden away in a strip mall in the heart of Ewing, at 1400 Parkway Avenue, and open six days a week, is gem known as Barbara’s Hungarian Restaurant. The food is homemade and while many may not be familiar with the cuisine, it is rich and savory and apt to appeal to the American palate.

The restaurant’s owners, Laszlo and Barbara Kolarovszki, welcome customers into a different world away from work stress and Jersey drivers. Open arms and broad smiles are offered as Laszlo greets guests at the door and ushers them to one of the broad wooden tables.

The Kolaroszkis met in Hungary and have been married for 23 years but came to the States 13 years ago in search of new opportunities. They do all the cooking themselves. “I used to spend every day in the kitchen with my mother, cooking, since I was a little girl,” Barbara told The VOICE. “I would always help her.”

They began their business as a food stand at a flea market in South Brunswick in 2004; their popularity grew and they were able to open the restaurant in Ewing in 2009. So far they have won three awards: the New Jersey Monthly, 205 Best Restaurants, Reader’s Choice and Critics Picks; Best New Jersey Restaurants 28th Annual Readers Choice Awards; and Best North Jersey Restaurants, 2013.

Their menu offers variety of traditional Hungarian foods from goulash to vegetarian dishes like pea soup with noodle. The traditional fare is extended with daily specials such as oven roasted chicken, served with fresh vegetables. Prices are reasonable (averaging $12 per entree) and portions are large.

Barbara suggests, “Chicken Paprikas” (Csirke paprikas) for entree. This is a dish with chicken leg floating in boiled dumplings. Another alternative is chicken breast with mushroom sauce, and boiled dumplings, along with a cucumber salad as the side dish.

“It’s one of the most traditional Hungarian foods.” Laszlo said. “It’s like pasta for Italians.”

Only a few minutes after placing the order, two heaping plates of food arrive. It is clear there will be leftovers to take home.

The plate of food were served so warm that while the steam rose from the dumplings, tiny bubbles were popping from the chicken. The meal was served with sour cream on the side, which, in Hungary, is a tradition for chicken.

The cold sour cream mixed with the warm chicken creates a creamy, delicious mix. Every bite tastes like something made by a grandmother who has spent a whole day in the kitchen.

The kitchen is open and visible so the customers can see Laszlo and Barbara at work. Barbara runs the stove, while Laszlo washes every single plate and cup in the sink.

A recent patron, Graciela Leal, who attends Thomas Edison State College, told The VOICE, “It has a great atmosphere. It’s a very cozy place to eat, and to enjoy friendly conversations.”

While taking a bite of the Mushroom Goulash (Gomba paprikas) $11.99, with rice and peas, Leal continued, “They have a great service. The gentleman [Laszlo Kolarovszki] serving us was very nice, and funny. I feel like I can ask for anything and he will bend over backwards to try and get it for us.”

After working our way through the entrees, it was time to try some dessert.

Knowing that it was difficult to decide, Mr. Kolarovszki brought out a mix of apple and cherry strudels (Retesek). “It is very good” he said with a big smile on his face. From the first bite, the apple and cherry immediately melt on the tongue, while the sweet pastry surrounding the fruit falls apart gently.

Cliff and Barbara Pollock who drove all the way from Woodbridge to eat at Barbara’s, were willing to share their experience from dining in the restaurant. “The food tastes so good. It reminds of home and my grandmother cooking,” Mrs. Pollock said. ”We have a Hungarian/Polish restaurant in Woodbridge, but the food is much better at Barbara’s.”

According to Laszlo, “What makes us so much better than many other restaurants is the fact that we make our food from scratch, whereas other restaurants put their meals together straight from cans.”

When asked if they ever consider returning to Hungary the Kolarovszkis laughed and said, “No, we like it too much here in the States.”