I cannot believe Arturo’s Osteria, located in the glorious, happening, town of Maplewood, has been open for five and one-half years, and I just found my way to their exciting front door.

Amazing! You catch the friendly vibes the minute the door opens. Crowded is not the word. I’d say comfortably filled with oh-so-many people. Manager Derek Durno suggested we share a communal table with a charming family of three, and that was fine.

Arturo’s is owned by Executive Chef Dan Richer of South Jersey, and Co-Owned by Fred Shandler of Maplewood. A self-taught chef, Richer credits his culinary genius to many trips to the Piedmont area of Italy.

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“I pride myself on working with farmers who take a keen interest in their crops,” said Chef Richer. “Our focus is always on “Farm-Fresh” and “Farm-to-Table” cuisine. Our menu is predicated on fresh vegetables and fruits that are ready to be picked and prepared for lunch or dinner.”

“Currently, one of our favorite providers is Ralston Farms, owned by Farmer Bennett Haynes. We tell him what we want to grow, and he grows it. When the Farmer arrives with squash, we roast the squash, and often serve it with extra-virgin olive oil and herbs. It’s simply delicious!”

“As an artisan, who is proud of his craft, I create each daily menu, and provide the recipes that determine what we serve for lunch or dinner. Our ultimate goal is to design a menu that appeals to each and every one of our guests.”

“I’ve actually studied the art of learning how to bake bread for more than three years,” he continued. “I created the recipe for the most delicious Pan Con Tomate, a naturally leavened bread that is toasted and rubbed with an heirloom tomato. Served in the style of Northern Spain, our guests can’t get enough of this crispy rich accompaniment to any and all of our meals.” ($5.00).

Arturo’s Osteria & Pizzeria’s menu is rich with Small Plate options. Translated: (Just enough for an appetizer or an accompaniment to whatever you choose for a main dish.) Because we were a party of 5, we were able to sample a variety of small plates, salads, pizza, and signature dishes.

Along with a Margherita, the most popular pizza, prepared with handmade Mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, sea salt from Sicily, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil from Southern Italy, (large, $16.95), we included a Signature dish of Wild Mushroom Ravioli with garlic, rosemary sauce, and truffle oil, ($14.50); a goat cheese salad with dried cranberries & red onion, seved with seasonal greens & balsamic vinaigrette, ($9.50); Caesar salad, with  Romaine lettuce, Caesar dressing, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and homemade croutons, ($8.95); Small Plate of Ceci, chickpeas prepared with extra virgin olive oil and Parmigiano cheese, ($5.50); and Polpette al Forno, homemade fire-roasted meatballs, ($7.95). Yes, we also ordered and sampled the fresh New Jersey Peach  ‘Farmer’s Salad’. Simply delicious!

“Coming to Arturo’s with a sizable party is definitely an advantage,”adds Co-Owner Shandler. “Our Farmer’s Salads are always special. They contain a variety of our own mixed New Jersey lettuces combined with local fruit or vegetables of the month.”

“The staff and service at Arturo’s is friendly and efficient,” adds Assistant Manager Megan Furlong. “We do all we can to respond to our guests. Simply ask, and you’ll have your answer within minutes.”

With a large out-of-town following, and lots of locals like me, Arturo’s is generally busy. To guarantee a seat on a Friday or Saturday evening, why not arrive a bit earlier than usual, ask a server to open your bottle of wine, and simply enjoy a drink while you wait.

FYI:
What: Arturo’s Osteria & Pizzeria, 180 Maplewood Ave., Maplewood
Call: 973.378.5800
website: http://www.arturosnj.com
Hours: Lunch: 11:30  a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday to Sunday; Dinner: 5 to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 4:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday.
FYI:BYOB. Major credit cards accepted. Street and parking lot parking. Casual dress. Does not accept reservations.
Call for take-out. Handicap accessible.
$$$$: Dinner for 2: $35.00 (excluding tax and 20% tip.)

Thank-you for all of your suggestions and comments. I appreciate hearing from you. Again, if you have a favorite place to eat or graze, or visit, please let me know. I’ll go anywhere to let our readers know a great bakery, cafe, bar, or restaurant...regardless of its location.
The best to you for August.
Millicent
Mkbrody@aol.com