Update (2016): Adam Weiss is not longer at Due and I can no longer recommend this restaurant.
It was seven years ago (ACK!) that I first had Chef Weiss's cooking. This was at Esty Street in Park Ridge, where Weiss was the Sous Chef--and soon to be Executive Chef. I wrote a few words on our meals at Esty back then, which were largely enjoyable. After several visits, Weiss figured out who I was. It was another one of those situations where I have no idea how it came about. I certainly don't go around announcing myself as a food blogger and in general don't draw much attention to myself. But I guess they have ways.
Still, though, it was a bit of a surprise when Weiss recognized me during a recent meal at Due, where he's now Executive Chef. It has been at least five years since he's laid eyes on my marvelous face.
We visited Due last year, pre-Weiss, and were way, way not impressed. It was an unexceptional meal, from what I recall. The food lacked herbs and acidity. Not one herb anywhere on any dish, I recall thinking. The first bites of our recent meal, conversely, were clearly the product of a chef who appreciates herbs and acid like we do. This is no surprise, when I see what I wrote about Esty Street and Weiss seven years ago:
"Esty Street is serving food that's bright and clean. Lots of acids and herbs."
I'm glad to see Weiss bringing this style of cooking to Ridgewood.
The grilled octopus is completely different than what it was pre-Weiss. Pre-Weiss it was a heavy, monotonous affair, with white beans and balsamic vinegar. Weiss is serving the grilled octopus with some greens with olives, capers, and roasted red peppers. Lots of salty elements and, again, lots of acid. A wonderful dish, though the $17 price tag made me long for a few more pieces of octopus. Not that you'll leave the restaurant hungry.
There was a veal saltimbocca type of deal on special. A breaded, bone-in veal chop, topped with prosciutto, spinach, and house-made mozzarella, served along side bucatini. In keeping with the theme, the veal chop itself was executed well, and was popping bright. The bucatini was reminiscent of Scott Conant's famous spaghetti: fresh, clean, simple flavors.
I went with "Sunday Gravy w/ turkey meatballs" dish, which while described as "bolognese" might remind people more of what they might call a ragu. I'm not one to eat turkey meatballs, but we found these here meatballs tender and flavorful. I suspect whatever fat and flavor is missing from turkey is replaced with other fat and flavor. That's just proper cooking math right there.
Braised meat filled this dish, which was topped with house-made ricotta. Again, lots of herbs in this dish. Oddly, I spied two different types of pasta (bucatini and spaghetti), which I would think was a mistake. Overall I thought the pasta could have been a bit more on the al dente side of the spectrum. But this was a big, comforting version of a ragu, only half of which I could finish (I didn't really need more octopus, did I ). It hit the spot on this particular 90 degree/90% humidity day.
Due is a nice-looking restaurant (aside from the too-big counter/service station) and in an excellent location in Ridgewood. Prime real estate, on a corner, near the train station, with an expansive view of some of Ridgewood's prettiest and oldest buildings. During our visit that view included some kid get arrested for doing something that I have probably done several times already this year. Maybe even this morning.
It's also the spot where Adriana met the feds in Season 4 of the Sopranos (Ep: Pie-O-My) when the location was posing as a bakery. In fact I think it was a bakery back then. I think I bought a cake there once. I think I was shocked that it was $140. I think I'm still shocked. I think I didn't buy more cakes there.
The AC was not working to the level that I appreciate, but the sound system was rockin' the old-timey jazz and blues, like Jack Teagarden. I'm a sucker for that old stuff. Service was eager and friendly. Bottles of water are placed on your table. This is preferable.
If you visited Due pre-Weiss and didn't enjoy it, I'd suggest giving it another shot. It's new and improved, now with bland-busting extra Weissening.
Due : 18 E. Ridgewood Ave : Ridgewood, NJ : 201.857.3232 : BYO