Corrections or additions?
This article by Nicole Plett was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on July
15, 1998. All rights reserved.
Dining Destination: Tre Piani
The lay of the land may feel familiar, but visitors
to the new Tre Piani restaurant at Forrestal Village who knew it
as Castaways, or even Characters before that, will be surprised by
the cream-colored elegance, Mediterranean ambiance, and adult
sophistication of the new premises under owners Vincent Farro and
Joseph Maltese. No children’s menus or crayons here. At Tre Piani,
Chef James Weaver ventures into some intriguing culinary territory,
with an upscale profile that most closely resembles the first eatery
to occupy the premises, Woodrow’s.
But Woodrow’s was sparsely elegant. Tre Piani’s decorator has
festooned this rather cavernous space with murals, draperies,
statuary, and knicknacks using a Roman-era theme. Downstairs, in the
airy, two-story new Bistro where French doors open out onto an outdoor
dining terrace, there are murals of shepherds and shepherdesses draped
in cream-colored chiffon above the wood bar, and a cream-colored baby
grand piano stands ready for action.
Upstairs, the formal dining room is carpeted and quiet, clearly
designed for a relaxing and luxurious experience. The textured walls
are painted a rich cream, and here, too, the high ceiling lends drama,
with exposed beams festooned with branches to resemble a grape arbor
hung with tiny lights. Although fairly intimate in size, the formal
dining room gets a more spacious feeling, opening, as it does, onto
the two-story space below. Here too a cozy oak bar stands ready for
Tre Piani — the name means three floors — boasts four dining
areas (two on the first floor), each with a different atmosphere,
and three menus. The lunch menu is served in all rooms from 11:30
a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; the Bistro menu is served on the outdoor patio
and first-floor dining room; and the fine dining menu is served in
the second-floor formal dining room and in the third-floor banquet
The lunch menu includes pizzettas and focaccia, made to order, from
$9 to $11, a choice of salads priced $6 to $7.50 (to which, for an
additional $4, grilled chicken can be added), and hot and cold
antipasti. Entrees feature pasta, and lunchtime versions of the crab
cakes, mixed shellfish grill, grilled vegetables, or tuna entrees
served on the evening Bistro menu.
Of the two evening menus, the downstairs Bistro menu
seems to offer more sparkle and variety. This casual and contemporary
fare includes a choice of pizzette ($10 to $13) and an array of
inventive entrees, all priced from $12 to $16.50. These range from
risotto with asparagus and shrimp, Moroccan lamb tagine with couscous
and chives, and a grilled tuna steak with Sicilian-style eggplant
relish, to filet mignon tips sauteed with wild mushrooms. The
excellent shrimp and scallion pancakes with spicy harissa sauce
(offered as an appetizer upstairs for $9), are $8.50 on the Bistro
On the formal dinner menu upstairs, entrees range from $17 for
Milanese-style meat-filled tortelloni, to $27 for Osso buco in tomato
and basil sauce with herb risotto. Although the heritage is European,
the big portions are scaled for New Jersey appetites. The
Moroccan-seasoned grilled tuna is $24 and comes with portobello
mushrooms and a tomato stuffed with spinach and couscous. There is a
pan-roasted French hen with gnocci, and grilled soft shell crabs in
spicy peanut sauce (each $24). A new addition to the menu is the
paella with lobster and corn. Dinner begins with crusty Italian bread
served with seasoned olive oil. Dinner for two with wine quickly
approaches the $100 range.
It pays to plan ahead and enjoy a dessert from pastry chef Susan Osif.
There is refreshing homemade gelati and sorbetti, plus wickedly rich
macadamia nut baclava, lemon-scented cheesecake, and a creme brulee
that could become the envy of chefs for miles around.
— Nicole Plett
609-452-1515. Tre Piani has a full liquor license. Reservations for
parties of three or more and credit cards are accepted.
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