This is a first for me, a 4* review for a restaurant I would not want to return to. But.......I can see why a lot of people like it. Why?
First, the food and the value. Though there are supplementary charges for some items, $54 is a good price for a complete meal of this quality: 3 complete courses with an amuse-bouche, sorbet, cookies, and coffee thrown in. The down side of this is that though the food is tasty, it is also old-fashioned and heavy. We were served bread (slightly stale, the only serious quality flaw) and focaccia even before our entree-size appetizers. We ate it all - we didn't need to, but we were hungry - then struggled trough our main courses and gave up before dessert. If you like a lot of food for your money, and are traditional and conservative in your tastes, you will love this place, but if you are looking for food that is lighter, more interesting, and modern, you will not. There were many reasonably priced wine options by the way, as well as plenty of more expensive bottles. Like the food, the wine selection is decent but mostly very conservative.
Second, the service. This is also very old-fashioned. It is experienced, excessively formal, and a touch obsequious, but also attentive and efficient. There were no servers under 50, and certainly no women. I think this is a bit of an issue.
Third, the ambience. It is hard for me to believe this place has been open only 18 years, since the decor seems stuck in an at least 40-year-old timewarp. The dominant tones are a muted orange and pink, every effort has been made to exclude natural light, the atmosphere is hushed and opulent, and the furniture is, like the food, outdated and heavy.
There are my impressions. Living in Northern NJ can sometimes feel like taking a step back in time, and there is definitely a place for the traditional, suburban, Italian-American restaurants that abound here. Scalini Fedeli is a pretty good example of the genre and i think I can understand why it is popular and successful among the older, mostly well heeled, professional folk who live around here, but no way is it a 5* restaurant and it is most unlikely that I will return.
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