132 Veterans Plaza
Dumont, New Jersey 07628
Rated "3 Stars" by The Bergen Record
Il Mulino Ristorante's
By WINNIE BONELLI
Rated "3 Stars" by The Bergen Record
When I called for a 7 o'clock reservation on a Friday night, the person who answered the phone replied, "no problem." A beat later he added, "but could you come a little earlier?" Surprised, I asked if he did, in fact, have a table available, "Absolutely," he replied "but if you are late all of the good ones will be gone."
He was not kidding.
We arrived at 6:55 and were seated promptly at a lovely table with an excellent view of the dining room. As we sat we watched with astonishment at how quickly the room filled. Even more surprising was that would-be diners were standing 10 deep by the door waiting for tables.
The pale-blue-hued dining room, though filled to capacity, had an open, airy feel. With more than adequate space between the tables we had a sense of privacy that one would not expect on a busy Friday night. The friendly and conscientious waiters, dressed in green aprons and vests patterned with food, wine, and cigars, moved easily between the tables taking orders, refilling water glasses, and answering requests with quiet efficiency. Their biggest challenge lay in maneuvering the oversized dessert-filled Viennese cart to waiting patrons.
While we discussed the long and tempting list of specials and the menu, we enjoyed a plate of tomato-topped bruschetta expecting to be rushed at any second. But our waiter noticed our conversation and gave us the time we needed.
An appetizer special of grilled calamari ($7.95) was a generous portion of three whole calamari, slightly charred in spots, and served over a mixed baby lettuce salad with a nicely acidic balsamic vinaigrette. The sharpness of the dressing helped to bring out the delicate flavor of the calamari.
Another excellent starter was the carpaccio di manzo ($7.95). Thinly pounded slices of beef fillet were draped over peppery arugula leaves then topped with salty capers and shaved, aged Parmesan cheese. You could stop right there and be satisfied but a healthy drizzle of truffle-infused olive oil made this dish sublime.
A salad of string beans, shaved fennel, red onions, and Parmesan - insalata arcobaleno ($5.95) - was as fantastic as it was simple. Lightly dressed with a slightly sweet dressing, the flavors melded perfectly.
We were disappointed with the insalata alla Cesare for two ($9.95). Instead of one salad tossed with the same dressing and split into two servings, this one seemed to have two different vinaigrettes on it. My companion's portion was light and lemony with a nice bite from the black pepper. Mine was bizarrely heavy on the anchovy, so much so that it overwhelmed all of the other flavors.
For the most part the food was very good but there were some small problems. A veal osso buco special ($18.95), complete with a marrow fork, was served lightly bathed with a robust tomato sauce and pillow-like homemade gnocchi. But the veal was uncharacteristically tough and chewy, which obscured whatever flavor the meat had.
Linguine alla lido ($16.95), one of Il Mulino's most popular dishes, was almost perfect. Delicate shrimp, calamari rings, mussels, clams, and a sweet lobster tail were gently tossed with a lemony white wine and butter sauce. The problem was the dry, gray, and slightly fishy-tasting piece of mahi-mahi that had somehow found its way into the dish.
A pleasant surprise was the flawless pollo alla bella vista ($14.95). Moist sliced chicken, plump shrimp, and melt-in-the-mouth scallops were sauteed with shallots, hearts of palm, and mushrooms in a delicate wine sauce, punctuated with briny capers. Another delight was a side dish of sauteed escarole. The greens were cooked with heady crisped garlic slices and excellent olive oil. A glass of red wine and a hunk of bread would have transformed this side dish into a perfect peasant-style dinner.
Desserts, if one has room, run from simple, like the homemade pastry cream-filled napoleon ($4.50) to the more complex, such as raspberry frangipani tart ($4). The tart was cloyingly sweet. An excessively thick layer of the intensely flavored almond paste hid the fruitiness of the raspberries and the crunch of the crust.
A favorite dessert was the light, creamy, and slightly tart raspberry swirl cheesecake ($4). A nice finishing touch was the complimentary plate of cut fresh fruit."
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