MORRIS COUNTY — I have always been a fan of great Portuguese cuisine, and after 30 years of working within walking distance to the Ironbound section of Newark, I have been known to have frequented a wide variety of the fantastic Portuguese/Spanish/Brazilian restaurants located there. I cannot imagine that you are going to find any better, but you do not necessarily have to travel to Newark to enjoy a delicious Portuguese-style BBQ!
So, what do you do to satisfy your craving for some healthy, hearty, and tasty Portuguese food when you do not have the time, or patience, to deal with the hassle of driving to “Down Neck”, Newark? The simple answer just might be Tino’s BBQ & Grill, situated right here in Parsippany, a short jump right off Route 46 on Littleton Road.
Tino’s BBQ describes itself as a low-key joint in a strip mall, making Portuguese BBQ mains, sandwiches, and sides, to eat in or take out. The description certainly fits. Tino’s does appear to predominantly be a take-out eatery, but there is adequate inside seating to accommodate you and your friends, should you prefer to dine in. Tino’s can probably be described as one of those non-descript, overlooked, somewhat hidden little storefront eateries that dot our roadways. If you have not yet visited Tino’s, or thought of stopping in, that is too bad. If that is the case, you are missing out, as it is undoubtedly another great culinary addition to our gastronomically rich and diverse community.
Warmly greeted on our entry by our very friendly and amiable hosts, and co-owners, Altino “Tino “Morais and wife Maria, who immediately offered us a table of our choice. It was clear that our patronage was appreciated, and we were made to feel at home. The ambiance of the restaurant is friendly, casual with a touch of class, comfortable, and no-frills, with tables that seat four people, which are lined up against the wall and appointed with white linen tablecloths and sterilized utensils neatly wrapped in napkins. The bright and airy interior, which is more spacious than it appears from the outside, exudes a warm, cozy, ethnic vibe, and was exceptionally clean, and clearly abiding with all the current pandemic health guidelines.
The décor, though simple, is pleasant with an eye-appealing front ordering area, with Portuguese paintings and artifacts placed along the walls. The service was excellent; prompt, attentive, and accommodating. Wine glasses, water, and menus were swiftly brought to our table and our wine was uncorked. Did I mention that Tino’s is a BYOB, so remember to bring along your favorite vino? The menu offered pretty much anything you would want from a Portuguese restaurant, including, a selection of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pasta, and of course a nice selection of traditional entrees. A couple of people have asked me if they serve Rodizio here, and the answer is no. And besides, though often confused, Rodizio is a Brazilian dish and not Portuguese.
While ordering and discussing the menu, I had an opportunity to speak with the very personable Tino Morais, who interestingly told me that all the dishes served in his restaurant come from recipes he had learned from, and were passed down from his mother, in addition to a few others that he has learned along the way during his years working for several well known local area restaurants. There is no doubt this is traditional, authentic Portuguese fare, using the freshest ingredients, including meat, and vegetables from Newark markets, and fresh fish from Toms River, that Tino personally picks up several times a week. All that is evident in the quality, freshness, and taste in every bite. Altino, when asked, said his business motto is “Eat Fresh, Eat Healthy, Eat at Tino’s”.
Tino’s BBQ & Grill is Altino and Maria’s first restaurant, and they are obviously doing something right as they have been serving the Parsippany general area for over 12 years; prior to that Altino enhanced his skills and restaurant knowledge while working in such places as Casa Bella in Denville, The Station in Mountain Lakes and L’Allegria in Madison. It takes many years of experience and dedication to become an exceptional Chef or restaurateur, and since Altino modestly does not consider himself a Chef, he utilizes the skills of a skilled Spanish Chef to create those beloved family recipes he learned as a young man in Portugal.
We started by sharing several traditional appetizers; Chourica Assada (Grilled Portuguese Sausage), Camaro a Guilho (Shrimp in Garlic Sauce), and Empanadas (one beef, one pork, and one chicken). These appetizers are often referred to as tapas (small plates) but believe me, the servings were anything but small. The pork Chorizo had a nice tangy, smoky flavor and was well prepared and not the least bit greasy, a perfect appetizer to offset the accompanying Shrimp in a Garlic sauce, which had a generous amount of shrimp, was full of flavor and garlicky deliciousness. The assorted Empanadas were nice, light, crispy, flaky pastries stuffed with the beef, pork, and chicken, all of which were moist, juicy, and savory. I personally preferred mine drizzled with the hot sauce that came as a side. Great starters and any normal human being might have stopped there. Being a gavone I had to push forward as there were other great dishes to try.
For an entrée, I had a tough time deciding between the national dish of Portugal, Grilled Bacalhau (dried and salted cod), and the Short Ribs. I ended up ordering the (costeliavaca), which came with generous sides of potatoes and mixed vegetables. My friend ordered the Pork Chop Giambotta, with hot & sweet peppers, potatoes, onions, mushrooms, and Portuguese sausage. The portion size for both dishes was enormous and substantial. The moist, tender, delectable Short Ribs, grilled and seasoned perfectly, and served without sauce (unlike American BBQ) had a delicate smoky flavor that invited you to just pick them up and eat them right off the bone. Which, of course, I did! We also ordered a side of Spanish Potatoes, which were light, crunchy, and crispy, with a great bite and texture. I did not sample the Giambotta, but it was certainly a lavishly, impressive-looking dish, and reportedly tasted as good as it looked. I rarely take anything home, but I did have to give in and submit to a takeout bag tonight. These dishes were not only delicious, but the servings were ample enough to feed two or more people.
As stuffed as we were by now, we just had to try their desserts. I was glad to see that they offered one of my favorites, Tres Leches (a soft, delicate, sponge cake soaked in three kinds of milk). I do not see this everywhere, but when I do, I usually get it. My friend’s impressive portion of rice pudding was also mouthwatering. If we had any more to eat, they would have had to roll us out of the restaurant.
Whether you are a fan of Portuguese cuisine, looking for something different, or just plain hungry, I believe Tino’s will satiate both your needs and your appetite.
The food here is delicious, serving sizes are more than ample, the prices are reasonable, and it is clear to see that the owners take great pride in ensuring that their food is prepared with love and served with pride. Stop in for lunch or dinner, I found it to be a rewarding dining experience and I think you will too.
And as always, please try to come out and help support all our local, small independent businesses in any way you can.
Tino’s BBQ & Grill is located at 229 Littleton Road, Parsippany. (973) 588-7979; Portuguese Barbeque, Charcoal Pit. Hours 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. – Closed Sundays
BYOB, Off-Road Parking, Dine In, Take Out, Contact Free Delivery (Grub hub).