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Savoring the Flavors of Pasquale’s: Taste of Authentic Italian-American Cuisine

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BOONTON — As my group of foodie friends and I headed out for a casual lunch at a popular local pizzeria it came to mind that these wonderful little eateries, spattered throughout every town and city, are often overlooked when seeking out some of the most satisfying, comforting, family-friendly, reasonably priced food you’ll ever need.

Located at 307 Main Street, Pasquale’s stands out as an appealing, stylish building, with its large arched windows and yellow-painted frontage, welcoming you in.

Our gathering brought us to one of vibrant downtown Boonton’s longest-lasting eateries, Pasquale’s Pizza Restaurant. Located at 307 Main Street, Pasquale’s stands out as an appealing, stylish building, with its large arched windows and yellow-painted frontage, welcoming you in. On entry, you are immediately immersed in an atmosphere that is reminiscent of an old-school-style pizzeria.  Reminded me of those small, wonderful pizzerias that I used to stop in at as a kid, and that’s an exceptionally long time ago.

Get Acquainted with Tony Biago: The Passionate Culinary Maestro Behind Pasquale’s Pizza Restaurant

As you walk in the door your senses are immediately stimulated with that tantalizing aroma of freshly baked dough, tomato sauce, and all those herbs and spices that make Italian American food one of the most popular foods in America. There is a small dining area, with a corner nook, and maybe room for five tables, yet spacious and airy enough to dine in comfort. The interior is pristine, and the black walls covered with paintings by a local artist, provide an eye-catching, distinctive, and whimsical motif. The black walls covered with cheerful photos of pizzas, food names, catchy expressions, and old family photos create a vibe that can only raise your spirit no matter how your day is going. Those large exterior windows allow for a well-lighted and cozy atmosphere, and the Victorian-style tin-type ceiling, brick, and soft rustic wood accents are well thought out. Pasquale’s also boasts an immaculately clean open kitchen, where you can watch owner, and Pizzaiola, Tony Biago working the peel as he expertly shakes, turns, and prepares a fresh pie. When asked about the décor, Tony stated, “I wanted to create an old school feel, with a little pinkie of modern.” Congrats Tony, you did it!

Patrick Minutillo Relishes a Conversation with Tony Biago, Pasquale’s Pizza Restaurant Owner, While Savoring a Delectable Slice of Grandma Pie.

Meeting with Owner Tony Biago was a true pleasure. His joyful and exuberant personality filled the room. Being a top-notch chef is unquestionably important, but being able to relate to, care for, and connect on a personal level with your customers is to me what makes a restaurant stand out. Tony told me that he can recall all his regular customers by name, and what their favorite dishes are. I have never been to Pasquale’s, but after just a few minutes I felt like I had been a customer for years. That’s something special!

I was able to sit with Tony for a bit between orders to discuss his journey. He told me his dream was to become a golf pro, and that he once took a job as a breakfast cook at a golf course so that he could practice his game later in the day. Raised in a traditional Italian American household, where he watched and learned how to cook Italian dishes from his Mother, and where he claims to have developed his taste for good food, he always had that as a backup if the golf thing didn’t work out. In 1989, with the golf career not looking promising, he happened across a newspaper ad for a pizzeria in a Town called Boonton. A ways from Belmar, where he was living, didn’t stop Tony from checking out this prospect. Once introduced to the historic, lively, vibrant, eclectic community of Boonton, with its quaint rolling hills and wide range of restaurants, it wasn’t long before Tony opened the doors to Pasquale’s. That was 35 years ago, and Pasquale’s is still going strong and is more popular than ever.

In July of 2015, Boonton ran a Pizza throwdown, where 11,000 people came out to try slices from local pizzerias.  Tony is proud that despite some great pizzerias participating, Pasquale’s won bragging rights at the end of the day for “Best Crust,” “Best Sauce,” “Best Regular Sicilian,” Best Grandma’s,” and “Best Overall.” The newspaper article still hangs in his restaurant today. In June of 2020, Barstool’s David Portnoy visited Pasquale’s, famous for his internet pizza reviews. Now, I enjoy Portnoy’s reviews, but he was not in a good mood during the visit, complaining and annoyed that no one answered his phone call, he settled for a slice, went outside, and gave Pasquale a mediocre score. Not that he would ever read this, but Dave, I would suggest you make a return visit to Boonton and give it a fair shot.

Now we were anxious to sample some of the menu. Tony let us know that everything is fresh and made from scratch, and all his dishes are made to order. He says he tries to have something for everyone, and that kids particularly love his pizza. He let me know that the bulk of his business is take-out and that he feels honored that so many of his customers, who are like family, are returning customers. “Even people who move down to the shore still keep coming back.” The menu offered a nice variety of your usual pizzeria standards; appetizers, pizza, dinners (chicken, pasta, veal, eggplant, etc.), calzones and strombolis (buffalo, chicken, spinach, sausage, etc.), cold and hot subs, wraps, grilled dishes (Italian Hot Dog, assorted burgers), kids meals (yes, even chicken fingers.), and don’t forget to bring along your favorite bottle of vino, as Pasquale’s is BYOB.

Discover the Irresistible Flavor of Pasquale’s Buffalo Chicken Strombolis: Succulent Chicken, Tangy Buffalo Sauce, and Melted Cheese Encased in a Crispy, Flaky Dough.

Our group asked Tony to just bring out a Grandma and Sicilian Pie, Buffalo Chicken Roll, Sausage Broccoli Rabe Rol, and Sausage Roll to start. As usual, this was to be shared as a group as an appetizer, before we considered our entrees. I don’t know what we were thinking but enough food came out to feed our group three times over, and still leave enough to take home. Obviously, and somewhat sadly, entrees would have to wait until another visit.

Indulge in Pasquale’s Abundant Antipasto Salad: A Vibrant Array of Meats, Cheeses, and Fresh Greens, Accompanied by Crusty Italian Bread.

The first to come out were the Grandma and Sicilian Pies. Frequently, I often hear people ask what’s the difference. To put it as simply as possible, a Sicilian pie is a thick crust pizza, with a nice crispy texture, thick fluffy crust, slightly oily, and baked in a square tray. Grandma pizza, on the other hand, has a crust that isn’t given that extra time to rise before it’s topped and baked, so while it may still be thicker than a standard New York slice, it’s still much thinner and less chewy than the Sicilian crust. Even though, all are made with the same dough, the cooking method is different for each style of pie.

Savor the Perfect Balance of Textures in Pasquale’s Sicilian Pie: Crispy, Charred Crust Complemented by a Soft, Pillowy Base, and an Even Spread of Sauce and Cheese.

Before visiting Pasquale’s, I had heard that his Sicilian pie was something special, so there was no way I was going to leave without trying it. It did not disappoint! Nicely cooked; crispy, crunchy, slightly charred crust, with a soft, spongy, pillowy base, covered with a perfect distribution of sauce to cheese. Beautifully textured Sicilian Pie! Tony explained that all his homemade tomato sauces are prepared differently to complement each style of pie. As I tried the thinner Grandma Pie, (also a square pie) which leans towards a more prominent sauce-to-cheese ratio, I could see what he was talking about. Each pie, delicious on its own, had its distinct taste, and in both cases, the sauce was vibrant, with a well-rounded flavor, tangy and sweet. I enjoyed both equally.

Delight in Pasquale’s Signature Garlic Knots: A Flavorful Twist to Your Dining Experience”

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the generously sized antipasto salad that preceded the meal. Lots of delectable, assorted meats, cheeses, roasted peppers, olives, arugula, and peppers, and course, crusty Italian bread, just to kick off our appetites. Don’t forget the garlic knots!

Tortellini Alfredo: A Luxurious Pasta Dish featuring tender, cheese-filled tortellini enveloped in a rich and creamy Alfredo sauce. Enhanced with savory Parmesan cheese and aromatic garlic, this classic Italian comfort food is a harmonious blend of indulgent flavors and textures, guaranteed to satisfy your palate and warm your soul

Following the pizzas, out came the freshly baked entrees.  I don’t know how we could still be eating! Buffalo Chicken Roll, Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Roll, and Strombolis (sort of a rolled-up cousin of pizza), and whatever else Tony brought out.  Both the Buffalo Chicken (Chicken, Mozzarella, Blue Cheese, and Hot Sauce, wrapped in a beautifully baked crust), and Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Rolls, and Sausage Roll were all packed with flavor, and loaded with pleasurable, gooey goodness in every bite. Nice mouth feel, as I eagerly sank my teeth into that crunchy, subtle, textured dough to discover all those wonderful fillings of meats, cheeses, and vegetables inside. After a piece of each one, I had to surrender, as did my dining group. And there was still plenty for everyone in the group to take home and enjoy at another time.

It was an enjoyable dining experience at Pasquale’s, and we have to thank Tony Biago for making us feel like family, and for his wonderful hospitality during our visit. I will be back soon to try some of the rest of the menu.

Gazie, cibo delizioso!

Dine In – Take Out – Delivery – On-Line Ordering – Catering; Reasonably Priced – BYOB; Open 7 Days a Week – 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.; Street Parking;

Pasquale’s Pizza Restaurant, 307 Main Street, Boonton, NJ 07005. Phone: (973) 335-8686; Menu: pasqualesboonton.com.

Reprinted from Parsippany Focus Magazine, April 2024. Click here to view the magazine.

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