Hoboken, Hudson County, New Jersey 07030
In a town where the Italian restaurant scene appears to be dominated by the celebrity-frequented, high-profile Tutta Pasta and the charming, authentic, always-crowded Margherita's, it can be easy to overlook some of the less flashy establishments along the Washington Street strip. So, for our anniversary night, we ventured to find an authentic, romantic, inexpensive (we had an expensive weekend planned–more on that in a later post) Italian restaurant that we hadn't already tried.
We decided upon Trattoria Saporito because it seemed both quaint and elegant, and the menu not only offered the standard Italian fare, but also showed a bit of creativity as well. Since it's BYOB, we brought a bottle of Cabernet that was left over from our visit to the Brotherhood Winery in upstate New York last winter. We opted to sit inside to escape the slight mugginess, though there were a few people who didn't seem to mind.
At the door, we were greeted by a friendly paisan who looked and sounded like he belonged in an Italian restaurant. He showed us to our table (there were only two other tables occupied inside) and proceeded to recite by memory a specials list that was quite possibly longer than the actual menu. After a few minutes, I had to hold back from bursting into laughter. When he was finished, I asked him to repeat everything.
It is often said that you can tell a lot about a restaurant by the bread they serve before the meal. The bread we received was a step better than a typical Italian baguette–it was obviously homemade and it was warm, which scores extra bonus points in my book (or on my blog, for that matter).
What really impressed us was that even though we did not order appetizers, our waiter brought us two delicious bruschettas to hold us over until mealtime. Keep in mind, I make it a rule not to tell restaurants that I will be writing about my experience, because I want the real experience, not special treatment. I cannot guarantee they will give all their guests free bruschettas, but I will say that they did it on their own. And while it did seem a little strange that we did not receive salads before our meals (especially at an Italian restaurant), perhaps they serve bruschettas instead. I guess we will have to go back again to find out for sure.
The food arrived to our table in a reasonable amount of time. Ashley had the Bucatini alla Giulia, which was pasta with red sauce, lightly fried eggplant, and shaved ricotta. The pasta was obviously homemade and we both thought her dish was delicious.
I went with one of my favorite Italian dishes–Linguine with white clam sauce. It is a dish that you can find at almost any Italian restaurant and even most pizzerias, but it takes real skill to perfect. For that reason, I feel it is a good dish to use as an assessment of a restaurant's quality and attention to detail. The dish was very good, though not the best I've ever had. I liked the way they topped the linguine with a mound of opened baby clams, though I was a little disappointed to not find little pieces of clams mixed in with the sauce itself (which was a bit soupy). All in all, though, it was a hit.
As we dined into the night, the lighting inside the restaurant was dimmed to create a bit more intimate atmosphere. To our surprise, however, the faint music playing in the background progressed from romantic Italian music, to modern pop, with even some 80's mixed in (I guess you can't go anywhere in New Jersey without hearing a little Bon Jovi).
The portions were hefty but not un-appetizingly huge. I managed to finish all of mine (hey, it was good), while Ashley brought the rest of hers home to have for lunch the next day. We were tempted to try dessert but we just didn't have any room left. I guess we should have planned for dessert earlier.
Perhaps the most satisfying part of the night was that, after having such a great meal, I was amazed to see a check of only $32! At that moment, Trattoria Saporito became not only a solid and authentic Italian restaurant, but also one of the best value restaurants in all of Hoboken. If we had ordered salads, appetizers, and dessert the price would obviously have been higher, but for what we paid we were extremely satisfied (and full).
By the time we left, around 8:00pm, the restaurant had filled to about half capacity, and the streets outside were lively. I guess Hobokenites eat late. Of course, I had to be the one to carry the doggy bag nine blocks up Washington Street during the busiest time of the night.
Trattoria Saporito 328 Washington St., Hoboken. 533-1801 Hours: Open daily. Lunch served Monday to Friday noon to 4 p.m.; dinner served Monday to Thursday from 4:30 to 11p.m. to midnight; Sunday from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. B.Y.O.B. Reservations not accepted Credit Cards: MasterCard, Visa, and Amex.