Dining Italiano with Frankie and Dino on the Juke!
By Sally Deering
Â The Barge Inn is a warm and cozy Italian restaurant on the corner of 3rd and Monmouth Streets in Jersey City that offers lovers of Italian cuisine authentic family recipes in an atmosphere that makes you feel like you were invited to dinner at a friend’s home. And that’s just the way Linda and Peter “Bitzy” Paldino and Linda’s brother Richie Marto, who oversees The Barge Inn’s bar around the corner, want you to feel.
Â Linda and Bitzy have been married 31 years and not only are they partners in life, they’re partners in business. They have a son Richard who isÂ a Detective on the East Orange Police Force for 6 years.Â Bitzy and LindaÂ Â have worked side-by-sideÂ for many years andÂ Â they even created one of the house specials named for him: Pork Chops Bitzy served with potatoes, onions, sweet and hot peppers ($22). The menu and a blackboard of daily specials offer variations of seafood, meat and poultry dishes that are cooked to order and made with fresh ingredients delivered that day.
Â “Running the business has made us closer,” Linda says. “We’re partners every day and the reason it works is because we cut each other slack. We work hard. We’re here six days a week day and night.”
Â With the aromas of fresh garlic and other seasonings wafting from Chef Peter Michielini’s kitchen, The Barge Inn’s small dining room beckons patrons to take their coats off and relax.Â And as soon as you do, one of the waitresses – Eileen Gallo and Maureen Doyle – arrive at your table and take your drink order with a smile. It gets better from there. Not only is the service friendly and efficient, the atmosphere is warm and fun with Sinatra and Dino singing tunes from the corner Jukebox.
Â “This is the ‘Cheers’ of Jersey City,” Eileen says as she serves a customer the house salad dressed in a light vinaigrette made with pecorino cheese, fresh garlic and Sea Salt. “Everybody knows everybody’s name.”
For appetizers, there are Fried Clams on the Half Shell (12 for $15; 6 for $8) Mussels Marinara (sweet or hot for $15) Shrimp Cocktail, Clams Oregonato, Shrimp Scampi and Sauteed Long Hot Peppers ($5-$15.) The Fried Calamari ($15) was absolutely delicious, moist and tender, in a light, crunchy breading. It came with a side of homemade tomato sauce seasoned just right for dipping. The Broccoli Rabe appetizer ($8) had just the right hint of garlic and olive oil and tasted like it was just pulled from the garden.
Seafood entrees feature Basa Oreganato, Shrimp Oregonato Fra Diavalo, Shrimp Marinara, Fried Shrimp ($20-$22) and Fresh Lobster Tails (market price.) If you try anything at The Barge Inn, make it the Fried Shrimp. They come topped with tomato sauce (the family’s “gravy” recipe) and mozzarella cheese and they were sensational.Â The shrimp were not upstaged by the light breading and the texture of the shrimp burst with flavor with every bite.
Pasta lovers can choose from the Stuffed Rigatoni with Vodka Sauce; Homemade Cheese Ravioli with Vodka Sauce, Penne with Vodka Sauce and Linguini with Red or White Clam Sauce ($13-$18).Â The Homemade Cheese Ravioli were big and the cheese filling quite tasty.
Along with Pork Chops Bitzy, meat dishes include Chicken ala Barge with prosciutto, mozzarella, pimentos and mushrooms; Chicken Milanase, Chicken Savoy, Veal ala Barge, Veal Scallopini (red or white) and NY Strip Steak ($18-$24). Â
There are Sides to choose from like Sausage or Meatballs ($4) and daily blackboard specials like Grilled Scallops ($20) Eggplant Rollitini with Pasta ($17) and Prime Rib ($19). Many of The Barge Inn’s recipes are those of Linda’s mother Maria Marto, like the “Sunday Sauce” which is the tomato sauce that’s made with Â meatballs, sausage and pork. After the meats are cooked and removed, the sauce continues to blend the flavors of the meat which heightens its flavor. The cheesecake ($5) is Bitzy’s mother Lucille Fierro’s recipe and served on the dessert menu with Cannolli ($5) and Tartufo ($5).
The Barge Inn offers special nights, like Prime Rib night and their All You Can East Pasta night where for $7.95 you get a glass of wine, salad, appetizer and pasta served in the Sunday Sauce.
Â “We’ve been doing that special a long time, but I don’t want to change it because the customers love it,” Linda says.
Â Two regulars, Gina and Michael Lindsay of Jersey City say the first time they dined at The Barge Inn they felt like they were walking into someone’s home and they bring friends and relatives from out of town to show off how great the food is. Gina says, “They serve the best Veal Parmigiana I’ve ever had.”
Â “It’s our neighborhood restaurant and our favorite place to be,” Michael adds.
Â The Barge Inn has come a long way since John Marto opened the family business in 1961.
“When my father started the business, it was strictly seafood,” Linda says. “That’s why they called it The Barge.”
Â One thing Linda, Peter and Rich have carried on from back in the day is their passion for serving delicious Italian food and their appreciation for their customers.
Â “We have a good time here,” Linda says. “We love our customers.”
Â The Barge Inn
324 3rd Street
Jersey City, NJ