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Stefano's Restaurant Route 23

Stefano's Restaurant Route 23

Situated alongside The Goodwill Store on Route 23 is a large building named, “Stefano’s.” For years we would drive by and my dad would say, “One day we should stop in and try that.”

My dad finally tried Stefano’s (several times) with his friends, and recommended I visit to write my own first impression food review, so here it is!

Stefano’s Restaurant | Route 23

 

It was a rainy Tuesday evening when I swung into the shared parking lot of Stefano’s. A decent amount of spaces were already filled, despite the dreary weather.

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The left-hand side of the cafe-colored building was the Stefano’s Restaurant, while the right-hand side was the pizzeria. I loved the bright flower boxes and pots lining the front of the building.

We went to the left-hand side and stepped into the long foyer. A stained-glass window with an intricate “S” greeted me first. I turned to the right and looked up at the sparkly light. Two chairs and an end-table holding promotional business materials sat against the right wall.

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We entered through the giant wooden doors and stood in front of the hostess counter. I could see into the dining room.

“I am not dressy enough for this.” I whispered to my dad — who said my black skinny jeans and summertime blouse was fine for dinner.

“You’re fine.” My dad always wore golf-shirts and dockers even in winter.

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We waited for the host/server to select our seat in the dining room. I waited and looked in the glass case which had two awards in Stefano’s name, given by local organizations.

When our table was ready, we were led to a two-top table in the middle of the room. I would’ve preferred to sit in a corner — though I didn’t argue, as most of the perimeter of the room was filled with couples or groups of four.

Stefano’s Restaurant | Interior Design

The room was styled like a traditional Italian restaurant. My dad said Stefano’s was under construction, as the private room directly behind me was filled with construction materials, lights, chairs, etc. I wondered if the dining room I sat in was recently updated or waiting to be redone.

This dining room was fairly large. The right-hand side of the room had tables for four-to-eight, while the left-hand side of the room had tables for two.

I felt relieved to notice that the four guests at one of the large tables wore soccer jerseys, and drank their wine out of colorful, hand-painted goblets. I didn’t feel under-dressed anymore.

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Stefano’s is a BYOB, which I was surprised, but happy about. Our waiter opened and poured our wine and another man filled our water glasses (which were heavy) and left us a bread-basket.

Stefano’s Menu

Stefano’s Fine Italian logo was carved in the front of the leather cover. Several glossy, double-sided pages with small black font categorized the entrees by protein.

I spent my time reading the appetizers. I knew I wanted to try one of Stefano’s specials for dinner. I didn’t see a separate menu for the specials so I assumed the waiter would read them to us.

Our waiter was an older gentleman in his late fifties. He wore the all-black waiter attire and had a giant gold and diamond watch, and a chunky gold ring on his pinky. I thought he introduced himself as James, but his Italian accent was so heavy that I missed it.

He told us the specials without reading from any menu. It was like a monologue to my heart — lists and lists of garlic, wine, and tomato. I kept thinking; I want that! And that! Or should I try that?

I couldn’t remember every special he listed as there were at least 3-4 per protein (chicken, veal, pork, seafood).

My dad knew what he wanted, since he already dined at Stefano’s several times. I knew I wanted multiple specials to start, but I couldn’t decide on my entree. In the end, our waiter had to re-tell me the specials and then I let him pick for me.

Appetizers

Clams Oreganato | $13.99

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Clams oreganato is one of my favorites. I hadn’t eaten it in years, so I wanted to try Stefano’s version. These clams were found under the “Appetizer” section of the everyday menu.

As you can see, there are six clams in total. They are medium-sized, which is great for the clam’s texture. Too large of clams tend to be chewy. The clams must’ve been quickly broiled and ladled with sauce as they still maintained a tender, juicy texture.

The filling was not dense. With a spritz of lemon (and what my dad assumed to be a sprinkle of chicken broth), plus the moisture of the clam itself, the overall taste was light.

My dad and I split the plate, sopping up the rest of the juice with the warm bread, before our next appetizer arrived.

Stuffed Artichoke | Special

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I’ve never ordered stuffed artichoke out before and I’ve only made it twice at home. I was extra surprised to see this huge appetizer arrive at the table.

An edible pink flower sat next to a fresh rosemary sprig. A steak knife was poked through the center. My dad used his knife and fork to pull the artichoke leaves down from the heart.

A red sauce pooled around the plate. Black and green olives, garlic chunks, fresh herbs, and the stuffing with pieces of Parmesan soaked in the sauce. Occasionally the sauce had pieces of crushed tomatoes.

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I loved the red sauce with the artichoke. Cheese in the stuffing was unexpected and something I want to replicate. I’m normally don’t enjoy olives, but the brine-y flavor cut through the richness of the filling and paired well with the tomatoes.

The artichoke leaves were tender and pulled off in pieces. As we got closer to the heart, it was more difficult to navigate. I think the artichoke was cooked thoroughly, so maybe we had a tough one when it came to certain pieces.

Either way, we spent a good while picking apart this appetizer. Any leftover sauce with garlic we soaked in our remaining bread.

Second Course | Salad

We told our waiter to stagger our dishes. There’s nothing I hate more than multiple courses arriving to the table at the same time.

Because we took our time eating the artichoke, we had a decent break between our appetizers and second course.

The table to the left of us — a couple who hardly talked and ate their appetizers and entrees separately — finally left. The busboy (he was an older gentleman as well) almost took out my glasses with his tray as he cleared their spot, the tables were so close.

A mother with her two daughters (and the daughter’s boyfriend) took a five-person circular table to our right. The daughters were arguing about who-stole-whose makeup and left the foundation smeared on their “expensive silk pillowcases.” The boyfriend kept saying “whatever” and the mother hissed at them to stop arguing.

A couple around my dad’s age got the small two-top table in the far-right corner. The wife kept getting up to go to the bathroom — down the hallway past the kitchen. The family of soccer-jersey people left sometime during our appetizers. A three-top of elderly folks near the kitchen, who sat with their to-go bags for a while, finally packed up and left. The older couple in the back-left corner of the room opened their second bottle of wine. The wife was talking loudly. She had blue eye shadow and a sparkly dress from the 80s.

Mango Salad with Figs | Special

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I can’t remember the official name for this salad, but it was also from the special’s menu. The base of the salad was arugula with a light dressing. Around the plate were pieces of what looked like endive lettuce holding a cherry tomato.

The star of the dish was the fresh yellow mango on top of the salad. It was so sweet and juicy I could’ve eaten a plate of just that.

The mango was a bright flavor to contrast the creamy goat cheese. Five sweet figs sat under the mango. They were also stuffed with goat cheese and bound with Prosciutto.

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We ate a little more than half of the salad before wrapping the rest. I didn’t want to overdo it by eating all that goat cheese. Plus, I still had my entree to eat.

Third Course | Entrees

Our waiter and the bus boy were the only staff working the restaurant side for a Tuesday night. My dad and I didn’t mind the lengthy delay between our salad course and the entree, though I think for most people, they would’ve complained.

The dining room wasn’t mobbed, but there was always something to do or follow-up on. My dad and I didn’t mind this, so we drank our wine and put our leftovers on our spare chair. We did bother the busboy for water — telling him that we drink several pitchers over the course of our meal. Eventually, he got the idea, and would fill us up every time he came by.

Stuffed Chicken | Special

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My dad ordered the stuffed chicken special. It was stuffed with roasted red peppers, Prosciutto, and mozzarella. It had a side of risotto style rice, with a mushroom reduction.

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I’m normally not impressed with chicken dishes. I was surprised that my dad even ordered that as his meal. But the sauce was strong and had a depth of flavor. The chicken was juicy, and the filling was tasty. My dad said he would order this special again.

Veal Shank with Pappardelle | Special

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I couldn’t believe how massive this plate was. The veal shanks were two bone-in pieces sitting vertically on top of the fresh pappardelle pasta.

A tomato sauce with pieces of carrot, celery, garlic, crushed tomato, and bay leaf, poured over top, reminded me of my meal in Florence at Ristorante il Paiolo

The veal was like butter. I prodded it with my fork and it fell off the bone. The meat was cloaked in fat, providing additional richness with each bite.

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The pappardelle was fresh and al dente. It was mellow and a good base to pick up the sauce and meat. I hollowed out the marrow from the veal bones and stirred it into the sauce. I added additional salt and pepper and found it to be a hearty meal.

The portion was unreal, so I ate most of my meat and a few twirls of pasta before wrapping it up to take for lunch the next day. Both of our specials were piping hot and worth the wait, as I could tell by the freshness and thoughtful plating, that they were made fresh.

Dessert

By the time we finished and wrapped our entrees, the restaurant had cleared out. They were winding down for the evening when we asked to see the dessert selection.

The couple in the far-right corner was drinking their wine and hanging out. The blue eye shadow wife in the opposite corner was causing a scene.

Despite the Italian music and our low conversation, I realized now that her loud conversation from before was really her arguing — which now we could hear crystal-clear since the restaurant was empty.

I made eye contact with the couple on the other side of the room. They seemed to think the same thing: Is she serious?

Our waiter didn’t say anything as he passed their table and arrived with the dessert tray of cakes. Despite my full belly, I thought: I’ll take one of each.

He had strawberry, lemon, pistachio, chocolate, coffee, and several other cake slices. I wanted to take a picture of his cake tray to show y’all, but I thought that would be too obvious.

“Do you have cappuccinos?” I asked.

“Of course.” He named several other coffees, but I just wanted a cappuccino.

“And we’ll share a cannoli.” Though I wanted to try the coffee cake, I was too full.

“Do you want strawberry? Pistachio?” I thought of the cannoli I had in Florence. I was curious about the strawberry cannoli. Did he mean strawberry syrup-flavored ricotta or real strawberry chunks?

“The classic is fine.” I decided.

“Coming right up.”

Finally, the blue eye shadow lady led her husband out of the restaurant. We still heard her voice through the doors to the foyer.

Cappuccino | $5.00

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Classic cappuccino glasses with strong espresso and cinnamon on top. The bottom of my glass had some sugar in it, which made the last sip taste more like my everyday coffee. 10/10, easy.

Classic Cannoli

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I loved the thoughtful decoration on the dessert plate. It was dark chocolate and raspberry syrup (which was spectacular).

The cannoli shell was crunchy and the cream was fresh. You can tell that it was filled-to-order because the shell wasn’t soggy like it had been sitting in the fridge.

I cracked the cannoli right down the middle and it was filled all the way through. We drank both of our cappuccinos and cleaned the entire dessert plate before we received our bill.

My Recommendations

The couple in the corner left, as a new couple came in around 9:30pm. I was surprised they were seated, as the dining room was empty and it looked like our waiter was resetting the tables for the next day.

We got our bill, and it was as I expected it to be — considering 90% of our meal was from the special’s menu. My entree alone was $40.00.

Overall, based on my experience I would rank Stefano’s Restaurant on Route 23 a 9/10 for the following:

  • Decor and Design

    • A classic Italian restaurant which is warm and professional. The restaurant and presentation were clean and tidy. The foyer was beautiful — I’d love to see the large private dining room once it’s finished.

  • Service

    • I prefer having professional waitstaff. Our waiter spent a while at our table, especially around dessert, sharing stories and his recommendations. I loved that he knew the menu inside and out, and felt he served the room well.

  • Food

    • Giant portions of fresh and hearty food. I loved the specialty items and their unique combinations. The classic Italian dishes spoke to my Italian roots, and provided a delicious meal.

I will return to Stefano’s Restaurant to try more of their seafood dishes and to see if they change their section of specialty dishes.

I am also interested with comparing the pizza side of the building to the restaurant side. Overall, I would recommend visiting Stefano’s for a celebratory meal and if you love classic Italian dishes.

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