White Maple Cafe: Ridgewood, NJ restaurant
Staying in Ronda, Spain: Enfrente Arte Hotel

From Scratch: Excellent Italian restaurant in Ridgewood, NJ

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There's a little gem of a restaurant tucked away on E. Ridgewood Ave in Ridgewood. With its limited menu and lack of the typical Italian-American treats, From Scratch might not be for everyone. But if you are interested in Italian cooking influenced by the cooking of that country, you will probably enjoy the place. Judging by the crowds and hard-to-get reservations, plenty of people already "get it."

I could have very well been sitting in Italy the other day, as I enjoyed my lunch, with the sounds of the Italian language in the background (the owners are from Rome). The waitress that day was also from Italy. Near Napoli, as it turned out. More importantly than where she's from is that she convinced me to order an Italian soft drink.

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Typically I'll drink only wine or beer or water with food, but as she described this drink as being made with bitter orange, my interest was piqued. I'm sure glad I gave this stuff a try. Contrasted with the one-note sweet glop the passes as soda in the US, the Italian version is much more dynamic, much more interesting, and much more delicious. This stuff is agrodolce (bittersweet, as you know). It tasted not much unlike an Americano, a cocktail which I routinely drink like it's my job (equal parts sweet vermouth and Campari, topped with sparkling water and served with a slice of orange). It's made by Lurisia and called Chinotto.

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Oh the food you wonder? I had a wonderful panino with bresaola, parmesan (sliced by knife), arugula, and a touch of dressing. This is a perfectly balanced sandwich with quality ingredients. Contrasted with typical sandwiches, which too often consist of too-much mediocre bread, and too many bland fillings.  This sandwich packed all sorts of flavor and texture, all with being a sensible (to my mind) size.

Dinner one night was equally enjoyable.

We ordered pasta (calamarata in this case) con pomodoro e basilico. I figured I'd see what they could do with a simple pasta. It was as good as any I've enjoyed in Rome. Clean, fresh, simple, bright flavors. I thoroughly loved this.

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The meatloaf is unlike the typical loaf of meat. Here, it's got some ham and caciocavallo cheese, and served with a simple salad (or roasted veg).  Another fantastic dish, and one that was more Lazio than Bergen.

Bread (from Balthazar), olive oil, and a bottle of water are placed on your table, as they should be. Service is friendly. The owners have been on site each time I've visited. From Scratch is turning out to be one of my favorite restaurants in the area.

from scratch : 44 E. Ridgewood Ave, Ridgewood, NJ : 201.857.5188

 

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