WHAT JERSEY CITY RESTAURANTS USED TO BE
By Sally Deering
Few Jersey City restaurants look like they did back in the day; and very few were around in the 1960s like The Barge Inn restaurant a little jewel in Jersey City’s crown. The Barge Inn serves Italian cuisine made from recipes handed down through generations. That’s why the food is so delicious – it’s authentic.
Owners Linda and Peter “Bitsy” Paldino run the restaurant which Linda’s dad John Marto opened in 1969. Linda remembers when Anne Polaro, sister to former Jersey City Mayor Anthony Cucci painted the murals depicting Italian scenes on the restaurant’s walls.
“Mayor Cucci was a friend of my dad’s,” Linda says. “I watched her do them; it took her two weeks.”
Marto, who is now 85 regularly comes around to lend a hand and make sure the restaurant runs smoothly; but Linda and Bitsy are in charge these days with Bitsy cooking alongside Chef Jose Marti in the kitchen; and Linda running the front of the restaurant. Their philosophy is simple, she says.
“We want everybody who comes here to feel warm and welcome and enjoy great food,” Linda says. “Everything we serve we make at home. We don’t skimp. We use good meat from Maloney’s meat market on Newark Avenue; and everything we serve is cooked to order.”
Lunch specials are served 11:30 am-3 pm, Monday through Friday, and you can order dishes like Melanzane Parmagiana (eggplant with mozzarella and tomato sauce); Broiled Basa (fresh filet with butter and lemon); Homemade Meatballs; Thin Sliced NY Strip Steak on Garlic Bread with Italian Potatoes; Pork Chop Giambotta (potatoes, onions, cherry peppers, and mushrooms in brown sauce); Pollo a la Parmagiana; Ravioli; Grilled Chicken; and Trippa (tripe) in red sauce. Everything is served with soup or salad for $9.95. No kidding, $9.95!
And if you think that’s a good deal, on Thursdays its “All You Can Eat Pasta Night” where for $8.95 you can have endless pasta and a glass of wine. No kidding, $8.95!
“We’ve been doing ‘All You Can Eat Pasta Night’ for 20 years,” Linda Paldino says. “It used to be $7.95; we raised it a dollar.”
The menu offers Italian Appetizers, Pasta, Entrees, Specialties of the House and Desserts. Appetizers include Fresh Clams on the Half Shell, Mussels Marinara, Shrimp Cocktail, Scungilli Salad, Clams Oreganata, Shrimp Scampi, Fried Calamari, Sauté Broccoli Rabé and Sauté Long Hot Peppers ($5-$15).
Pastas feature Stuffed Rigatoni, Homemade Cheese Ravioli, Penne with Vodka Sauce, Linguini with Red or White Clam Sauce, Linguini with Garlic & Olive Oil, Linguini Marinara, and Meatball or Sausage Sides ($4-$18).
Entrees come with house salad and pasta and include seafood dishes like Basa Oreganato, Shrimp (Oreganata, Fra Diavalo, Scampi or Parmagiana), Shrimp Marinara, Fried Shrimp, Calamari Marinara over Pasta, and Broiled Lobster Tails ($20-$22; lobster tails are market price).
Specialties of the House include Pork Chops Bitsy (with potatoes, onions, sweet or hot peppers), Chicken a la Barge (with prosciutto, mozzarella, pimentos and mushrooms), Roasted Half Chicken, Chicken Breast, Chicken Milanese, Chicken Savoy and Grilled Chicken with Sauté Broccoli Rabé or Spinach and Hot Vinegar Peppers. There are several veal dishes, too, and a NY Strip Steak ($15-$24).
For dessert, Homemade Italian Cheesecake, Tartufo, and Cannoli ($5); and Espresso and Cappuccino ($2-$3).
“We are the last of the authentic Italian restaurants in Jersey City,” Linda says. “This is home-cooking to the people who live in the neighborhood, especially the young people who bring in their parents. It’s a family place.”
The Barge Inn also offers a kitschy romantic setting for couples, especially with the electric fireplace. And for Valentine’s Day, the restaurant is offering a special $85 Surf & Turf dinner for two on Friday and Saturday nights, Feb. 13 & 14. Couples can dine on 8-oz. Filet Mignon (2) with potatoes and veggies; 8-oz. lobster tails (2) accompanied by ravioli in vodka sauce; and salad.
The Yelp.com reviews are pretty spectacular and this one from Garreth G. of Union City says it all pretty well: “Thursday night’s all you can eat pasta of your choice with a glass of wine (red or white… I could just stop there and finish my review but this place deserves more….What really made the pasta delicious was the sauce. They do have a vegetarian option but I got the meat sauce which had great depth of flavor of tomato, herbs, and seasonings. I barely needed any salt and pepper. I personally had 3 plates of pasta and each time was a different type of pasta noodle…The Barge Inn has character that you rarely see any more especially with all the other restaurants popping up in DTJC.”
Two regulars, Brian O’Day and Betty Kennan stopped by on a recent Thursday night for their favorite dishes.
“I like the pork chop,” O’Day says, “and Betty likes the Chicken Invotini which is Chicken Rollatini with prosciutto, mozzarella in a tomato Alfredo sauce.”
“The meatballs are great, too,” Keenan says. “They remind me of my mother’s.”
If you go:
The Barge Inn Restaurant
324 Third St