In the heart of Morris County New Jersey, on a busy section of Route 46 in Rockaway, you will find one of the best Classic Italian Restaurants called Caffé NaVona. Caffé NaVona, is named after Piazza Navona in Rome Italy, as we recently learned from owner Marco DeFilippis. Piazza Navona was built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian and now serves as a public gathering place. The square is surrounded by restaurants and terraces giving Piazza Navona a lively and delightful atmosphere. Once you have visited Caffé NaVona, you will understand why they chose the name.
On February 3rd, 2018 we headed to Caffe NaVona for our 2nd Sunday Supper of 2018. Originally we had planned to visit on February 4th but with a report of another winter storm predicted, we changed our plans last minute and Caffe NaVona was happy to accommodate. When we arrived, as with all our visits, the friendly and courteous valet team helped us from our car and ensured it was in good hands. We then headed to the covered walkway and into the front foyer to dodge the winter breeze. As soon as we entered through the doors into the restaurant we were greeted by Owner Marco DeFilippis who offered to take our coats. Every time we visit the restaurant, it feels like you are visiting a family home and are greeted by your favorite Uncle Marco, recalls Cynthia, and this is why we keep coming back.
As you look around the restaurant from the entrance the warm yellow and rich wood colors immediately make you feel happy and at home. Caffe NaVona has entertainment many nights during the week and on the weekend you are entertained by a piano player with songs from the Great American Songbook and this night was one of those nights.
We love the way Caffe NaVona is divided up into small dining rooms. This works well to keep the noise to conversational level and it also makes you feel like you are a bit secluded with only a certain number of tables in each area. Tonight we were seated in what we consider the main dining room just past the piano and off the main corridor. Marco set us up with a nice corner table.
Our server then arrived at our table to greet us and present us with the menus and to ask if we wanted to enjoy a cocktail. We always love seeing the Caffe NaVona menus. They are classy with their cork and patina copper appearance.
One thing we find different with Caffe NaVona is the fact that they print their specials and insert it into the menu. We find this different in a good way. Many times it is hard to remember several appetizers and entrees quickly rattled off to you by a server. With this nicely printed and contained within the menu, it allows you to better visualize the specials.
On this dining night, we decided to skip the cocktails and start with a bottle of wine instead. Caffe NaVona has a great wine list with wines to compliment every dish on their menu and everyone’s taste in wines. In September of 2017, we attended a wine paring dinner at Caffe NaVona featuring Argentinian Wines from Domaine Bousquet. They are an award winning organic winery and we particularly loved many of their wines. Having had the Domaine Bousquet Reserve Malbec before, we decided to try it again.
This wine is grown from organic grapes from the Domain Bousquet Vinyard in Alto Gualtallary, Tupungato at an altitude of 1200 (4000 feet) above the sea level, one of the highest points in Mendoza. The wine is composed of 85% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 5% Syrah, which has been aged in French oak for 10 months and 4 months of bottle aging. It is a dark violet color with reddish hues and in the nose it presents intense aromas of blackberry with notes of black currant and plum. It’s a perfect wine to pair with pastas, meat, cheese and sauces.
Equipped with our wine, our fresh hot bread and our olive-oil with tomatoes for our bread, the difficult task of choosing appetizers and dinner were upon us. It’s always a hard choice when there are so many great dishes to choose from. When dining out we tend to order from the specials menu because we can order from the regular menu almost any time. So this is where we began our search.
One of the first appetizers to catch our eye was the Ceviche Don Fillipo. This beautiful Ceviche contained Shrimp, Scallops, Crab and Octopus in a Citrus Marinade with Cilantro, Onions, Tomatoes and Fresh Avocado. Before ordering this as our starter course, we asked if this was an appropriate size for 2 people to share and our server confirmed it would be a great size to share.
So we placed the order and began with the Ceviche. Not too long after ordering, Marco appeared at our table with some nice thin Crostini followed by the Ceviche appetizer. This by far was one of the best Ceviche appetizers that we’ve had. It was amazingly refreshing to the palate. The combination of the sweetness of the seafood and the tartness of the citrus paired well with the crostini. While we probably broke many wine pairing rules having a Malbec with this appetizer, it worked amazing well.
Typically when having a Malbec you tend to avoid pairing with bitter foods or fishy fish because it makes the wine taste bitter and the fishy-ness linger longer. The taste profile in this case paired well because of the sushi-grade seafood and the balance of sweetness to tartness and the additional fat provided by the avocado. We look forward to this being a special again in the future.
So now the time had come to order our main meals. Cynthia ordered off the specials and ordered the Grouper-Macademia Con Brussels Sprouts which was Macademia Nut Crusted African Grouper Served over Crispy Brussels Sprouts, Greek Yogurt, Clementines and Pomegranate Drizzle with Orange Reduction. Dave ordered off the regular Entree menu and ordered the Lombata Di Maiale which is their Thick cut seasoned Kansas cut pork chop grilled, topped with frying peppers onions and garlic in a white wine vinegar and balsamic demiglaze sauce served over Italian fries. Dave being on his Keto diet at this time, replaced the Italian fries with grilled vegetables which they were happy to accommodate.
The Grouper-Macademia was tender and flakey. The Macademia nuts added a nice sweetness to the fish that balanced well with the tartness of the clementines and the Pomegranate. Not being a huge Brussels Sprouts fan, Cynthia enjoyed this crispy grilled version.
The Lombata Di Maiale was Juicy and tender and was cooked perfectly. The onions, garlic and mushrooms were nicely sauteed but still were firm enough to hold up to every bite of the pork chop. The demiglase added a nice sweetness and acidity to the meat. If you are a fan of thick cut pork chops, this is one you must try.
Luckily we had saved just enough room for dessert. Dave not being a huge chocolate person and still trying to stick to his new way of eating, decided to try the Torta Venezia which is their Flourless chocolate cake and Cynthia chose the Limoncello Cake which is Layers of limoncello liqueur, white mousse and moist-vanilla sponge cake. Both desserts were exceptional as the desserts always are at Caffe NaVona. After having tasted the Torta Venezia, Dave wished he had just a little more Malbec left as it would have paired perfectly with this chocolate delight. The double espresso enjoyed in stead was also a great compliment and was perfectly brewed.
Feeling fully comfortable with the amazing dinner we had this cold February night, we made our way to the piano player to thank him for the entertainment and to tip him accordingly and made our way to the Valet attendants to make our way home. As mentioned in the beginning of the evening, our car was well taken care of.
So this wrapped up our Second Stop of our First Sunday Supper Tour for 2018. We highly recommend that you stop by and try Caffe NaVona the next time you are wandering up Rt46 in Rockaway or are looking for a great place to take the family for supper or for a great location for a date night. Marco and his staff treat everyone like family and this is why we keep going back.