Cafe Italiano
R I S T O R A N T E - & - B A R

14 Sylvan Avenue
Englewood Cliffs, NJ
(201) 461-5041
Fax: (201) 302-9532





Bergen Record -- January 7, 2000 -- Click Here for Review

Bergen Record -- February 3, 1997 -- Click Here for Review

Zagat Survey -- 2000-2001 -- Click Here for Review

Zagat Survey -- 1998-1999 -- Click Here for Review

Star Ledger -- 'Sopranos' -- Click Here for Review

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Rated "3 Stars" by The Bergen Record

January 7, 2000

"At one time, Mayor Jimmy Walker came to the stucco house on Sylvan Avenue to escape summer in New York City: the noise, the air, the traffic. Today, North Jersey is no place to escape any of those, but Walker's old manse does offer Italian food that would make the Greenwich Village native proud.

Walker, a handsome bon vivant who wore the mayoralty like a boutonniere in the late Twenties, summered in Englewood Cliffs until his abrupt resignation and departure for Europe during an investigation into municipal corruption.

But his house at No. 14, with its many awnings and its sprawling terrace, has been the scene of a new conviviality over the past 25 years as an Italian restaurant. Jim Lulani, a 30-year restaurant veteran, has been in charge for 11 of those years. He spent six years at the helm in the 1980s and returned in 1995, following an interlude when the restaurant was known as Gianni D's.

Business has been so good that this past year, Lulani opened a sister restaurant, Il Mulino in Dumont, and turned the kitchen at Cafe Italiano over to Joseph Turkaj, a Croatian chef skilled at the classics as well as more seasonal fare.

Winter finds glittering white lights and poinsettias decorating the homey restaurant, but summer may be its best season: A terrace more than doubles the restaurant's seating capacity.

The dining area inside extends along both sides of the house from the five-step entry, forming a boxy U-shape. The left side seemed like a backwater the night we were seated there, with slower service and a sense of being closer to the kitchen, When we sat in the right side, though, the meal moved at a sprightly pace with attentive servers. The kitchen door was out of sight.

The welcome is immediate and warm. A plate of fresh bruschetta, damp with balsamic vinaigrette, is set down almost as soon as the menus are distributed, and a basket of bread is delivered to the table.

The all-male serving staff is professional, sweeping the table of crumbs before dessert and refilling water glasses promptly.

The menu includes a full fist of pastas, veals, chicken, seafood, and beef, as well. as printed specials, which are augmented by recited specials.

Two special appetizers showed Turkaj's skills to good advantage. His hand was light with the Gorgonzola that scented the grilled portobello appetizer ($7.95), served on a bed of mesclun greens with a sliced tomato. So often, that cheese simply overwhelms what it is intended to accent. And his single crab cake ($8.95) was sizzlingly hot, crisp outside, yet silkily smooth inside, beneath a delicate mustard sauce. The pretty puff pastries and salsa on an endive leaf made a witty presentation.

The Cafe Italiano salad ($6.95) again, included several assertive flavors, but nothing in excess: Gorgonzola, walnuts, and balsamic vinaigrette dressed the mix of greens.

Many of the pastas on the menu are homemade, including the raviolis. One night we tried another, the pappardelle special with three mushrooms ($13.95) - portobello, shiitake, and oyster. The thick mushroom sauce was laced with brandy to produce a surprisingly rich, if meatless, entree. Penne alla vodka ($14.95) added three swirls of shrimp to a luscious pink sauce, punctuated by a sprinkling of peas.

Veal saltimbocca ($14.95), the classic preparation, was here generously served with three scaloppines, its sauce hinting of sage. Also extremely popular, says Lulani, are the seafood entrees. A Chilean sea bass ($19.95), simply broiled light rendition with asparagus tips and a heap of zucchini, was delightful.

For dessert, the waiters pull a huge Viennese cart tableside. The offerings include homemade tiramisu, cannoli, and cheesecake, as well as more complex and indulgent confections, and range from $4.50 to $5.50.

Mississippi mud pie was over the top, even for this chocolate lover. Our favorite was the tiramisu, a creamy square in which the mascarpone dominated."




Rated "3 1/2 Forks" by The Bergen Record

February 3, 1997

"If Cafe Italiano's name brings to mind a quaint little neighborhood restaurant with red-and-white checked tablecloths, you will want to revise your thinking.

This is a pretty, charming spot where white linen dresses the tables, starched peach-color napkins match the sponge-painted walls, and the lunch hour attracts a smartly attired crowd.

On a recent afternoon, sunlight poured in through an abundance of windows at the Englewood Cliffs restaurant. The dining area is divided by a center hall, allowing smokers and nonsmokers their separate pleasures, and pleasant waterscapes adorn the walls. The menu offers a generous selection of appetizers, salads, and entrees, but my lunch companion and I picked specials from the printed insert. Each came with soup or salad.

Before we ordered, our waiter brought a gratis plate of bruschetta, rounds of garlic toast topped with chopped tomato and red onion.

I chose the grilled shrimp, my companion, the fish a la Riviera. He selected scrod but could have had halibut. My salad was a mixture of red-leaf lettuce with red cabbage, dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. My companion's vegetable soup was light and pleasant, if not memorable.

My shrimp, four of them, came perched atop individual rounds of garlic toast, which rested on a bed of cold cannellini beans and red onion, the large, white plates dusted with parsley confetti. My friend's scrod was bathed in a lovely, tangy sauce flavored with sun-dried tomato, mushrooms, and black olives. Slices of potato, onion-wrapped and browned, accompanied it.

Our desserts - a creamy square of not-too-sweet tiramisu and a slice of custard-and-cream-filled raspberry-topped spongecake - served with espresso were a lovely ending to a lovely rneal."




Zagat 2000-2001

"Personal attention" from proprietor Jimmy Lulani ("he cares, he cooks, he loves you") and his "friendly" staff keeps this Englewood Cliffs Italian hopping, particularly on Saturday nights when diners jam the "attractive" residence that was once the summer home of former NYC Mayor Jimmy Walker; P.S. the early bird is "a great buy."




"Among The Best In New Jersey"

Zagat Survey 1998-1999 For Their Sunset Dinner

"If you haven't dined out lately, or if you've been looking for a place with a unique atmosphere to take someone special, then you owe it to yourself to visit Cafe Italiano Ristorante, located in Englewood Cliffs at 14 Sylvan Avenue, phone 461-5041, one mile north of GW Bridge.

This restaurant occupies one of this region's most famous and historic homes - that of the handsome, flamboyant mayor of New York City in the 1920s, Jimmy Walker. The fine architecture of the era, combined with exquisite cuisine makes for a truly memorable experience. Restauranteur Jim Lulani has comprised a menu of great selections, large portions and affordable prices. His Cafe Italiano was rated 3-1/2 forks on February 3, 1997, by The Record. Choose from a menu that offers a variety including even the most particular of combinations. From the hot and cold appetizers, to the pastas, risottos, chicken, veal, seafood, beef and lamb entrees, you will find every item is prepared in a unique way. End your meal with a cup of cappuccino or a taste-tempting dessert and see for yourself that their staff will charm you from start to finish. Party rooms are available to fit any budget.

Think of Cafe Italiano for an evening of sheer gourmet delight, Enjoying good friends and fine food in a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere is something we definitely enjoy and we are offered this and much more at Cafe Italiano. "If you haven't dined out lately, or if you've been looking for a place with a unique atmosphere to take someone special, then you owe it to yourself to visit Cafe Italiano Ristorante.




- 'Sopranos'
THE FANDOLFINIS, an intense group of "Sopranos" united in their appreciation of star James Gandolfini, held a conclave at Cafe Italiano in Englewood Cliffs on Saturday night. The gathering was the fourth since the HBO show's debut and easily the largest, drawing aficionados from as far away as Delaware and North Carolina. The six-course Italian feast was so rich this writer feared he'd have to be wheeled out of the joint on a dolly.

Among the topics of discussion: whether the show had slipped in quality since season one (some felt it wasn't as good, others thought it was just different); whether the meandering, surreal season two finale was satisfying (a split decision), and which episode was the best overall (in an informal poll taken by this writer, the season two episode about sin and mortality, written by actor Michael Imperioli, slightly edged "College" from season one).

It was a fun evening. Cathy DeMeo, who works for the state arts council in Connecticut, told of a fellow fan who went through serious eye surgery and had to hold his head down during the healing process; he arranged to have a TV monitor fixed so that it faced upward, thus ensuring that he wouldn't miss the latest installment. Veronica Scurti of North Carolina presented attendees with homemade T-shirts and bumper stickers advertising "Soprano Waste Management." The slogan: "Garbage is our Bread & Butter."

-- M.Z.S.


The Fandolfinis just can't get enough of "Sopranos" cutie James Gandolfini.




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