PARSIPPANY — Anyone who knows me knows that one of my favorite go-to restaurants in Parsippany is the Gourmet Café. Since I was dining there for a pre-holiday dinner with friends, I figured it was as good a time as any to write up a review.
The Gourmet Café is like so many New Jersey small, independently owned, and operated restaurants that you find hidden in the middle of some strip mall off the highway. The Gourmet Café is in Baldwin Plaza on Baldwin Road in Parsippany, nestled between a row of other small stores, and right off Route 46 West.
Despite a classy and attractive exterior, unless you know of the Gourmet Café chances are you will drive right past it. Fortunately, many have found their way to this multi-award winning, highly acclaimed venue throughout the 15 years it has been here, mostly through word of mouth and social media. One thing I have noticed is that once someone finds this place they come back, and they come back often.
The Gourmet Café, which opened in 2007, is the lifelong dream, pride, and joy of Chef Matthew Pierone, known to all his friends and customers, which are usually the same, as Chef Matt. I think you must look at the back story of any great Chef to really appreciate how, where, and from whom, they learned and how they developed their exceptional culinary skills and abilities. I believe that a great Chef must pay his/her dues if they want to get to where they can earn such recognition. Ask any of his customers and they will most likely tell you, Chef Matt who is one of the most sincere, warm, welcoming, and personable people you will ever meet always goes the extra yard to make every customer feel that they are part of his family, which presents itself not only in the personalized service but in the high-quality gourmet dishes that he is proud to serve every day. When he can extricate himself from the kitchen Chef Matt enjoys making the rounds and personally visiting every table. A genuinely nice personal touch.
Back to Chef Matt’s back story which began at age 14 as a dishwasher at several popular restaurants before graduating with the highest honors from The New York Restaurant School in Manhattan. Early ventures into the restaurant trade included stints at such high-quality establishments as Gracie Mansion, The Highlawn Pavilion, and the Rainbow Room in NYC. As he continued to learn and develop his skills his reputation grew, and people noticed. He went on to become the Executive Chef at the Racquets Club of Short Hills, Chef de Cuisine at Eccola Italian Bistro, Saucier at Rod’s Steak House, Chef at the Green House & Sous Chef at the Grande Café in Morristown. Each new experience providing Chef Matt the opportunity to continue to enhance his culinary skills, which now can be experienced with a visit to his fine establishment.
On entering the Gourmet Café, you will find a very classy and chic ambiance. Custom crafted tables are spaced throughout in accordance with COVID safety rules, the interior of the beautiful dining room comes across as very intimate, cozy, and comfortable. The restaurant is immaculately clean, and the service is fast, personable, and always professional. Basically, it is a very friendly Bistro style setting with tasteful accouterments throughout, including the Chef’s nicely framed family photographs that adorn the walls and the tasteful brick accents. The dining room is always well-appointed, and the table settings are always elegant and sparkling and do not forget to bring along your favorite vino as the Gourmet Café is BYOB.
On entering we were immediately welcomed and directed to our well-prepared table. Without delay, our wine was uncorked (at my request) as cold water and a basket of bread was brought to our table by the very accommodating, friendly, and cordial wait staff.
On this visit our group started with appetizers’ including Spiedini all Romana (this bread filled treat complete with Prosciutto, Mozzarella, Anchovy, and Garlic was fantastic), Pignoli Encrusted Scallops with a Balsamic Reduction drizzled over the large, sweet, and buttery, perfectly prepared row of scallops, fresh and flavorful grilled shrimp, and a generously sized portion of Sausage, Broccoli Rabe, Mozzarella and Red Peppers. I personally could not wait to try the Gourmet Café’s newest dish, Zuppa di Pesce. The carefully prepared presentation alone makes your mouth water.
This is truly a treat any seafood lover will go crazy over. A large selection of fresh and delicious assorted seafood thoughtfully arranged over al dente pasta with a ring of mussels surrounding the plate. It was seriously as good a Zuppa di Pesce as any I have ever had.
The roasted, crispy Chicken Matteo also looked and smelled amazing. Served with crispy Salami, Spinach, and melted Mozzarella and served with an Anisette brown sauce. I was told by my friend that it was as delicious as it looked as he devoured his serving.
Of course, there’s always the Gourmet Café’s signature pasta dishes to choose from. Tonight’s choice was the Orecchiette with shrimp, sausage, roasted peppers and served with a Maple Whiskey Sauce. Perfectly prepared with just the right amount of shrimp and sausage to compliment the pasta.
A normal human being would have stopped there but I could not pass up Chef Matt’s newest sensation, the Pear Clafoutis. I have never had or heard of this French dessert and I do not know how it is made but it is tender, sweet, and somewhat custard-like and topped with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream. I was seriously impressed at how good it was and along with a final cappuccino it made for a perfect end to a memorable dining experience. I have no doubt that the Pear Clafoutis will soon be a much-in-demand item on the dessert menu.
We are incredibly lucky to have such high quality, gourmet Italian food available right here in Parsippany and I highly recommend stopping in and giving the Gourmet Café a try. I am confident you will not be sorry.
Dine-In, Take Out, BYOB, Available Parking, Curbside Pickup, Vegetarian Friendly, Gluten Free Options.
Gourmet Café (Italian Restaurant) is located at 136 Baldwin, Parsippany. For reservations call (973) 316-0088. To visit their website click here.