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Feeling Pampered At Avenue Bistro Pub

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Braised short ribs, a house specialty at Avenue Bistro Pub.

With neighboring Montclair, the restaurant capital of New Jersey, luring local diners with its plethora of choices, Verona eateries have to do something different, and do it well. Avenue Bistro Pub, a sunny, spacious year-and-a-half-old  establishment at 558 Bloomfield Avenue near Lakeside in the old Mangia Questa space, distinguishes itself from the competition by making dinner out truly relaxing. For diners at Avenue Bistro, everything comes easy– reservations, parking, superb service, even alcoholic beverages. Oh, and the food is good, too.

Our stress-free evening started with making reservations. Calling comparable Montclair eateries on Saturday for a same-day reservation at 7 p.m. would have bordered on the laughable, but was no problem for the staff at Avenue Bistro Pub, which is owned by Michael DiIonno and Andrew Durborow. We parked in the municipal lot behind the restaurant, accessed via Park Place, and strolled in through the restaurant’s delightful garden. No waits for a table here: We were greeted immediately with a warm smile by the maitre d’ and offered our choice of seating. We settled into a cozy corner spot with two high-backed banquettes for our foursome. No need to juggle wine bottles, either: Avenue has one of the five liquor licenses in Verona, so you can even order a drink, a rare treat in these parts.

Soft-shell crabs are on the specials menu.

Ordering wine, too, was easy, thanks to Avenue’s flat $20-per-bottle price, a nod to the economy. We chose a bottle of Merlot and appetizers, passing on the popular Firecracker Calamari, which we’d had before and enjoyed. Instead, we opted for the panko-crusted goat cheese medallions with roasted pears and raspberry sauce, and baby arugula salad with dried cranberries and pine nuts (both $9.95), which were straightforward light fare.

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Entrees were Capellini with Shrimp, with spinach, sundried tomatoes and roasted garlic sauce, ($19.95),  a generous portion that was just a little too generous with the oil for my taste. Our dinner companions had only raves about their Sauteed Crab Cakes with red pepper remoulade and Herb-Crusted Salmon in white wine sauce. The piece de resistance, however, was my husband’s braised short ribs, an impressive tower of meat so tender no knife was required. The red wine sauce complemented the requisite side of mashed potatoes, the ultimate comfort food for a delightfully comfortable evening.

Dessert, a slice of key lime pie (billed as a mousse, it was more like a cake) and chocolate chip cookie pie, didn’t evoke much excitement. Or maybe we were just so satisfied from our entrees that our taste buds weren’t engaging.

Although overall the food was enjoyable, particularly the entrees, the most remarkable part of the evening was our server, Bill, who, we all agreed, was probably the best waiter any of us had ever had. He was able to describe every dish in detail, was pleasant but not overbearing and, in our litmus test of quality service, mentioned the price of the specials along with the descriptions. By the end of the meal, when he asked each of us if we wanted “half-and-half, milk or skim” with our coffee, we were feeling downright spoiled. We could really get used to this.

Avenue Bistro Pub doesn’t, as of this writing, have a Web site, so use the map below for directions. The restaurant is open for dinner every night of the week from 5 to 11 p.m. It is also open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day except Monday. The number to call for reservations is 973-239-7444.

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Julia Martin Langan
Julia Martin Langanhttps://myveronanj.com
Julia Martin Langan moved to Verona in 1989. A long-time journalist, she has been on the staff of Money, Sports Illustrated, Bride’s and Redbook magazines. Her articles on health and parenting appear in a variety of national publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsday, Parents, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar, Self and Family Circle. She and her husband Greg have three school-aged children, and are members of Our Lady of the Lake Church. You can reach Julia at [email protected]

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