New Jersey’s 25 Best Restaurants of 2023

by Peter Candia and Michael Scivoli
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The Garden State is one of the top culinary detonations in the U.S. It’s not up for debate. Dive head first into our annual list of the best restaurants in New Jersey of 2023.  Here you’ll find everything from fast-casual and no-frills plates of handmade pasta to centuries-old cuisine once enjoyed only by the French elite. When it comes to food, Jersey simply has it all. No paid partners. No geographic appeasement. Just great food, drinks and service.

7 Doors Down Ramen

271-273 Glenwood Ave, Bloomfield, NJ 07003

tonkotsu ramen winter dishes 7 doors down ramen co

The 7DD Tonkotsu | photo by Leigh Soriano

7 Doors Down somehow still hasn’t blown up. Executive Chef Lawrence Talis and Chef De Cuisine Luis Blasini take diners on a journey that uncovers the deep-rooted flavors of Nikkei cooking—a cuisine founded in Peru over a century ago that fuses the flavors of Peruvian and Japanese cooking. The cuisine is personal for Blasini, whose family comes from Huancayo, Peru. 

At 7 Doors Down, you’ll find inventive bowls of ramen and a variety of mind-bending ceviches—each one with a flair of Nikkei. The shrimp ceviche features a classic Peruvian take with its hefty leche de tigre marinade and pop of brightness from the aji amarillo pepper, while the coconut shrimp bao bun is just plain fun to eat. As far as ramen goes, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better bowl in the entire state. There isn’t a bad bowl to choose, but we’re partial to the chicken ramen, which features roasted chicken broth, shio tare, a soy-marinated egg and a pile of smoky, shredded chicken thigh.

7 Doors Down doesn’t stop at ramen and ceviche—no, that’s just the beginning. The menu is packed with playful dishes like the chicken katsu “parmigiana” and lomo saltado, which prove that 7 Doors Down is much more than simply a ramen shop. Instead, it is one of New Jersey’s most unique restaurants and one that brings a necessary change of pace to the Bloomfield dining scene. 

Battello

502 Washington Blvd, Jersey City, NJ 07310

With breathtaking views of Manhattan along the shores of Downtown Jersey City, Battello exemplifies the ideal waterfront dining experience. The ambiance, characterized by reclaimed barn wood and exposed beams, seamlessly blends rustic and nautical elements, setting it apart as a truly distinctive establishment in the state. Despite facing challenges like pier reconstruction a couple of years back, Battello is still one of New Jersey’s most iconic wedding venues.

Chef Ryan DePersio, who built his status as a New Jersey culinary titan at Fascino (now Gioia Mia), continues to showcase his culinary prowess at Battello. The diverse menu reflects DePersio’s innovative “Italian without borders” concept.

DePersio’s restaurants never miss the mark when it comes to pasta, and at Battello, you’ll find offerings like the hand-made ricotta gnocchi with sweet sausage bolognese, showing his skill in the category. Beyond pasta, revel in fennel-crusted pork chops and dry-aged, imported branzino.  No matter what you choose, Battello’s fare makes a lasting impression—remaining fresh in your mind long after your visit is over. 

The bar, well-stocked to complement the culinary offerings, also comes fit with a cocktail list full of originals and wine offerings to match.

Black Sheep Bar and Provisions *

514 North Ave, Garwood, NJ 07027

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photo via @pete.candia

Vincent Comunale and Chef Nick DeRosa teamed up to bring Union County this neighborhood spot, where the food and drink teeters the line between gastropub and accomplished chop house. That’s because DeRosa comes from a line of butchers, and that commitment to quality and sustainable meat is abundantly clear in the well-rounded Black Sheep menu. 

Enjoy beer-battered rings of delicata squash and fresh ricotta gnocchi with chorizo and sage. For entrees, there is very little space to go wrong. DeRosa shows off his butchery roots with dishes like the slow-roasted porchetta served over top braised greens and cheesy polenta. The juices from the fall-apart pork are elevated with a shot of vinegar, creating an unctuous and addicting jus. Or, go for one of the dry-aged steaks—a Black Sheep specialty. Beyond the food is a cocktail list laden with classics and what might just be the best happy hour in all of NJ with its $8 daiquiris, all-beef hot dogs, fried olives and double cheeseburgers. 

Conceptually speaking, Comunale and DeRosa have it figured out at their trendy Garwood restaurant, which is already packed nightly despite only opening in October—making it the newest restaurant on this list. But if you ask us, it won’t be long until Black Sheep is a cemented New Jersey staple. 

Cellar 335

335 Newark Ave, Jersey City, NJ 07302

Cellar 335 emerged from the literal basement of Jersey City’s downtown and helped redefine the state’s culinary landscape. Forget stuffy fine dining. The restaurant is a neon-soaked oasis of Pan-Asian fusion and tiki-tude, a place where the drinks are potent and the plates are meant to be shared. The brainchild of Jamie Knott and his partners, this dimly-lit Newark Ave space is reminiscent of a scene from Hawaiian noir: vibrant murals and plush black leather booths with pops of red create an atmosphere that’s equal parts exotic island escape and backroom speakeasy.

Chef Christopher Abbamondi, a seasoned industry veteran, is the mastermind behind the kitchen’s magic. Cellar 335’s menu is a vibrant tapestry of sharable plates that draw inspiration from across the Pan-Asian spectrum. Think sticky avocado fried rice studded with plump shrimp, pillowy bao buns overflowing with juicy Korean BBQ short rib, and Korean-style wings that pack a punch.

The real showstopper at Cellar 335 is the cocktail list. Picture fresh-squeezed juices muddled with top-shelf liquor served in tiki mugs or skull-shaped goblets that wouldn’t be out of place in a pirate’s treasure chest. These aren’t your average margs. We’re talking drinks with names like “Zombie Priest Punch” and “Jolly Roger” that guarantee to transport you to a tropical basement paradise.

The Circle

310 NJ-94, Newton, NJ 07860

Nestled in a lone 1700s farmhouse off a sleepy Newton road, The Circle isn’t your average white-tablecloth affair. Think two trailblazing Jean-Georges alums gone rogue, whipping up Michelin-worthy magic in a candlelit labyrinth of charming hearths–all surrounded by expansive Sussex County fields.

Inside, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure of dining dreams. Go à la carte with contemporary American twists, or dive headfirst into a six-course tasting voyage. Pro tip: the crispy rice with Faroe Island salmon, togarashi aioli, scallions and Meyer lemon is basically the Beyoncé of appetizers. And house-made pasta? Don’t even get us started.

The Circle is proof that fine dining doesn’t need a city zip code, or even a buzzing downtown. It’s like your coolest relatives threw a farm-to-table feast, only they happen to be culinary wizards with world class resumes under their toques. So ditch the traffic and head west–Sussex County’s got a secret, and it’s serving up Michelin magic on a silver platter (or maybe a vintage Mason jar–this is farm country, after all).

Common Lot

27 Main St, Millburn, NJ 07041

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Octopus, Potatoes, Chorizo, The Common Lot Way

It is hard to put into words just how impressive Common Lot is. With Chef Ehren Ryan at the helm, the Millburn restaurant seamlessly combines upscale technique with an inviting atmosphere—bringing a much-needed accessibility to fine dining. The breathtaking dining room is backdropped by an open-kitchen concept that allows diners a front-row seat to the fast-paced action of a high-end kitchen. 

The menu is constantly changing, with each iteration pulling from the experience of Ryan’s storied career—which includes many Michelin stars. That experience is clear in the food, which is driven by local ingredients, but defined by the flavors found across the globe. Indulge in charcoal-kissed octopus with chorizo and potato and freshly-baked milk bread, doused in a Vegemite-laced beef glace. It is Ryan’s constant quest to wow guests that makes Common Lot such a pleasure to dine at.

Ryan hung around in kitchens in his home country of Australia as well as Europe, while wife and Co-Owner Nadine studied hospitality in Austria. Combine these two resumes and you get a taste of new-age European dining in Essex County, NJ. More importantly, you get what is inarguably one of New Jersey’s best restaurants

Corto

507 Palisade Ave, Jersey City, NJ 07307

Jersey City is home to many good NJ restaurants, but nestled in the Heights is a restaurant that stands out from the rest. Corto is a collaboration between Drew Buzzio, Marc Magliozzi and Executive Chef Matt Moschella—who pays homage to “cucina povera” with his homestyle, simple Italian cooking.

Inside the homey BYO is one of the best-curated vibes in all of New Jersey, featuring plenty of natural light, soft colors and soft wood grain. The walls are dotted with paintings and brick peeking through the gaps. In the rear of the dining room is the kitchen, where guests are treated to sights of fresh pasta sheets being rolled and a team of synchronized cooks dancing through service. For a true front-row view of the action, guests can reserve a seat at the pasta bar—right in front of the kitchen. 

All of this attention to detail is only the beginning of what Corto has to offer. The menu is packed with both seasonal dishes as well as staple mainstays. Crunchy puntarelle salad with fried capers and sweet saba, fresh made rigatoni with rich, pancetta-laced pomodoro and the signature angry chicken with Calabrian chili are just the tip of the Corto iceberg. In the warmer months, bring a cold bottle of wine and enjoy dinner on Corto’s cozy back patio. 

Elements

66 Witherspoon St, Princeton, NJ 08542

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Flash-seared Japanese squid with jerk seasoning and tropea onion | photo by @pete.candia

In historic downtown Princeton and above sister restaurant Mistral, is Chef Scott Anderson’s Elements—which aims to wow guests with contemporary concepts, a prioritization of local foods and techniques found across the globe.

The Elements dining room is small, only consisting of nine tables, but the meal that the team puts forth is larger than life. The dining room engulfs the open kitchen, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in Anderson’s brilliant concept, which is deeply connected to local terroir. The front of house staff is teeming with talent, boasting what is without question the best service team in New Jersey. 

The Chef’s Tasting menu is the option to go with, including over 10 courses and some of the finest local ingredients available. Wood-grilled ribeye comes perched on a log, encased in moss—connecting you to nature in a way NJ diners rarely get to see. The churned-to-order Tahitian vanilla ice cream—served with seasonal fruit—is one of the best desserts you’ll find in the state. Nothing is off limits at Elements and for those who consider themselves experienced diners, it should be at the very top of your list. 

Faubourg

544 Bloomfield Ave, Montclair, NJ 07042

From the moment I peeked inside at Faubourg’s construction progress in 2019, I had lofty expectations. Fast forward almost five years later, and somehow, this Montclair brasserie is still exceeding those expectations and remains a key reason why Montclair is one of the state’s best restaurant cities. Faubourg was imagined by two Daniel Boulud alumni–Dominique Paulin and Chef Olivier Muller– and the space they’ve created feels like you’ve stumbled into Soho (albeit with a Garden State wink). Edison bulbs twinkle above a lush patio bar, while inside, soaring ceilings and dramatic fixtures reimagine what Jersey restaurants are capable of. And the space scores big bonus points for the hidden upstairs lounge–Faubourg’s secret weapon for post-prandial cocktails.

Faubourg won’t be defined simply by its ambiance, though. The food and inner workings are equally impressive. Think French cuisine reimagined for Jersey palates: from melty Coq au Vin to Oxtail and Bavette dueling over creamy Soubise. This is the French fix Jersey craved but didn’t know it needed. This stunning Bloomfield Ave. space has also quickly become one of the top brunch destinations in the Garden State. Occasionally, when you pause and witness the effortless choreography of Faubourg’s expansive open kitchen, it’s impossible not to be captivated. Bon appétit!

Felina *

18 Prospect St, Ridgewood, NJ 07450

With Chef Joe Tartamella leading charge, Felina takes diners on a journey that weaves between Contemporary Italian and American cooking. Elevated cocktails, a robust wine list and the wide-open concept—set inside an old bank in the heart of Ridgewood—adds up to give us one of New Jersey’s best restaurants.

To start, revel in golden-brown, crisp balls of saffron risotto and braised beef, or go the lighter route with a seasonal fluke crudo, currently flavored with plenty of winter citrus and pomegranate. Warm focaccia, glistening with green-hued olive oil and pickled eggplant comes at the hand of Chef Tartamella’s first-generation upbringing in an Italian family on Staten Island. For mains, diners feast on lasagnas for two, prime steaks and perfectly-seared scallops with ‘nduja. Further hammering on his roots, Tartamella offers a Sunday dinner for two, which includes salad, a choice of pasta and tomato-braised braciole, sausage and meatballs. 

With lauded NJ Chef Anthony Bucco overseeing the culinary operations, the Ridgewood restaurant is bursting at the seams with talent. Tartamella and the team are committed to a concept defined by home cooking done in an upscale way—it’s this shift that makes Felina one of New Jersey’s best restaurants.

Fiorentini

98 Park Ave, Rutherford, NJ 07070

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Fiorentini duck | photo by Arielle Figueredo

When Fiorentini opened in late 2021, it instantly became one of the top Italian restaurants in a state that’s filled with them. Chef Antonio De Ieso’s simple approach to cooking, which puts local produce and sustainability at the forefront, was an instant hit with Rutherford diners and beyond. Along with wife Brenda De Ieso and Sous Chef Kevin Conover, Fiorentini seems to constantly improve. 

Fiorentini—which literally translates to “the people of Florence”—is the perfect avenue for Antonio and Brenda to brandish their Tuscan roots. And though no one would bat an eye if Antonio decided to import everything from his home state of Tuscany, Fiorentini is wholly committed to using the best ingredients that New Jersey and the tri-state area have to offer. This is showcased in their seasonally rotating menu, which is brimming with handmade pastas, made-to-order risottos, venison steaks, roasted bone marrow and beyond. Antonio is not shy about his love for cooking and in fact, it is the romanticism that he uses to speak about his food that is the most addicting part about Fiorentini.

The fare, as good as it is, almost takes a back seat to Fiorentini’s phenomenal design—which beckons guests with ceiling-hung vines, repurposed wood and a spacious marble kitchen pass that doubles as a chef’s tasting counter. It is through all of these details that has made Fiorentini’s journey to the top of the NJ dining scene such a pleasure to watch. 

Grand Tavern *

1105 6th Ave, Neptune City, NJ 07753

Admittedly, Grand Tavern has flown under our radar for quite some time, but to be fair, I think the Neptune City locals have been keeping it a secret. At this Jersey Shore hot spot, no-frills plates of food fly out the window, accompanied by cold beers and playful cocktails like the Heart Shaped Box, a Nirvana-branded Negroni variation on the current menu featuring a healthy dose of chocolate bitters. Rather than change the entire cocktail, a slight variation simply elevates it. This is the concept that Grand Tavern seems to revolve around across the entire menu—both food and drink. 

The restaurant is unassuming—set in an old saloon—but you can’t miss it; the word “GRAND” painted in black on the front of the building. What makes Grand Tavern so alluring is the sheer consistency in which Chef Paul Holzheimer puts out. It has become a favorite spot amongst other NJ chefs for good reason; Grand Tavern exceeds at comfort food. 

A luxurious burger with a toasted sesame bun, pan-roasted chicken breast—a difficult dish to do right—with a healthy scoop of pomme purée on the side, crisp salads and fried pork chops are just the start of what Grand Tavern has to offer. Truthfully speaking, the dishes, in structure, aren’t revolutionary—there are no unforeseen techniques or gastronomic parading—it’s just that everything that Grand Tavern does is done exactly right. That perfect execution is what makes it one of the best. 

Hearthside

801 Haddon Ave, Collingswood, NJ 08108

Hearthside Collingswood

photo via Hearthside

Enveloped by wrap-around, floor-to-ceiling windows and a wood-burning hearth in the rear, Chef Dominic Piperno’s Hearthside is easily one of the most attractive dining rooms in all of New Jersey. Along with wife Lindsay Piperno, Hearthside focuses on two main things: the best local products and maximizing the usage of their flame-ridden hearth—hence the restaurant’s name. 

Earlier this year, Hearthside unveiled a new, reservation-only tasting menu in the restaurant—something the husband-wife-duo said helps to reduce waste and create a better work-life balance for their staff. This all comes secondary to the food, of course, which is innovative and executed at a profoundly high level.

Sweet and spicy tuna tartares and wood-roasted halibuts are excellent choices for seafood lovers, while the dry-aged, bone-in ribeye for two shows Chef Piperno’s knack for the steakhouse classics. The Hearthside staff operates with confidence and poise, adding to the already intoxicating food and atmosphere. We called it a “destination restaurant” last year and though the concept has changed slightly, that label has only become more apparent. 

Heirloom at The St. Laurent

408 7th Ave, Asbury Park, NJ 07712

Neilly Robinson and Chef David Viana’s restaurants have come to be known for their avant-garde approach to cooking, which includes thoughtful sourcing, masterful technique and plenty of artistic plating. Located inside boutique Asbury Park hotel The St. Laurent, Heirloom promises diners thoughtful dishes that are defined by Viana’s intoxicating culinary poise. It is this adeptness that has brought the lauded chef James Beard nominations and a Top Chef appearance. 

Inside the dining room, the historic beauty of The St. Laurent—which has been open since the late 1800s—is preserved with carefully curated updates to the design. A full bar and lounge area add to the swank vibe that Heirloom exudes, just blocks from the beach.

Frisky quail schnitzels and grilled pork loins fly through the dining room. Don’t skip the duck, either—which has become a Viana staple over the years. To fully embrace the lavish vibe of The St. Laurent, order a dry-aged ribeye for two, which comes accompanied by foie gras butter, duck fat potatoes and other seasonally rotating sides.  

Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen

110 South St, Morristown, NJ 07960

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Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen inside Morristown’s historic Vail Mansion | Photography by Michael Scivoli

In an industry (and world) where so many spaces and cuisines can be replicated to the point of exhaustion, it’s often refreshing to step into an atmosphere that, no matter where you travel, simply cannot be replicated anywhere else. That was restaurantuer Chris Cannon’s vision when he first opened Jockey Hollow in 2016 inside Morristown’s 1917 Palazzo-style mansion.

Though Jockey Hollow rose to prominence quickly (and stayed there), the restaurant has seen its share of talented chef–all of whom have left their mark on this 15,000-square-foot Morris County palace. However, over the last couple of years, industry legend, Chef Tom Valenti–the culinary mastermind behind Le Cirque’s renowned kitchen–has given Jockey Hollow its due stability. His vision? Ditch the stuffy, embrace the fun. The iconic raw bar stays and there is still plenty of welcomed complexity on the menu, but Valenti throws in crowd-pleasers like steak frites and a double smash burger that are just too good to pass up.

Outside of the basics, the menu’s got panache. The crisp octopus confit with warm hummus, ‘nduja coulis, fennel, kale, olive and lemon citronette stole the show (it seems no matter what Valenti throws on the plate with octopus, he simply can’t miss). Jockey Hollow isn’t just a restaurant, it’s a time capsule of culinary delights–step into the roaring 20s Vail Bar, slurp fresh shuckers in the vibrant Oyster Bar, raise a stein in the rustic Rathskeller, or climb the marble staircase to the elegant Washington Room.

June *

690 Haddon Ave, Collingswood, NJ 08108

Chef Richard Cusack’s June unapologetically embraces haute cuisine in the heart of Collingswood, NJ. The young chef’s upscale French restaurant has become a staple for both contemporary fine dining and old-school French staples. 

What sets the cozy BYOB apart from the rest is the Canard a la Presse—a tableside preparation for roast duck involving the blood and marrow of the carcass being extracted and made into a sauce right in front of the guests. Not only is this preparation difficult to pull off, it is extremely scarce—June is the only restaurant in NJ to offer the service and one of just a handful across the US. 

Beyond the duck is an a la carte menu rife with seasonal takes on modern French cooking. Escargot—bathed in bordelaise—twirls around a specially-made plate and pastry-wrapped beef wellingtons exit the kitchen en masse. June excels in a style of restaurant that is not at all apparent in New Jersey, paying homage to many of the French culinary titans that paved the way for fine dining and upscale hospitality to become what it is today. 

Lita *

1055 NJ-34, Aberdeen Township, NJ 07747

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Chef Dave Viana Stoking the Fire | photo by Arielle Figueredo

What’s not to like about Lita? The Iberian-inspired restaurant comes at the hands of successful restaurant duo, Chef David Viana and Neilly Robinson. On the outside, Lita appears as just another strip mall restaurant (something NJ has become known for), but inside are earth toned tables set with checkered linens and sleek flatware, cookbooks lining the shelves and a sea of lights hanging from the exposed ceiling. This thoughtful design comes at the hands of Robinson, who has proven herself an expert in the concept curation side of her three restaurants with Viana. 

The menu at Lita is infused with Viana’s lifelong love for Portuguese flavors. Live fire-cooked paella, addictingly juicy piri piri chickens and salt cod fritters fill the menu. On the liquid side of things, bar director Ricardo Rodriguez whips up hibiscus-spiked sangria and fat-washed Boulevardiers for guests to get lost in—and the wine list is decorated with natural wines from the Iberian Peninsula. 

What’s more with Lita is a revolutionary work structure that sees the 10 cooks double as servers. Each week, five stay in the kitchen, while five tend to diners. The next week, they switch. This concept has been spearheaded by Viana and Director of Operations, Danny McGill to create a more just environment to work in. Additionally, it means guests are getting some of the most food-knowledgeable servers that NJ has to offer.

Nettie’s House of Spaghetti *

5119 Asbury Ave, Tinton Falls, NJ 07753

Nettie’s is quite possibly the most fun restaurant to dine at in New Jersey. That’s because Chef/Owner Chris Calabrese invokes nostalgic cooking into every facet of the flawless menu, which features the likes of creamy buttermilk ricotta with semolina bread, spicy vinegar-roasted chicken, cavatelli with sausage and the best damn meatballs in the Garden State. 

Nettie’s is Calabrese’s ode to the red sauce joint: a style of restaurant that is prevalent across New Jersey. The unassuming eatery is nestled in the woods off the side of a county road just a few miles from the shoreline. You might drive past it if you don’t know where to look, but inside is a dining room designed without fault, shaded in blue and wood grain—the walls filled with trinkets and a bar that begs you to sit and have a few. 

The beverage program presents a full Negroni list—including the classic version on tap—briney Italicus spritzes and pear-inspired plays on the red wine-floated Manhattan sour. The wine list is replete with Italian natural wines, many of which are rare to find on a menu. Nettie’s will take the food of your youth—dishes that are sacred and never to be topped—and somehow, improve upon them. It’s a total dining paradox, but that’s what the best restaurants do. 

ONDO

3 2nd St, Jersey City, NJ 07302

short ribs for two ondo

Galbi-Jjim | photo by @pete.candia

Ondo is Chef Brian Kim’s avenue to bring progressive, contemporary Korean fine dining to Jersey City. Inside, a simplistic design captures attention, complemented by vibrant flavors defining the cuisine and beverages.

Rather than traditional a la carte courses (appetizer, salad, entree, etc.) the menu is separated into cold, warm and hot. Imagine this: cold shrimp salad coated in pine nut dressing and a beef tartare with Asian pear to start, juxtaposed against warm japchae, a Korean glass noodle stir fry. There is little room to go wrong, but Ondo’s signature Galbi-Jjim—a slow-roasted, bone-in short rib—is a Chef Kim specialty that is a disservice to overlook. 

The dichotomy between temperatures makes Ondo one of the most interesting restaurants in NJ. It’s not that other restaurants don’t weave between cold, warm and hot—it’s that the menu is rarely outlined by it. Ondo works to normalize this for the American palate, which is to say that Chef Kim is committed to continuously challenging New Jersey diners to move forward. Jersey City has no scarcity of restaurants and still, there isn’t one quite like Ondo.

Osteria Crescendo

36 Jefferson Ave, Westwood, NJ 07675

Forget your chicken parm expectations–Osteria Crescendo flips the script, proving Bergen County can rock a big-city culinary adventure. Nestled on a prominent Westwood corner, Osteria Crescendo is a masterclass in modern Italian swagger. Gleaming white marble and crystal whisper of an artisanal lineage that harkens back to Italian craftsmanship while the vibe hums with the electricity of a hip NYC trattoria.

After his success opening Viaggio, Chef/Owner Robbie Felice set out to broaden his horizons, and the pastas at O.C. are always a cut above the rest. The Paradiso Ravioli–a six-cheese symphony swathed in Calabrian chili oil zig-zags–is a contender for New Jersey’s pasta crown (and never comes off the menu). And when you have the opportunity to order the large format polpo fritto with tomato and eggplant puttanesca, you’d be remiss to skip it.

The bar at O.C. is equally as impressive and outside of its craft cocktails, the wine lists boasts the under-sung heroes of Piedmont. Osteria Crescendo raises a glass to regional grapes, proving bold flavors don’t require a city zip code to operate. If you fancy yourself a lover of Italian cuisine and haven’t been here by now, you’ll have to climb out of the rock you’ve been living under. What’s more, there are whispers of expansion for O.C. on the horizon.

pastaRAMEN *

6 S Fullerton Ave, Montclair, NJ 07042

pastaRAMEN

photo via pastaRAMEN

Since opening its doors in 2023, pastaRAMEN has literally been one of the hardest restaurants to score a reservation at… in the country (yes, you read that right). Chef Robbie Felice, alongside Montclair Hospitality Group (the geniuses who brought you Ani Ramen), have created the most idiosyncratic dining experience in New Jersey. 

Adjacent to Montclair’s Church Street, pastaRAMEN’s mysterious facade–blackout windows and a mysterious spotlight–create a sense of intrigue, one that’s worthy of the praise the restaurant inside has earned. The atmosphere boasts massive cherry blossoms, neon signage, street art vibes–all swathed in matte black. Think Japanese noir in Jersey.

The food is what makes pastaRAMEN truly unique. Wafu Italian–essentially where East meets West on a plate, a culinary tango between Japanese precision and Italian passion. The brothless ramens (mazemen) have quickly become some of our favorite dishes of the year–Mochi Ramen Carbonara, Temomi Ramen Shrimp Scampi. These aren’t your college dorm ramen noodles. This Tokyo trattoria Jersey never knew it needed, and Chef Felice? He’s the king of reinvention, serving up dishes as sexy as the setting itself. Get your chopsticks ready.

Saddle River Inn *

2 Barnstable Ct, Saddle River, NJ 07458

Saddle River Inn has long been a culinary destination in Bergen County. When Chef Jamie Knott took over in 2013, he transformed the fine dining inn into a contemporary French eatery, while preserving the historic charm that intoxicated diners to begin with.  

Inside the red barn, overlooking the Saddle River, is a detailed room that takes inspiration from the many intimate, “home-style” dining rooms found across the European fine dining landscape. Servers and staff dance around the floor, seamlessly tending to tables—the proper steps of service are alive and well at Saddle River Inn. 

And Knott’s menu—which evolves to keep up with the peak produce of each season—is the perfect match for the galvanizing aesthetic of the legendary BYOB. You may enjoy seared Hudson valley foie gras with blueberry-laced waffles and peanut butter—a youthful appetizer that places a heavy emphasis on the offal’s seamless ability to pair with sweet and tart flavors; but you’ll also find staples like crispy-skinned chicken and the ever-famous (and elegant) dover sole. It is not uncommon for unique cuts like Frenched venison chops to find their way onto the specials menu either. Saddle River Inn simultaneously sends you back with the timeless ambiance and progresses you forth with Jamie Knott’s forward-thinking menu and dining concept.

Summit House

395 Springfield Ave, Summit, NJ 07901

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photo via Summit House

Chef AJ Capella took over at Summit House earlier this year and since, the restaurant has entered a totally new realm. Still defined by the expansive dining room—complete with art-deco-tiled floors and exposed brick—the welcoming bar and a wide open, beautifully equipped kitchen, Summit House’s menu has seen an invited change at the hands of Capella

Grand seafood towers, crisp crudites and cultured butter tastings are enjoyed for appetizers. Capella flaunts his skill with handmade pastas and chicken roulades in the latter half of the menu. Additionally, new to Summit House is a butcher’s list, featuring cuts of prime Snake River Farms steaks and chops—prepared with simple, yet impactful execution. 

We’d be remiss to gloss over the dessert menu—sporting burnt Basque cheesecakes and homemade gelatos—or the cocktail menu, which is rife with classic cocktails and in-house creations alike. The team at Summit House offers a bar program that gets extra credit for proudly listing a Martinez—an underrated classic that often gets overlooked for its more boring cocktail cousin, the Martini. 

This is all to say that 2023 saw Summit House shift into its best era to date. 

Viaggio

1055 Hamburg Tpke, Wayne, NJ 07470

Towns like Wayne might be awash in tired red sauce joints, but since opening its doors in 2016, Viaggio changed everything Jersey knew about Italian restaurants, one dish at a time. Forget white tablecloths; Viaggio’s 78-seat haven, tucked between a jeweler and a bagel shop in a strip mall, is all Tuscan farmhouse vibes–exposed brick with an open kitchen.

With Chef de Cuisine Felix Gonzalez leading charge, Viaggio has continued to leave lasting marks on the New Jersey culinary landscape. The rustic Italian cuisine reimagines classics with a modern flourish, resulting in dishes that are both familiar and thrilling. Take a Viaggio classic, the Calamari Fritti. It’s a melt-in-your-mouth squid meets a tangy tango of lemon butter, pickled shallots, and a subtle chili kiss. It’s enough to make you judge every calamari dish you’ve ever ordered.

The seasonal menu reads like a love letter to local produce. The fresh pastas and housemade salumi are among the best in the state. Every dish is a testament to how Viaggio (and Felice himself) have become Jersey culinary staples for the last seven years. BYO.

Zeppoli

618 Collings Ave, Collingswood, NJ 08107

head on shrimp and sicilian sausage with broccoli rabe

Head-on shrimp and roasted sausage | photo by @pete.candia

A stone’s throw from Philadelphia is Chef Joey Baldino’s Zeppoli—a culinary homage to his Sicilian-American roots in South Philly. It is Baldino’s traditional cooking style that sets Zeppoli apart. The menu rotates far less than other top restaurants in NJ, but it doesn’t have to change to remain fresh. Everything is just that good.

Whether it’s because much of the fare is derived from family recipes, or if it’s just Baldino’s romanticism surrounding the cuisine, doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Zeppoli consistently delivers a memorable meal. The quaint, 35-seat dining room. The non-pretentious plating.  The commitment to tradition—it is a restaurant that any NJ food obsessive needs to try.

Dishes like the hand-made sausage, whose fat is allowed to drip over stewed broccoli rabe, and grilled, head-on shrimp with creamy cannellini beans will transport you to Baldino’s home, which is what Zeppoli seems to be all about. Beyond are brown butter-bathed spinach gnocchi and tomato-braised rabbit—its tender meat shredding off the bone with little effort. When your meal is finished, a server drops off a plate of honey-lacquered struffoli, anointed with rainbow sprinkles. Just like Nonna used to make. 

* = New to the list this year

About the Author/s

Peter Candia is the Food + Drink Editor at New Jersey Digest. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Peter found a passion for writing midway through school and never looked back. He is a former line cook, server and bartender at top-rated restaurants in the tri-state area. In addition to food, Peter enjoys politics, music, sports and anything New Jersey.

Michael is the Editor-in-Chief of New Jersey Digest, COO of X Factor Media, and an avid writer. Growing up in Bergen County, he discovered his passion for words while in Friday detention. Michael loves kayaking, a fat glass of Nebbiolo, and over-editing.

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13 comments

B December 23, 2023 - 11:27 am

Meh, missed some

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Rahul Modi December 23, 2023 - 7:14 pm

Please try Aroma Touch of Flavors restaurant in Galloway NJ. This restaurant is a hidden jam and you must put it on the map!!!! Please try for your self.

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Peter Candia December 27, 2023 - 11:44 am

Thanks for the heads up! I will add it to my “to-dine” list for 2024 🙂

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Peggy weil December 24, 2023 - 11:21 am

Anjelica”s Sea Bright should have been included

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Melissa December 24, 2023 - 11:42 am

I have eaten at several of these restaurants, including most recently at Viaggio in Wayne, and I can honestly say that I was completely underwhelmed. I have had way better pasta, appetizers, and more than the 1 single piece of bread I was given at so many other Italian restaurants in Northern NJ, as well as Portuguese seafood restaurants in the Ironbound and surrounding communities, as well as other ethnic cuisines. This list is therefore in my mind mostly the result of effective and persuasive public relations and advertising campaigns put out by these restaurants, both in house and outside advertising companies.

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Peter Candia December 27, 2023 - 11:42 am

There are zero advertising campaigns and or paid entries in this list.

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Suz December 24, 2023 - 12:05 pm

So apparently, the authors haven’t traveled anywhere south of Asbury Park, except Collingswood…. Not to say thar C’wood isn’t spectacular for dining. But you missed a few dozen gems in South Jersey, by not performing your due diligence.

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Peter Candia December 27, 2023 - 11:41 am

South Jersey is absolutely included in our evaluation and is in no way overlooked. As stated in the introduction, we develop this list without any thought to geography and solely rate based on what we feel are the best restaurants. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and this list of 25 is ours. By saying we did not perform our due diligence you are erasing hundreds of hours of research, dining and evaluation that we have put the time and effort into. Thank you for reading.

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Carol December 24, 2023 - 12:16 pm

There are NO restaurants south of Monmouth County. South Jersey is part of New Jersey but your review seems to have deleted it.

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Geoff Weinman December 24, 2023 - 2:43 pm

What does the asterisk represent after the name of some but not all of NJ’s best restaurants?

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Peter Candia December 27, 2023 - 11:36 am

The asterisk represents that the restaurant is new to the list this year!

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Kristian December 27, 2023 - 11:55 am

So best resturants in NJ. Guess you meant to say best resturants in North Jersey, since that’s where 90% of this list exists.

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Joe Helias April 16, 2024 - 2:14 pm

Do you folks EVER go to restaurants in Central Jersey (that aren’t in Princeton, Asbury park or, very rarely, New Brunswick)??? Every list is always exclusively North Jersey and South Jersey and usually heavily leaning toward the North. Nothing from Middlesex, Monmouth, Mercer or Somerset counties EVER. For example, You mention Lita and Heirloom in Asbury but fail to mention Heirloom in Old Bridge. All 3 are run by the same chef.

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