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Brick City by the Bite

By Francesca Piancone, Photography by Daryl Stone

There are more than 100 restaurants in Newark. Some are cutting-edge, others old-school. They run the gamut, from Portuguese and Brazilian to Mediterranean to Soul Food and Modern American. As in any urban setting, looks can be deceiving. The best food is often tucked away in unassuming neighborhood joints, one practically indistinguishable from another. A few do everything well, while others are known for one or two extraordinary menu items. So how do you “eat like a local” in Newark? RADIUS visited some of the town’s iconic eateries and asked the owners: “What do you make that would make me a regular?”


494 Broad Street • 973-642-4900

“For any newcomer to Martini 494, we would first ask them some questions in order to see what their tastes were like, and then we would make personalized recommendations. We are known for our New American cuisine. Some of our most popular dishes (include) burgers, pizzas and quesadillas. The Margherita pizza is outstanding and our best-selling pizza is the BBQ Chicken Pie. The 494 Chicken Burger is delicious, made with freshly ground chicken with fresh peppers, onions and carrots in the burger, served alongside French fries or sweet potato fries. For our entrees, the Maryland lump crab cakes are a must-have. Our extensive martini list definitely sets us apart from other restaurants in the area, with over 30 options. They are all made with the freshest ingredients (and) can be sweet, sour — you name it. There is a martini for everyone.”

—Jason Mongiovi, general manager


70 Jabez Street • 973-589-4004

“Here at Campino Mercado, we specialize in authentic Portuguese cuisine. We have one dish in particular that is exceptional and distinctive, since it is unlike meals at any other restaurant. It is Octopus la Gareiro, (in a) style that is specific to a beautiful region in Portugal. It consists of octopus, monkfish and jumbo shrimp over broccoli rabe and fingerling potatoes. It is served with our traditional sautéed onions and peppers on the side.”

—Riccardo Bonparola, manager


50 Park Place • Robert Treat Hotel • 973-733-2202

“Our most popular and recommended dish for first-timers would be the Long Island duck breast (plus) a quarter leg. It is served with a sweet potato puree as well as sautéed kale. Another local favorite is the prime rib, also known as the Maize Steak. This is covered in a delicious mushroom sauce, served with saffron seasoned potatoes and steamed broccoli. As for appetizers, our most popular is the Portuguese-style Sausage. The calamari is also a great choice. Our happy hour is loved by our customers, with drink specials (that include) $4 house wines.”

—Wilson DeSousa, owner


59 New Street • 973-624-0624

“Our local customers love to order our traditional Pad Thai. It is made of stir-fried rice noodles, egg, bean sprouts and ground peanuts mixed with our one-of-a-kind pad Thai sauce. People usually order it with chicken, but shrimp is also an option. The Red Curry Chicken is also a crowd-pleaser. This is made with bamboo shoots, string beans, green bell peppers and basil, (and) flavored with a semi-spicy red curry sauce. You can order it with beef or pork as well.”

—Chef at House of Thai


538 Market Street • 973-491-5400

“Our menu consists mostly of tapas, so we suggest ordering three to four items at a time, especially for first-time guests. At Catas, we have a bunch of different choices, (with) Lobster Macaroni and Cheese one of our most popular choices. I would also recommend Stuffed Peppers with Bacon and Manchego. The Octopus a la Gallega is also delicious: The fresh octopus is cut up into coined pieces and boiled; it is served with potatoes and topped with olive oil, paprika and salt. I would say to order the open-faced Cuban sandwich as a starter — or share. At Catas, we have more of a traditional menu and make the food as it is prepared in Spain. Also, 90 percent of our items are prepared in the restaurant, including our wonderful desserts. In addition, we have over 30 tapas.”

—Rubin Dominuez, chef-owner


72 Elm Road • 973-589-6882

“I would definitely recommend any of our seafood dishes. We certainly specialize in seafood here at Tony da Caneca. The Cataplana is a favorite choice. The dish has shellfish, lobster, shrimps, clams and scallops in a homemade special sauce that is tomato-based, all topped with cilantro. Also, we have a delicious special that no other place has: chunks of fresh grouper accompanied with artichokes and a special sauce.”

—Vidal Viera, owner


141 Elm Street • 973-465-1350

“For a first-time visitor, I would definitely recommend the Ternera a la Vasca. This is a veal dish that is covered in a cognac and sherry sauce, topped with mushrooms, sweet peppers and shrimp. I would say one of our most popular dishes among customers is the Garlic Shrimp appetizer. It is delicious and fresh. Our specials certainly set us apart from other restaurants in the area. We have different specials every day and use ingredients depending on the season and market. We have 40 different specials on the weekends and 25 on the weekdays. Suckling Pig has been a special favorite.”

—Maria Aurre, owner


637-641 Market Street • 973-491-9811

“One of our best-selling dishes is the Cod Lagareiro, which is grilled cod with baked potatoes, onions and peppers on top of the fish. This is all baked together in olive oil. Our roasted Suckling Pig is a popular choice: The pig goes into the brick oven after being marinated with garlic and pepper sauce for three hours. It is then cut into pieces and served with French fries and oranges. The pig can be ordered in full or half portions. We sell so much of this item that we have to stop taking orders two weeks before Christmas, because we get so many.”

—Maria Fontes, co-owner


90 Ferry Street • 973-465-5600

“We are known for our sushi here at Manu’s. I would recommend the Incredible Roll. It is made of shrimp tempura, cucumber, avocado and crabsticks with fresh salmon and spicy mayonnaise sauce on top. It is unique and favored because unlike most rolls, it is baked. From our hibachi menu, I would definitely recommend the Teriyaki Chicken. Our teriyaki sauce is homemade and delicious. Also, one of my personal favorites is the Hibachi Steak. It is a sirloin grilled with mushrooms and butter, with ginger dressing on the side. We are different because we are one of the few restaurants in Newark that serves sushi..”

—Bruno Carbalho, general manager


103 McWhorter Street • 973-589-9551

“Our most popular appetizer is definitely the Shrimp and Garlic. For an entrée, paella is a must-have and a favorite choice: The Paella Marinara is our most popular, which is a traditional Spanish paella made with seafood. You can also order Paella Valenciana, which has seafood, chicken and sausage. Spanish Tavern has been around since 1932 and has been under the same ownership since 1971. It has remained for over 40 years because of good food and good service — the things every restaurant needs to flourish.”

—John Vazquez, manager


Editor’s Note: Francesca Piancone literally grew up in a commercial kitchen. Her family has owned and operated popular eateries in New Jersey since the 1960s, including Johnny Piancone’s, one of the top-rated restaurants on the Jersey Shore.

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