“SUNDAY SAUCE” SERVED (almost) ALL WEEK
Dishes inspired by Sicilian Family Recipes
By Sally Deering
To Sal Albanese, the owner and chef of Presto’s restaurant on Warren Street in Jersey City, food should be simply prepared and lightly seasoned to let the flavor of every ingredient shine through. Too many ingredients and seasonings can overwhelm instead of meld flavors.
Albanese serves his personal philosophy with every plate that comes out of Presto’s kitchen where truly authentic Italian cuisine is the star of the show. Inspired by recipes handed down from family in Sicily – south of “the boot” – Albanese’s dishes stand out because they’re made with fresh, flavorful ingredients.
“A lot of my menu is from family recipes, friends, things you pick up along the way,” Albanese says. “My mother has given me so much info, and a lot of it has to do with how we prepare the sauce. We do it the way my mom made it at home.”
The cozy Warren Street eatery seats 30 and it’s open for dinner from 5-to-10 pm every day except Sunday. Regulars keep the place hopping and now that winter is here, deliveries are up, too. And although the menu hasn’t changed much since Presto’s opened in 1991, there are specials and signature dishes that have regulars coming back for more.
“We sell a lot of Pasta Carbonara, Chicken Parmigiana, and Chicken Marsala,” Albanese says. “We’ve started doing pizza deliveries, too.”
Presto’s menu features appetizers like Shrimp Cocktail, Baked Clams, and Mussels Marinara ($8.95-$13.95); and salads like Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil; and Grilled Shrimp, Portobello and Mozzarella (each $9.95).
For pasta lovers there’s Manicotti, Stuffed Shells, Baked Ziti, Spaghetti and Meatball, and Pasta Carbonara ($12.95-$16.05). Chicken entrees feature Chicken Francese, Chicken Marsala, Chicken Parmigiano and Chicken Piccata ($15.95-$16.95). Seafood dishes include Shrimp Scampi, Shrimp Parmigiana, Shrimp Marinara, Seafood Marinara and Linguine with Clams (red or white; $!8.95-$23.95). Eggplant is also on the menu served either Parmigiana-or-Rollatini style ($14.95-$16.05).
Presto’s Pizza Menu is almost Zen-like: four types, plain and simple: The Small Pie (10-inch; $6.95); Large Pie (16-inch; $12.95); Grandma Pie ($13.95) and Margherita Pie ($15.95). You can get extra toppings, too, ($1 ea. for small pies; $2 ea. for large pies.) Toppings include pepperoni, sausage, meatball, mushrooms, peppers, onions, black olives and anchovies.
Albanese, a self-proclaimed pizza fan, takes pizza very seriously. Ingredients must be carefully chosen and the sauce must be flavorful.
“The sauce is important, the type of cheese you use is important, too,” Albanese says. “For a good pizza sauce you need it thicker and a little on the sweet side. You want to taste the flavors of everything – the bread, the cheese, the sauce.”
Born and raised in Jersey City, Albanese says he likes how the city has changed since he opened Presto’s in the early 1990s. Residential buildings have been popping up all around his restaurant at a rapid rate; bringing more people into the quaint neighborhood not far from the Hudson waterfront.
“The residential buildings around us are going up so quickly now; 10-and-20-story buildings,” Albanese says. “That’s a lot of people moving into the area; a lot of cool people. The city is changing rapidly. It’s terrific for Jersey City. I’ve seen a lot of changes and this is the change you want.”
If you go
199 Warren St, JC
Hours: Mon-Sat, 5-10 pm