54 North Franklin Street
Lambertville, Hunterdon County, New Jersey
By The Artful Diner
Special to nj.com
March 12, 2007
Printable Copy of this Review
Yes, I do believe in love at first sight... and first bite. And that
pretty much sums up my feelings about DeAnna's, chef/proprietor Dianna
Paterra's cozy Italian enclave in Lambertville. And it surely didn't take long
for this homey establishment to settle comfortably into the ranks of one of my
all-time favorite NJ dining spots.
Does that mean DeAnna's does everything right? No, not necessarily.
Just because a restaurant happens to be one of your favorites, that doesn't
mean its perfect. There are numerous Garden State stopovers that offer better
food, more polished service, and snazzier surroundings. But DeAnna's
succeeds admirably where many other establishments fail: It offers an
exceedingly gratifying gestalt, a pleasant dining scenario in which the
restaurant whole is infinitely more than the summation of its individual parts.
The interior is bathed in the soft glow of candlelight and boasts terra
cotta-colored walls, vintage black and white photographs, plethora of throw
pillows adorning comfy banquettes, a "cell phone booth," and a
striking mural painted by local artist Kevin Griffin after Sol Steinberg's 1957
New Yorker drawings.
I particularly enjoy DeAnna's cozy, three-sided bar, the perfect spot
to enjoy a libation before settling in at table... or, for a more casual meal,
just stay put and Armand, the restaurant's amiable bartender, will get you set
up and take care of all your libationary and culinary needs. A good bartender
is an invaluable asset to any establishment, and Armand strikes just the right
chord with his patrons. He is totally professional yet personable of demeanor,
willing to strike up a friendly conversation or leave you to your own devices.
And one additional item about the bar area: It is sparkling clean... as is
the restaurant itself, including the restrooms, which are spotless. You sense
that the entire establishment had been scrubbed, top to bottom, just moments
before your crossed the threshold. If the public areas are this pristine, it is
only natural to assume that the kitchen must also be immaculate. And that is
surely enough to fill any red-blooded American diner with a genuine sense of
But on to the food... It is Italian comfort fare, pure and simple, as
satisfying to the soul as it is pleasing to the palate. And you begin on a most
auspicious note... with a basket of crusty whole wheat Italian bread from the
Italian Bakery in Trenton. Dense and delicious, it is also the foundation for DeAnna's
crowd-pleasing garlic bread for two ($4.50).
Among the starters, the pasta e fagioli ($7.00), the soup of the day
during two of my visits, is rich and rewarding. The hearty vegetable stock is
intensely flavorful and awash with pasta, beans, and perfectly cooked diced
vegetables. A most comforting companion on a cold winter's night.
The Neapolitan ($10.00), another special, is also highly recommended. It is
comprised of layers of lightly breaded and sautéed eggplant, roasted red
peppers, sautéed spinach, and mozzarella bathed in an excellent marinara sauce.
In a similar vein, the roasted red peppers with mozzarella ($7.50) is also
Although a diminutive salad -- freshly tossed mixed greens with the house
vinaigrette -- is included with your entrée, you might want to try either the
classic Caesar ($8.50) or the blue cheese salad ($8.50). This latter offering
combines red & green lettuces and frisée tossed with an earthy but elegant
blue cheese vinaigrette and garnish of apple slices and crumbles of blue
Entrées headline a variety of pastas, fish and meat of the day (market
price), and a select number of daily specials. And, for my money, pasta is clearly
the way to go here. Morsels of clams and capers, for example, marry extremely
well with a pleasant white sauce ($17.50); or for a bit more zip, try pasta
with arrabbiata, a sauce incorporating tomatoes, pancetta, and chilies
Two other personal favorites include the pasta with Bolognese ($18.50) and
pasta with sautéed chicken and escarole in marinara sauce ($18.00). The former
features fusilli in a hearty ragù containing sautéed mushrooms, ground
beef, and chunks of sweet Italian sausage. The latter combines tender strips of
chicken with sautéed escarole in a light, fresh marinara.
The only disappointment in several visits proved to be one of the daily
specials: salmon filet in a graham cracker-cumin crust ($24.00). The fish was
obviously at the peak of good health and nicely pan seared, but the graham
cracker crust was entirely too sweet. The cumin would have provided an
excellent counterpoint, but its presence was barely discernible, and a
nectarous orange aïoli also conspired to make the dish entirely too
cloying for my palate.
Desserts, however, are right back on track. The ricotta cheese cake ($7.50)
isn't really a cheesecake per se; it is, rather, a moist yellow cake with a
creamy ricotta cheese filling. Call it what you will, it is incredibly
delicious. As is the decadent flourless chocolate and espresso cake ($8.00).
Also not to be missed, when it is offered as a daily special, is the homey
apple cinnamon cranberry nut Bundt cake adorned with a dollop of vanilla gelato
DeAnna's also offers a compact, carefully chosen wine list that
marries quite nicely with the food. By the glass, try the smooth and supple
Toasted Head Cabernet ($10.00) or the Cabernet/Shiraz combo from Argentina's
Nieto. By the bottle, the 2004 Valpolicella Classico ($24.00) and the 2005
Soave ($28.00), both from Allegrini, make excellent dinner companions.
It's easy to get hooked on DeAnna's. I am. And if I weren't otherwise
engaged as a professional "hired belly," and lived anywhere in the
immediate vicinity, there is absolutely no question that I'd be dining at Diana
Paterra's entrancing establishment on a regular basis.
Hours: Dinner; Tues - Thurs,5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.; Fri & Sat, 5:00
p.m. - 10:00 p.m.; Sun, 4:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.: CLOSED MONDAY
Credit Cards: MC, V
Parking: Small parking lot and street parking
Handicapped Accessible: Difficult
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