This Supper Club Is NJ’s Best-Kept Culinary Secret

by Peter Candia

In Park Ridge, NJ—tucked inside an unassuming empanada shop—is one of New Jersey’s great dining experiences. A supper club of sorts, specializing in fresh pasta and high-quality meat and produce. Think ramps at the peak of their season, imported A5 Wagyu from Japan, briny Hokkaido uni and lobster. The list of what you might find is endless, changing daily depending on what’s available. That Pasta Club offers an unforgettable culinary journey, highlighted by culinary technique, friendly service and a cool atmosphere. 

What Is That Pasta Club?

“It’s not just pasta,” Chef Nicolas Pescatore tells me. Instead, the Supper Club portion of the company takes diners through six courses: a one-to-two-bite amuse bouche, a fresh salad, a crudo, two pasta courses and a dessert to finish. With pasta as the focal point, Pescatore crafts a complete meal around it. “I like to have pasta as the main focus,” he tells me. “Then I can tell a story with the rest of the courses.”

It was a project that Pescatore admits started out of boredom during the pandemic. “I couldn’t sit still, so I started doing a friends and family pasta club, delivering pasta kits to people’s doorsteps,” says Pescatore. He explains that one of these kits would have a pasta, a sauce and maybe a garnish. Included were instructions, so all the customer had to do was put it all together and they’d have a restaurant-quality pasta dish at home. Easy. However, what wasn’t easy was putting the boxes together. Pescatore would produce hundreds of sheets of pasta each week on his tiny KitchenAid pasta attachment, pushing the home cook’s device to its absolute limit. He had to figure something out. He needed a more stable environment to take That Pasta Club to the next level. 

That Pasta Club NJ

The menu | Photos by Peter Candia

So, he teamed up with his cousin Tommy Greco, who has decades of experience in the NYC hospitality industry. The two found a spot in Upper Bergen County and never looked back. By day, 7 Hawthorne Avenue in Park Ridge is Pop Empanada—a pop art-themed empanada spot that has become quite popular. But, at night, the shop turns into a full-on supper club for Pescatore to showcase his culinary chops, where diners bring their favorite bottle of wine to revel in seasonally inspired fare and, of course, fresh pasta. 

A Meal at That Pasta Club

My meal at That Pasta Club started off strong. A crunchy, layered potato called potato pave. Pescatore cuts paper-thin sheets of potato and layers them in a baking dish with duck fat brushed between each layer. After dozens of layers, it is covered, baked, weighed down and cooled. What you are left with is a bland-looking block of potato. Boring, right? Wrong. 

This block is cut into individual portions and fried to order. On the plate, a smear of miso, black garlic ketchup and a dollop of Osetra caviar on top. “The ballin’ hash brown,” Pescatore jokingly calls it. That description is pretty spot-on, though.

The potato itself boasts a crunchy exterior and creamy center, flavored by duck fat. The ketchup brings a needed brightness to the dish and the bump of caviar sends it off with its naturally briny flavor. 

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“Thousand Layer Potato” | Photos by Peter Candia

On to the next course, Pescatore emphasized, “I take salad super seriously.” This was a relief for me—a salad hater—to hear. With spring produce in full swing, it’s a better time than ever for salads. 

That Pasta Club’s iteration included little gem lettuce, crispy, butter-cooked croutons, pickled onion and a season-defining ramp vinaigrette. A salad is nothing without a good vinaigrette. Whether it be a ramp vinaigrette that only has a small window for availability each year, or a simple lemon and olive oil, simplicity is always the key. Allow your produce to shine, the rest is secondary.

Pescatore nailed this. The lettuce was crisp and properly dressed; not too much and not too little. The croutons slightly soften over time as they soak up the dressing, becoming morsels of flavor studded throughout like gems. To finish it off, a roasted ramp chip, booming with spring flavor. Salad doesn’t have to be boring, but it doesn’t have to be complicated either. When you strike the perfect balance, the dish completes itself.

Spring Salad with ramps, croutons and more | Photos by Peter Candia

That Pasta Club inherently revolves around Italian cooking, but Pescatore not-so-subtly sneaks in plenty of Japanese influence into his cooking. Thanks to his time cooking at Nobu, Pescatore has built up an arsenal of Japanese techniques that he uses to his full advantage. This is perhaps seen best in the crudo. 

Slices of salmon sashimi and A5 Wagyu beef—each raw—come placed in a circle on a plate. A concasse tomato sits in the center. Right before it heads to the table, Pescatore ladles a concoction of hot sesame oil and yuzu-infused soy sauce on top. It sizzles as it hits the protein and slightly melts the fat. The final touch is hitting the Wagyu with a blow torch to produce a slight maillard reaction on the outside, charring and deepening the flavor. He garnishes the plate with toasted sesame seeds and crispy garlic chips. 

By the time it’s in front of you, the oil has mostly cooled and pools around the plate serving as the sauce. Both the beef and the salmon remain slightly warm on the outside, but are totally raw underneath. The salmon tastes clean, while the Wagyu is rich and fatty—each playing off one another with ease. 

Pescatore jokes that it’s the surf and turf of the menu: “It’s fun to have a surf and turf on the menu… your land and your sea. They come together and it’s just beautiful,” he says. 

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“Surf and Turf” | Photos by Peter Candia

Now, I had high hopes for pasta being that it’s literally in the supper club’s name, and Pescatore did not disappoint. First up was a tortelli—a stuffed pasta originating in Emilia-Romagna. You’ll find two types of pasta at That Pasta Club: egg pasta (usually filled) and extruded pasta (not filled). This is the former, while the latter comes later. 

Pescatore stressed to me the importance of using high-quality eggs in his pasta doughs, citing “a nice, happy egg” as a crucial ingredient. This is true. The better the egg, the better the dough—it’s a simple concept, and yet, so many chefs settle for factory-produced eggs. You can tell the quality of his dough by the bright-yellow color and the toothsome texture. 

Pescatore stuffs the egg dough with a lobster farce made from rough-chopped lobster claw meat, ricotta, chili and herbs. For service, the tortelli is boiled and sauced in nutty brown butter. If you’re feeling boujee, you can add Hokkaido uni to the top, which adds an in-your-face element of ocean flavor to the dish. It’s got creamy lobster, toasty butter and a creamy, briny element to finish it off. “A symphony of the sea,” Pescatore says, it’s one of his signature dishes for good reason. 

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Chef Nicolas Pescatore’s signature Lobster Tortelli | Photos by Peter Candia

Then, we moved on to an extruded pasta—which is my favorite type of pasta. It requires a special machine fit with a bronze dye to make. Rigatoni, penne, ziti, etc. are extruded pastas made using this machine. The other thing that sets extruded pasta apart from an egg dough is the dough’s makeup. Rather than fine flour, water and egg yolks, extruded dough is made of only semolina flour and water. That’s it. 

This type of dough produces pasta that is ideal for drying out. The bronze dyes help to create a rigid texture on the exterior that sauce can cling to. Pescatore currently uses it to make paccheri—a large, rigatoni-like tube which he claims is the perfect vessel for ragu bolognese. To bolster the pasta even further, he adds a touch of saffron to the mix, which boldens the flavor and improves the color. 

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Extruded pasta is a staple at That Pasta Club | Photos by Peter Candia

Pescatore’s sauce is pretty straightforward: he browns beef and pork with sofrito, deglazes with lots of white wine, adds tomato and simmers it for hours. Red miso is used for an added layer of umami in the sauce (there’s that Japanese influence again). 

The paccheri gets finished in the bolognese and plated. Before hitting the table, he tops it with Parmigiano Reggiano and blow torches it to create a slightly golden-brown crust on top. “It’s like a baked ziti,” he jokes to me. Some micro basil on top and the dish is good to go. 

I’m a harsh bolognese critic, but Pescatore’s impressed. The sauce so complexly flavored and paired with the paccheri, which was indeed the perfect vessel. There was a slightly smoky element from the torched cheese, which played well off of the umami present in the ragu. All things considered, it was a home run. 

Paccheri Bolognese | Photos by Peter Candia

In a tasting menu environment, dessert is crucially important. It’s the final bite of the evening. If it fails, it can sour your view on the rest of the meal. Pescatore sent me off with a chocolate cheesecake that I haven’t stopped thinking about since. 

Rich, dense and cheesy chocolate cake made up of Heritage chocolate and Philadelphia Cream Cheese. That’s really the majority of the filling. You take something as high-quality and artisanal as a small-batch chocolate and combine it with the only cheese worth turning to when it comes to cheesecake, and you’ve got yourself a winner. 

To amp it up, Pescatore bakes the cheesecake in a salty and nutty pistachio crust that is crisp and adds a load of texture to the plate. On the side, dollops of honey-flavored meringue—kissed with a flame and golden-brown on top. A stellar offering for dessert, and the perfect way to end what was an impressive meal. 

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Chocolate Cheesecake with pistachio crust and honey meringue | Photos by Peter Candia

More Than Just Dinners

That Pasta Club hosts dinners every Thursday through Saturday and reservations can be made on OpenTable. Follow along on their Instagram to stay up-to-date on current menus and offerings. 

That Pasta Club goes beyond the dinners. If you are just looking for hand-made pasta to bring home, they’ve got you covered. Each weekend, That Pasta Club sets up stands at farmers markets across North Jersey. You can usually find them at Summit , Montclair, Sparta and Jersey City, among others. 

If you are interested in learning to make pasta, That Pasta Club hosts classes on pasta making, followed by a family-style dinner. Tickets can be purchased here.

Chef Pescatore plates the Tortelli | Photos by Peter Candia

That Pasta Club – Park Ridge, NJ

That Pasta Club in Park Ridge, NJ, offers an outstanding dining experience. With Chef Nicolas Pescatore at the helm, the restaurant serves a variety of expertly crafted dishes in a welcoming, bring-your-own atmosphere. From hand-made pasta to rich desserts, each dish showcases Chef Pescatore’s dedication to top-notch ingredients and the creativity he shows through them.

Beyond dinners are educational courses on pasta making and farmers market stands—effectively spreading Pescatore’s passion to the masses. Whether you’re seated for a six-course meal or learning to make pasta, That Pasta Club offers a portal into a world defined by culinary prowess. 


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About the Author/s

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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.

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1 comment

Pat April 19, 2024 - 4:36 pm

Sounds like the supper club would make a great date night!


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