Non-traditional Italian fare makes this Pennington restaurant special.

A lifelong dream is a reality in Pennington in the form of Cafe Rosario, a charming restaurant featuring non-traditional, gourmet Italian specialties.

The history of the restaurant – it once housed Bulgarian specialties – is almost as diverse as its owner, Russell Bulanowski, a half-Italian, half-Polish chef who learned his trade as a kid, cooking beside his grandmothers. Bulanowski took his love for preparing food, his home-grown skills, and his childhood dream of owning a restaurant and opened Cafe Rosario.

"We specialize in homemade old world Italian specialties, but with a twist," Bulanowski said. "I take the best of what I learned from my grandmothers, and the best of modern cuisine, and infuse the two together to offer really special dishes."

Cafe Rosario’s entrees taste as good as they sound. There’s Chicken Antonio, with sauteed prosciutto, spinach, bacon, sun-dried and fresh tomatoes, and garlic, topped with smoked mozzarella and a white wine sauce. Chicken LaBella features smoked salmon, green peas and a blush cream sauce. An impressive Veal Abruzzi is egg-dipped veal medallions sauteed with wild mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, and a brandy cream sauce. Fish and seafood lovers will swoon over Zuppa De Pesce, a light tomato broth teeming with shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, lump crab and calamari. Cafe Rosario serves up several pasta specialty dishes, such as Hand-Rolled Lasagna, and Pasta Palermo, with sweet Italian sausage, shallots, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella in a blush cream sauce.

"There’s something for everyone at Cafe Rosario," Bulanowski said. This moderately priced restaurant is kid-friendly, and features more simple fare to appeal to kids. The restaurant has an upscale menu, moderate prices and is BYOB. Bringing in libations rather than having to pay a restaurant mark-up means a smaller tab for a great meal.

Cafe Rosario’s homemade cuisine also is available for corporate events, private parties, and other celebrations. According to Bulanowski, the catering department can handle up to 35 revelers on premises, and up to 110 at a local off-site hall. "We handle everything, from the linens to the chafing dishes to the servers, including clean-up. You can choose from the menu, or work with me to create a custom menu for your event," he said. On-site catering at local businesses also is available, and is perfect for meetings, luncheons, dinner events, and parties.

Bulanowski is not only a self-taught chef, but a teacher, as well. He offers cooking classes at the restaurant for those interested in learning about Italian cuisine and those looking to perfect their style. "Everyone is welcome," he said. "I work with beginners and gourmet cooks alike. The classes are a lot of fun."

The restaurant is open Tuesday through Friday for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner is served Tuesday through Sunday from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Reservations are not required, but calling ahead is advised on the weekends. Those interested in cooking classes should call Russell Bulanowski directly at 609-737-1312.

Cafe Rosario, 147 West Delaware Avenue, Pennington Reservations, Catering and Cooking Classes: 609-737-1312.

Lambertville Station Preferred destination for custom corporate events

Lambertville Station is known for its wonderful cuisine, high-end accoutrements, and stunning views of the Delaware. Those same amenities are available to corporate clients, and provide a unique venue for meetings and special events of up to 150.

Owner and Managing Partner Dan Whitaker described the extent to which corporate catering can go at Lambertville Station. His conference specialists recently helped a client create an appropriate atmosphere for a high-end interview. Lambertville Station provided an ample room, catered breakfast and lunch, and assigned an attendant to be at the ready for the entire day in order to accommodate any of the client’s needs as he interviewed his important prospect.

"That’s the spirit of what we offer here at Lambertville Station," Whitaker said. "Corporate planners come here because of the outstanding service and special attention we give to each meeting and event. Nothing’s a problem – if you need it, we’ll get it."

This "can-do" attitude extends to all facets of the catering operation, right down to securing Tastykakes(r) for a busy client. While that may be an extreme example, it demonstrates to lengths to which Lambertville Station will go to please customers.

"We are the complete package," Whitaker explained. "Our location on the river is scenic, and creates a relaxed atmosphere. Our facilities are top-notch, including free high-speed wireless access and the full range of A/V and presentation needs. Our boutique Inn is quaint, featuring rooms furnished with antiques from around the globe and comfortable Sweet Dreams pillow top bedding. Our conference specialists are at your beck and call to assure a first-rate experience. And our food, of course, is outstanding."

Lambertville Station’s upscale cuisine is made from fresh, quality ingredients. Diners know that they’ll get a delicious meal every time. "We’re consistent because of our focus on quality," added Whitaker. "Our customers are our judges, and that keeps us on our toes. I also credit our staff, most of whom have been here between 10 and 15 years. That same integrity is brought to bear with our banquet and catering menus, as well."

The restaurant’s menu changes seasonally, and is known for its wild game selections. The new Fall/Winter menu offers up both old favorites – Alligator Chili – as well as wild game, such as Buffalo Tenderloin. Lambertville Station also is known for its signature Chesapeake Lump Crab Cakes, Dijon-Rosemary Encrusted Rack of Lamb, and Ahi-Tuna with Wasabi Puree. Lunch is available Monday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Sunset Menu – a three-course meal at a special price – is available Monday through Friday, 4 to 6:30 p.m. Dinner is served Sunday through Thursday, 4 to 9:30 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 4 to 11 p.m. Sunday Brunch is available from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the Sunday Buffet from 1 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Parking is ample, and always free.

"Whether you stop by for Brunch, enjoy dinner, or host a corporate meeting here, you can rest assured that you’ll be treated with care and respect," said Whitaker. "Our greatest wish is that you enjoy, and come back for more."

Lambertville Station, 11 Bridge Street, Lambertville. 609-397-8300 Fax: 609-397-4262 info@lambertvillestation.com www.lambertvillestation.com

Mehek Indian Restaurant

From a new restaurant just a year ago to a twin set of popular restaurants in Princeton and at Baltimore Harbor.

Princetonians as well as Fell’s Point, Baltimore, residents are eternal food romantics. Give them good food that is freshly prepared with nice different drinks on the side, in the company of a friendly and cozy ambience, and they are happy. Maybe it’s just the availability of classic food in the neighborhood that has made deep culinary sense an integral part of the community.

The other day was anniversary week for Mehek Indian restaurant, as a young woman noted while walking past Nassau Street Walkway. "Yes, it seems like they had just opened yesterday," she and her parents noted. It happened to be the popular Wednesday’s Special Kebaab Night at that moment.

The visitors discovered a festive atmosphere where an ‘L’ row of kebaabs, colorful tandoori vegetarian and non-vegetarian items were searing on hot griddles waiting to be guzzled at once. Asked by the hostess to wait for few minutes, the family decided to make the best use of their time by inspecting the rest of the items on the nicely decked Indian fabric.

Ever popular dishes entrees like chicken makhani, lamb vindaloo, and saag paneer were there but surprisingly they were very well accompanied by some of the rarer dishes like chole bhature, vegetable biryani, and dahi wadas. "Since we were waiting, we hoped that the nicely decorated medley of fresh fruits and desserts would create a polite message to the diners that it was time to make room for other diners waiting to be seated," the family reported. "We were told that the selection is different but as pleasant and mouth watering on every kebaab night. Equally awesome were the selection of fresh smelling chutneys and mixed spicy pickles."

One of the best bargains is their affordable lunch buffet ($8.95) considering freshly prepared large number of dishes. One can see their wait staff pouring servings after servings in their simmering servers due to so many executive lunch visitors coming back to the buffet tables frequently.

Ever varying colorful wall hangings are a fitting accompaniment to the food that is served in "ever different" colorful plates. As the diners on Kebaab Night noted: "We look forward to trying some more appetizers and entrees from their colorfully fashioned menu during our next visit when we go in for full dining at Mehek during one of the evenings this fall."

This family added: "Their takeout option in the lower level is well worth the effort of going there and bringing the affordable food back home for easy reading and eating as well as television viewing, all at the same time."

Both of the owners, Seema Chopra and Sunita Midha, feel terrific about creating a nice option for residents and tourists after one year of their operation at Princeton and at the recent opening of their new restaurant in Baltimore.

Mehek Fine Indian Dining 164 Nassau Street, Princeton, 609-279-9191.

Also at 811 South Broadway, Baltimore, 410-522-9191.

Tre Piani Ristorante

Fresh Italian-Mediterranean food made from local ingredients keeps Tre Piani Ristorante’s menus outstanding, regardless of the season.

On October 20 Tre Piani unveiled its fall menu, featuring local meats, seafood, and produce. "That’s what makes our restaurant different and our menus interesting," said Chef Owner Jim Weaver. "We’re authentic and true to the old world style, but use ingredients that are produced locally."

The fall menu includes everything from fresh local seasonal produce to quail and chicken from the Griggstown Farm. Menus have included local black fish and Delaware Bay oysters, as well.

A new menu deserves a new wine list, and Tre Piani is offering just that. Wine connoisseurs and those with a casual interest will find something special among the restaurant’s 100 wines. "Our wines change seasonally, just ke our menu," Weaver stated. "The fall list has some very small wine producers who are doing some amazing things."

In addition to wines from Italy and California, Tre Piani’s extensive list includes wines from France, South America, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, and Germany. Twenty wines will be available by the glass.

New menu, new wine – why not a new chef? According to Weaver, Chef de Cuisine Gordon Geis recently joined Tre Piani, and is "taking our desserts to the next level. He received his training in France, and is doing wonderful things with pastry."

Tre Piani caters to all tastes and budgets. "We have both a Bistro and Fine Dining," explained Weaver. "Whether you are looking for something light and quick, or fancy, we have it."

Weather permitting, the patio still is open for those who want to enjoy great cuisine cafe-style. Patrons enjoying the patio or Bistro can order from either the Bistro or Fine Dining menus.

Tre Piani has been the recipient of numerous awards and accolades: Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, 5-Star Diamond Award from the Academy of Hospitality Services, Readers’ Choice Award from New Jersey Monthly, 4-Stars from the Home News Tribune and 3-1/2 Stars from Star Ledger. "We work hard to assure an exceptional dining experience," added Weaver.

Tre Piani is open for lunch Monday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and for dinner Monday to Friday, 5 to 10 p.m. The restaurant is open Saturdays from noon to 10 p.m., and is closed Sundays. Reservations are strongly encouraged. Attire is casual in the Bistro, while jackets are recommended for the fine dining room.

Tre Piani Ristorante, 120 Rockingham Row, Princeton, 08540 www.trepiani.com 609-452-1515. Fax: 609-452-1599.

Whitlock Tavern

Comfortable atmosphere, great food – casual dining at its best.

Dayton’s best kept secret is an upscale tavern that caters to all tastes and all pocketbooks: Whitlock Tavern, which makes its home in an inn originally built in the 1730s.

"When we say upscale, we mean we’re so much more than the old-style taproom," said Manager Ray Crossman. "We can serve you filet mignon or chicken pot pie. You can order a flute of champagne or a light beer. Being a tavern means we have the flexibility to offer a wide range of delicious food in a casual atmosphere."

Since its inception as an inn more than two centuries ago, Whitlock Tavern has been through several transformations, and most recently was meticulously restored to its original splendor. "No stone was left unturned to make sure that every detail was restored," said Crossman. "It’s historic, spotless, and comfortable."

In keeping with the tradition of a local neighborhood gathering place, Whitlock Tavern offers good fun as well as great food. On Wednesday and Thursday nights there is light entertainment: Bruce Foster on Wednesdays and Dave Miller on Thursdays. These talented artists play everything from Eric Clapton to Van Morrison to the Beatles in The Ale Room, starting at 8 p.m.

But more than a fun and comfortable place, Whitlock Tavern is a destination for both upscale and comfort food. The menu includes a variety of dishes freshly prepared for lunch and supper guests seven days a week, as well as for the a la carte brunch on Sundays. Daily menus are augmented by lunch and supper specials. On November 1, Whitlock Tavern will unveil its Winter Menu, which will favor hearty dishes such as chicken pot pies, and lamb or beef stew. "You’ll want to come in out of the cold for these dishes," Crossman stated.

The tavern’s diverse menu truly has something for everyone, including kids. Hungry diners and gourmets alike will find something to enjoy in each course, from Buffalo Wings to The King’s Soup or Taco Salad, Grilled Salmon to Penne a la Vodka, and more. And what tavern would be complete without serving a Cheese Steak or, in this case, the James Whitlock Burger?

Whitlock Tavern caters to guests in many ways – including parties and special events. The tavern has five separate dining areas. Additionally, Lydia’s Room holds 20 people and is perfect for small parties. Emily’s Room comes equipped with wireless Internet service and holds 36 people, making it a popular destination for private parties as well as business meetings. "We’ve hosted small wedding receptions, bridal showers, and other events in the lovely gazebo and park next door, too," added Crossman.

"Our tavern is a lovely little place, where everyone feels at home," Crossman noted. Whitlock Tavern is open seven days: Lunch, Monday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday Brunch from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Supper, Monday through Saturday, from 5 to 10 p.m., and Sunday Supper from 4 to 9 p.m.

Whitlock Tavern, 375 Georges Road, Dayton. 732-274-2200, Fax: 732-274-0329, website: Www.whitlocktavern.com

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