Giovanni Barone has plucked the outstanding entrées from his menus at his other restaurants, past and present, and put them together as his signature dishes on the menu at Barone’s Tuscany Grill.
"I’ve been operating restaurants for the past 16 years," says Barone. "I considered all menu selections throughout my career and selected all the best ones for the Tuscany Grill."
If you haven’t been to Barone’s Tuscany Grill in Pennington lately, you might want to stop by and check out the newly revised menu, from the Cozze Posillo (mussels in a spicy pomodoro sauce) as a hot appetizer to the Straccianata (porcini veal in a veal stock with fresh parmagiana) as the entrée.
"When I talk about the food at my restaurants, my slogan is, ‘Vetta cucina Italiana,’" says Barone. Loosely translated, the Italian expression means, "Best Italian cuisine."
But he takes it even further: "To me, it means real Italian cooking. We use the best and freshest ingredients. Everything is prepared to order – nothing is precooked.
“We use Hopewell Valley wines to cook our sauces and also purchase our produce from Jersey farms,” he adds.
Barone opened the Tuscany Grill as a family restaurant nearly three years ago. He also owns the Villa Barone and Santino’s Ristorante & Lounge, both in Robbinsville.
A second-generation Italian, Barone’s family actually from Naples, not Tuscany.
"I’ve traveled all over Italy," he says. "Tuscany and its food just blew me away."
The Tuscan experience starts the moment you walk in the door at the Tuscany Grill and step onto the light hardwood floor. Overhead is a wood-beam trellis and a high ceiling, the walls are naked brick and cream-colored plaster, and the dining room is open and airy.
"Once you step inside, you feel like you’re in Tuscany," Barone says.
And then there’s the food. As in Tuscany, grilled seafood and chops, and light creams predominate.
And don’t miss the pizza, all made with fresh, homemade mozzarella cheese. There’s a wide range of mouthwatering selections, such as the Del Mare, made with crabmeat and shrimp in a marina sauce, and Rigatoni Vodka Pizza, with the rigatoni sautéed with prosciutto, cream sauce and a touch of marinara.
Since variety is the spice of life, Barone presents theme night each Thursday.
"Shore Night" was the theme on one recent Thursday. It included a selection of grilled and marinated fresh vegetables; cold mussels, oysters, shrimp, and clams on the half-shell as cold appetizers; and hot crabs in a light Italian sauce as a hot appetizer.
To enhance the mood of theme night, the restaurant features Ed Wilson as the live entertainment, singing and playing classic rock tunes on the piano.
Ultimately, however, the food is the draw. Barone considers all of the entrées as standouts.
"The food speaks for itself," he says. "We use the best ingredients and the prices are reasonable. It’s a great value. You should bring the whole family."
Barone’s Tuscany Grill, 21 Route 31, Pennington. 609-818-0012.