“I feel as if I’m at Grandma’s house,” were the words I gladly announced upon entering Trattoria Rustica, a small, intimate BYO Italian restaurant in the restaurant laden town of Montclair. Although my words were accurate, what I should have added was “in Tuscany”. Mostly from the décor my initial words were spewed, the smell and visions of other patrons’ meals quickly verified my opinion.
Although a small restaurant, it surprisingly fits many diners; as was apparent from this visit. I must admit it is nice to see, on a weekday night, in frigid conditions, restaurant kitchens fired up and diners coming out, in layers of course.
My companions and I started our meal off with the broccoli rabe & sausage and the garlic shrimp appetizers. The broccoli rabe dish was enjoyable, seasoned well and drizzled with olive oil. It was marred though by a touch over cooked sausage and an uneven ratio of broccoli rabe to sausage. However, the leftover appetizer dish of solely broccoli rabe was quickly devoured when paired with their crispy, oven baked focaccia bread. The shrimp were cooked better than the sausage and the presentation was also more impressive. In terms of flavor, it was a sure-fire dish. The spicy herbed olive oil became a blanket over both the shrimp and potato wedges.
As for entrees, we settled on the pollo saltimbocca, fettuccini and ravioli-of-the-day specials. The pollo saltimbocca came with mashed potatoes and traditional sautéed vegetables. The chicken aspect of the dish was the star here. Each cutlet, pounded thin enough to enjoy both the chicken and coating, was generously layered with roasted eggplant, prosciutto and mozzarella. Dressed in a marsala wine sauce, it was alive with flavor, freshness, and richness. The tomato pieces placed throughout the layered chicken tasted as if picked from the garden that day. The fettuccini special was comprised of the pasta, peppered chicken morsels, and a cream sauce. The dish itself had decent flavor and depth. However, more attention should have been placed on having enough sauce to coat the fettuccini. The raviolis were filled with butternut squash and served over cannellini beans and broccoli rabe. The sweetness of the butternut squash was almost magical; it came through beautifully in this dish. The beans and broccoli rabe forked well with the ravioli due to their simple sauté.
As a BYO establishment, this restaurant thrives on customers who want a delicious, satisfying meal at a reasonable weeknight cost. The atmosphere allows for guests to linger and take their time to dip bread into olive oil while deciding over their dinner choices. With any menu item, it seems regrets are unlikely and diners will be finishing their plates. Service was attentive and helpful when called upon. Atmosphere and attention to fresh ingredients should keep this place in top rank among this restaurant row of Essex County. Trattoria Rustica can be found at 517 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair, NJ 07042.
Total score 19/25
Final Grade: B+
A: 21-25 B: 16-20 C: 11-15 D: 6-10 F: 0-5
Bland, boring, overcooked, underdone
Very little flavor, not much aroma
Flavors apparent, basic ability to please palates
Flavor worth discussing, chef’s use of ingredients impressive
Great flavor, taste lingers and leaves diner wanting more
Inattentive staff, no regard for wait time
Staff average in helpfulness, timing alright, either more/less needed
Staff knowledgeable and attentive to needs without asking, timing very well executed
Remarkable and noteworthy, service so good you forget it is ever an issue elsewhere
Cover it up please
Sloppy and the eater can tell little thought went into it
Descent presentation: looks alright, not worth a picture but enough to make you hungry
Admirable, it is apparent the chef plated with a consideration for presentation
Presentational talents are here. Looks beautiful and too good to dig in
Prices match quality
Prices are too high for quality
Prices are still too high but not outrageously
Some items are priced accordingly but not all
Most items are priced accordingly
All items are matched accordingly
Would I go back?
Not a chance ever
Looking forward to it
What time should I arrive?!?