It was a very auspicious Wednesday evening—the first day of fall—when we dropped in at Trattoria Saporito. I mention this only because patrons were still dining al fresco on this balmy autumnal equinox. We chose to eat inside, where you can imagine how warm and welcoming the dining room will be, even on the coldest winter night.
It has a nice Sunday-dinner feel with white tablecloths, linen napkins, and high-backed chairs, while the overall ambience is casual and inviting.
And of course you know right away that you are in Italy on the Hudson—from the photos and murals on the walls to the music in the air, the news on the TV, the picture of the Pope, Italian flag, “la dolce vita” sign, and the aromas wafting from the cucina. The photo over our table is of Molfetta. The sky and sea are so blue, and the boats and buildings so white, you want to be transported to this town on the Adriatic in southern Italy.
Owner Gastone Alvando is originally from southern Italy and opened his Hoboken restaurant in 1999. Photographer Terri Saulino Bish is also Italian. The two talked nostalgically about the peasant dish, pasta e fagioli, a pasta-and-bean combo often given to little kids.
We were given three appetizers: a gorgeous cold antipasto of grilled vegetables, including eggplant, breaded zucchini, carrots, green beans, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, and asparagus wrapped in prosciutto. There was none of the oiliness that sometimes wilts grilled veggies. These were crisply cooked.
Next up, eggplant rollatini, breaded eggplant slices, clothed in ricotta cheese and tomato sauce. Of course this could be a delectable entrée in itself. And last, a large disc of buffalo mozzarella atop a beefsteak tomato, the cheese and tomato incredibly fresh.
Time to relax with a drink. Trattoria Saporito is BYOB. We brought our own beer and spiked iced tea. If you bring a bottle that needs to be chilled, the wait staff brings an ice bucket immediately, always appreciated by white wine and beer drinkers.
OK, now for the pasta dishes. Among the specialties of the house are Tortellini della nonna, tortellini with mushrooms in white sauce. Della nonna means grandmother, and the dish is a kind of grandmotherly comfort food. The other is Orecchiette con cime di rape, pasta with broccoli rabe. It has that nice, slightly bitter bite of broccoli rabe, which adds a beautiful green accent.
Two entrees followed. A moist and savory Chicken Portofino is cooked with eggplant, plum tomatoes, and melted mozzarella and comes with a Saporito salad of mixed greens.
Red snapper meuniere is originally considered a rustic dish. The word meuniere means miller’s wife and refers to anything dredged in flour. It’s made with lemon, white wine sauce, and parsley. The tenderness of the fish and simplicity of the ingredients make for a light entrée. No doggy bag for this one.
Topping off the meal was the Italian signature dessert—tiramisu, which literally means “pick me up.” It probably got the name because it is laced with coffee and cocoa, anchored by ladyfingers and mascarpone cheese and what looks and tastes like whipped cream. Served with a frothy cappuccino, it is indeed a pick-me-up.
Marco, the manager, and all the wait staff were hospitable and efficient. Gastone keeps a watchful eye on his dining room and his diners.
Which is one reason why this eatery is a Hoboken favorite. You always want to come back for more.—Kate Rounds
328 Washington St.