Last night, a dear friend made reservations for us to dine at Molto Bene, a small jewel box like Italian restaurant located in the heart of historic Cranbury in New Jersey. Named for the Italian term “very good”, this tiny restaurant packs in a bar, a mercato (market) and a dining area in its compact space, which is always brimming with diners.
As we noticed the diners around us, it was clear that this place was different from many an Italian restaurant. The plates coming on to the tables were diminutive with beautifully presented assortments of food.
Our native Italian friend decided that trying a series of small platters was the way to experience the full array of tastes available at our disposal. The first bite of the Palline di Palermo (Chickpea Fritters) served with a lemon alioli yogurt sauce had our taste buds singing. Reminiscent of the falafel (for its ingredients) and an Indian cutlet (for its texture), these crisp on the outside, smooth on the inside concoctions were awesome. The Polenta Fritta (Polenta Fries) that followed were a simple rendition of polenta that paired beautifully with the mozzarella cream rouille. Our vegetarian version of the Ricotta al Forno (Baked Ricotta) with homemade fig marmalade and flatbread blended the salty and sweet into a perfect mix of flavors.
From an impressive start of appetizers, none of which we had savored before, we moved on to their CICCHETTI chi-KE-tee (Small plates) dishes. We started with a tomato bruschetta and followed it with a Ricotta Gnocchi Fatta in Casa (perfect pieces of gnocci in a very simple tomato sauce).
For those wondering if we were satiated at this point, the answer is…life is too short to not indulge in dessert. So, out came the traditional Tiramisu, a warm banana bread pudding, crisp friend Zeppoles (Italian mini donuts) with chocolate sauce and some homemade cookies to compensate for our missing macaroni entrée.
A final shot of espresso capped a “molto bene” evening spent with friends discovering a new world of Italian cuisine.
If you’d like to learn more about Molto Bene or explore their off the beaten track menu for inspiration, click here: