BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Since Giovanni's opened last spring, the bistro has quickly become a celebrated fine dining destination in downtown Berkeley Heights. The menu features New American cuisine with Mediterranean and Italian influences using fresh, high quality ingredients from specialty farms, wild fish, and hormone-free, grass-fed beef along with daily specials.
Giovanni's did not happen overnight for restaurant owners, Nadine and Bob Tokash. "Giovanni's began in a round-about way," said Nadine. Purchasing the liquor license 10 years earlier, they had plans to open a 70-seat restaurant. "Unfortunately, we were informed after construction began, that the town had decided they were not building the 40 car parking lot as they had planned." An alternative idea for a gourmet Italian deli was rejected by the town.
Giovanni's, the 35-seat bistro with a liquor license, was finally a go. "Giovanni's" was named for Nadine and Bob's grandson, John Trombetta.
The Tokashes and their chefs, Executive Chef Michael Metzner and Sous Chef Tim Monday, insist on fresh seafood every day, local "farm to table" produce, and organic poultry and beef daily.
Both Metzner and Monday are graduates of the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson and Wales. Metzner's bio includes experience working as Executive Sous Chef with Dennis Foy at the Lawrenceville Inn, Nicholas Harary at the critically acclaimed Nicholas in Red Bank and David Santos at Hotel Griffou in Greenwich Village.
The intimate seating allows for the patrons to feel as comfortable as they would in their own dining room, said Nadine. A highlight is the ability to watch Chefs Metzner and Monday preparing their recipes through a large, glass window along with their cooking team.
Giovanni's opened to "Very Good" reviews in the New York Times, complimenting the polished cooking of Executive Chef Michael Metzner.
"It is cooking that emphasizes both freshness and variety, and the focus rarely strays from carefully articulated flavors and handsome, unfussy plating..." - New York Times
NJ Monthly's review stated the chili and roasted garlic was a winner with sauce that had enough kick without being overwhelming. "The 14-ounce Berkshire bone-in grilled pork chop was outstanding and perfectly cooked medium rare as ordered. We agreed that it was one of the best pork chops we have had in a long time," stated the review. "Accompanied by roasted apple, roasted Brussels sprouts, sherry gastrique, chive oil and bacon water, yes, bacon water, which gave us an indication of the talents of chef Metzner."
Favorite starters are the Roasted Pumpkin Soup, the Granny Smith Apple Salad, the fresh Mozzarella Salad, the Bistro Salad and the Seared Scallops. The Gnocchi, the Agnolotti, and the Bolognaise are all home-made and very well received. Porterhouse Steak for two, the Wild Caught Salmon, the Halibut and Short Ribs and the Grilled Pork Chop are popular choices. The home-made assortment of desserts adds the finishing touch.
The full bar offers a fine selection of champagne and wines listed according to price starting at $25 and going to $340 per bottle. Wine is also served by the glass and some in half-bottles as well. Monday through Wednesday, BYO is allowed; on other days corkage fee is $20 per bottle, and a $10 fee for each subsequent bottle.
Giovanni's Bistro, Bar and Catering located at 449 Springfield Avenue, Berkeley Heights. Due to limited seating, reservations are recommended, call (908)464-6464. Open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner.
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