By STEVEN DESALVO
For Montclair Local
“Montclair Eats” is a new column from food writer Steven DeSalvo. DeSalvo works as a personal chef in Montclair, has a degree in hospitality business management from the University of Delaware, and has worked extensively in restaurants and hotels. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this column DeSalvo will explore food around town in the form of short lists and “best of”s. Is there something you’d like to see covered? Interested in eating a particular thing and need a recommendation? Write to us at email@example.com.
When I was thinking about the food I wanted to explore in Montclair restaurants for the first edition of Montclair Eats, I decided to start simply.
Pasta has been one of my favorite foods. I love to make it and I love to eat it. Our recent weather that seemed to go almost directly from summer to winter helped me realize that all I really wanted on a cold night was a hot plate of stuffed pasta, comforting, filling, and delicious.
I chose three different stuffed pastas from three of Montclair’s fine-dining restaurants. All are seasonal, and rely on ingredients associated with fall or winter, and they are the perfect dish for a cold night when you do not want to leave the house. I know that you would be as gratified by eating these delicious pastas as I was. Titles of dishes below come from the restaurant menus.
1. Delicata squash and mascarpone mezzaluna with a sage brown butter emulsion and toasted pumpkin seeds.
This dish comes from Chef Ryan DePersio’s Montclair staple, Fascino. The restaurant has been around for 14 years, and the experience he has amassed over the years is evident in this dish.
The pasta filling is just slightly sweet, the mascarpone adding creaminess and that flavor element that only this cheese can provide, and that makes for a very satisfying bite. The filling is nestled inside the perfect amount of pasta, which is expertly cooked al dente.
But what brings this dish together is the sauce, a purée of sweet onions and a splash of lime juice, necessary to cut the richness of the brown butter. The dish is finished with crunchy pumpkin seeds and fried sage.
2. Potato-stuffed agnolotti with Taleggio fonduta, brown butter, and fresh burgundy truffles.
This dish comes from Turtle and The Wolf, owned and operated by Chef Lauren Hirschberg.
The agnolotti resemble little sweet-potato-stuffed pillows. These are enriched by the creaminess of the Taleggio fonduta, which is a glorious mixture of melted cheese and warm milk or cream. This plate is further enhanced by the brown butter and the generous shaving of fresh Burgundy truffles. The nuttiness of the brown butter married with the textbook earthiness and indescribable bouquet of the black truffles adds many complex layers of flavor to this dish.
3. Porcini mushroom-stuffed ravioli in a sauce of Parmigiano cream and black truffles.
From Scala Del Nonna and Chef Michael Cetrulo. This dish is a prime example of elevated comfort food: it makes customers happy. I could have eaten the truffle oil-infused parmigiano cream sauce with a spoon after I finished my ravioli. The proportion of perfectly cooked pasta to flavorful mushroom filling was exactly right, and these flavors along with the cheese and truffle oil in the sauce offered a haunting umami finish (umami is the fifth taste, often described as meaty or rich). One portion of this dish was a meal in and of itself. Yet it still made me want to come back for more.
In this column:
• Fascino, 331 Bloomfield Ave., fascinorestaurant.com, 973-233-0350
• Turtle and The Wolf, 622 Valley Road, turtleandthewolf.com, 973-783-9800
• Scala Del Nonna, 32 Church St., scalinifedeli.com/scaladelnonna/, 973-744-3300