CLASSIC ITALIAN WITH NOUVEAU TOUCH
By Sally Deering
Whether grabbing a slice in the busy pizzeria on Central Ave or joining friends for a sit-down lunch or dinner in the dining room in back, Renato’s Pizza Masters in Jersey City offers the casual gourmet a delicious Italian experience.
In the Central Avenue storefront customers line up for Renato’s classic pizzas and subs, and on a recent cold afternoon, the Pasta Fajioli and Escarole with White Bean soups were extremely popular. In the back dining room, which seats 55 very comfortably, the atmosphere is relaxed, open and classy with tables covered in white linen and white butcher-block paper and extremely attentive waiters stationed close by to give customers their best service.
Owner Richie Renato and his sons Mark and Lorenzo oversee Renato’s Pizza Masters in Jersey City; it’s been a family business since 1959, and Richie Renato bought the business from his cousin in 1962. Originally from Italy, Renato keeps a keen eye on the day-to-day and over the years has seen three generations of customers bring in their children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren.
And although times have changed, Richie Renato and his sons stays true to his mission to serve fresh and delicious Italian cuisine in a casual, relaxed atmosphere. It’s even written on the menu: “All our dishes are prepared fresh to order using the finest ingredients. Feel free to relax and enjoy!”
The dining room menu features Antipasti, Salads, Pasta, Entrees, Focaccia and Wraps, Personal Gourmet Pizzas, and Life Fare (sides). The Antipasti (appetizers) includes Fried Calamari Toscana; Shrimp with Garlic Sauce over Crostini; Zuppa Di Mussels; Meatballs Romano; Stuffed Mushrooms; and Portobello Mushrooms with broccoli rabe. ($6.95-$9.95)
Pasta dishes include Cavatelli, Chicken and Broccoli; Fettucine Alfredo; Angel Hair Pescatore; Papardelle Taormina, a wide noodle served with shrimp, prosciutto, mushrooms and peas in a pink sauce; and Pasta Al Forno, a choice of Old World baked pastas like lasagna, manicotti, stuffed shells, and cheese ravioli. ($9.95-$17.95)
For entrees, diners can choose Shrimp served Francaise, Scampi or Parmigiana- style; Pork Chops Murphy; Sea Scallops with fresh garlic; Chicken Boscaiola with Portobello mushrooms; Flounder Francaise or Marechiare; and Grilled Skirt Steak. ($14.95-$19.95)
Renato’s also makes homemade Focaccia, and serves it in sandwiches like the Steak & Portobello, Turkey, Roast Beef, and the Grilled Chicken Breast with pesto mayo, romaine, tomato, roasted peppers and fresh mozzarella. This hearty sandwich comes to the table with the Focaccia warm and the fresh mozzarella generously melted over the tangy peppers and pesto mayo. Served with light and crunchy waffle fries, this sandwich is absolutely delicious. ($8.95)
Personal Gourmet Pizzas round out the menu and include the Margherita with fresh mozzarella; Prosciutto; Selvatica with fresh tomato, mozzarella and pesto; Piccante, served with pepperoni; Gamberi, sautéed shrimp with vodka sauce; and Frutti Di Mare, sautéed shrimp, calamari, scallops, garlic, oil, and fresh mozzarella. ($7.95-$15.95)
“We sell everything on the menu,” Renato says. “I like to change it sometimes because once in a while customers like something new.”
Renato insists the dining be casual and the food he serves is a mix of traditional and contemporary Italian cuisine. Many of the recipes date back 50 years and more.
“These recipes are tried and true,” Renato says.
The reviews on Yelp.com are pretty terrific, too. Lauren K. of Hillsborough Township posted this on Yelp.com: “…The food is fantastic! Today I had the pasta special – spinach ravioli with shrimp in Alfredo sauce. The ravioli was fresh and handmade. The spinach filling was flavorful and the pasta was not overstuffed. The sauce was just the right consistency and wasn’t too cheesy. Alfredo is tough to get right and Pizza Masters gets it.”
It’s clear from all the Yelp reviews posted online that Renato’s Pizza Masters in Jersey City delivers consistently delicious Italian cuisine. The prices are good and the ambience invites lively conversation over a great meal. Elle R. of Jersey City said it best in her Yelp review: “Renato’s is one of the few restaurants that I can proudly say has blown me away every single time I’ve visited! Excellent food at great prices, and fantastic and friendly staff – what more could you ask for?!”
If you go:
Renato’s Pizza Masters
278 Central Ave
Hours: Open every day from 11 am to 12 midnight