Sirenetta Seafood & Raw Bar has been open in Hoboken for almost three weeks now and is already proving to the local community that you don’t need to be down the Shore, in the Hamptons or at a crab shack somewhere to enjoy quality seafood. Its fast success is an exciting preview of the culinary and hospitality excellence to come in the Mile Square City.
Sirenetta was created as the coastal spinoff of its sister restaurant, Sorellina Italian Kitchen and Bar, which is located right across the street. The goal of Sorellina, which means “little sister” in Italian, was to invite guests to celebrate Italy’s vibrant culinary culture. With Sirenetta, translating to “little mermaid” in Italian, the goal is to offer that same level of hospitality and cultural introduction, but in a different setting.
“After a successful four years at Sorellina, I started looking at spaces for my next location, and with a vacant old bar across the street, it seemed like the perfect fit,” explained owner Gabi Lombardi. “As soon as I started the design process, I envisioned a large, curved raw bar as a main focal point. I didn’t want it to be a classic nautical-themed seafood restaurant, but rather a more contemporary and trendy vibe to cater to the uptown-Hoboken crowd.”
She succeeded in that aspect. As you walk in, you feel as if you were relocated across the river to NYC. The beautiful bar showcases their rotating selection of East and West Coast oysters, tiger prawns, king crab legs, littleneck clams, smoked mussels and more. But when the food arrives, you’ll be transported to Southern Italy through the quality and preparation of the seafood. My recent visit made me nostalgic for the time I studied abroad.
The Road to Opening
It’s taken a full year for Lombardi to see her second project come to life, mostly due to the chain of events that took place this year. She bought the space (previously occupied by Maxwell’s Tavern) in October of last year, and they were mid-renovation with an original target date of May 2020. Unfortunately with the shutdown, it was postponed.
Even though restaurants are allowed to have indoor seating again, it’s devastating for Lombardi to see her newly renovated space only be enjoyed by 25 percent capacity. However, she’s grateful she can have diners at all.
Luckily, Sirenetta’s design and open concept makes people more comfortable to sit inside since the restaurant’s windows wrap around the exterior and open from the ceiling to the table. They’ve already planned to add additional outdoor seating when the warmer weather returns in 2021.
What to Expect at Sirenetta in Hoboken
I usually rely on shrimp for my shellfish fix, but that has changed after trying Sirenetta’s king crab legs. The legs came to the table ready to be devoured and the meat separated effortlessly from the shell. I was so stunned to experience that type of seafood quality, especially at the beginning of October, that I had to ask about her supplier. Lombardi said that they’re located in the Bronx and Brooklyn.
It isn’t just that Sirenetta is able to provide the freshest seafood in and around Hoboken, they’ve taken the menu to another culinary level by accentuating meals with a Prosecco Mignonette and a Calabrian chili cocktail sauce. Each does its own part and dresses the seafood perfectly.
Also featured on their menu is a selection of their famous homemade pasta. (This is always the way to my heart when dining out.) Their most popular dish is the Lobster Rigatoni All’Amatriciana, packed full of lobster meat with a spicy kick. It definitely won my vote.
Another ingredient I love to see on any menu is squid ink because every place prepares it differently. Trust me, if you’re a squid ink fanatic, then go test Sirenetta’s Squid Ink Strozzapreti. It contains an array of different seafood, like octopus and calamari, with a little spice to it as well. If all of this is too much seafood for you, Sirenetta also offers meat options. These include a Pork Porterhouse and a Prime Rib.
It’s only fitting that the end of the meal was just as fresh as the previous courses. The desserts are handmade in-house, which is another way to my heart when dining out. If you love the popular Italian dessert, semifreddo, Sirenetta does their own take on it with their Frozen Espresso Bomb that is unbelievably smooth. It sits on a “chocolate and almond soil” which is similar to the crunchies you find in a Carvel ice cream cake. Another must-try is their Coconut Cream Pie, which isn’t the classic pie slice you may be thinking of. Honestly, it’s better. Think a sugar cookie crust served with lemon gelato that tastes like limoncello.
Even if you’re not in the mood to dine out to the nines, this is also a great place for cocktails. From Cosmopolitans to a whole section dedicated to Mules, you have a full balanced selection of classics and modern drinks to choose from. I ordered the Empress Of The Sea cocktail, made with Plymouth Gin, smoked coconut, citrus and egg white. As the name suggests, it is super mesmerizing. It even features a purple ombre color to it, as though a mermaid whipped it up. I typically order a Martini and never a craft cocktail, but I’ll be trying this again. Sirenetta also has an Italian-only wine menu and a wide selection for beer lovers.
Looking to the Future
The future for Sirenetta and Lombardi as a Hoboken restaurateur is poised to flourish. Lombardi’s background in the restaurant industry started when she attended the International Culinary Center in NYC. She completed both culinary and sommelier courses, and went on to become a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Masters. Now, Sirenetta will play a huge part in Lombardi’s plans of starting her own hospitality group. Each restaurant will have a different concept, menu and vibe than the previous.
She also shared that they have plans to open a cocktail lounge and coffee shop in the back room, where there is also a brand new bar and lounge that provides a different aesthetic than the main room—perfect for private events.
Sirenetta is located at 1039 Washington Street in Hoboken and is open daily from 5 p.m to 12 a.m. And coming soon, an Oyster Happy Hour from 3 p.m to 5 p.m. Reservations can be made through Resy.
Main image of owner Gabi Lombardi courtesy of Susan Teplinsky