Slightly off the beaten path and hidden in the hills of West Milford New Jersey resides Momento Restaurant. Opened in 1996 by Alberto Dautaj and his family, Momento serves Classy Italian fare with a flair. You can read more about Momento on their website.
Living not far outside the borders of West Milford, we were amazed to find out this gem of a restaurant had been around since 1996. We had never heard of Momento nor the several other restaurants owned by the Dantaj family. We were lucky enough to have attended a beautiful wedding of two friends at Momento where Dave served as the Officiant. This was our first time at Momento back in October of 2014. We have dined at Momento several times since then throughout the seasons and wanted to add it to our First Sunday Supper tour for 2018 because we have noticed changes to their menu, wine list and more and we hadn’t been there since the summer of 2016. We love a restaurant the realizes the need to keep growing and changing. So to us, we saw this as trying a new version of Momento Restaurant.
On Sunday January 7th, 2018, we headed to Momento for the first of our 2018 Sunday Supper Tour. Dressed to the nines as we always do, we approached the entrance to Momento’s parking lot off of Morsetown Rd. The first thing that caught our eye were the beautiful, new and inviting entrance walls. Being tucked back off the road, Momento was always a little hard to find in the dark. You had to look for the small wooden sign illuminated by a single light. This new addition to the property really makes Momento feel bright and inviting and the stone walls and pillars are mirrored on each side of their driveway.
We’ve always loved the 200ft long ride up the pine tree canopied driveway leading to the restaurant’s parking lot. It always made us feel like you were making your way up to some secret getaway location. It was even more magical this time as there was plenty of newly fallen snow on the ground from a storm just days before. As you near the end of the driveway, the parking lot and the many acres of property open up to you revealing the beautifully lit walkways and restaurant.
Depending on the season, you will find the walkway to the entrance covered in flowering vines. Unfortunately being January when we dined, we did not get to see the foliage in full bloom. It is still a beautiful walk down the pathway although a bit chilly with the winter wind behind us.
The entrance is always so inviting with it’s ever changing colored lights. You almost forget that you are tucked way in this wooded retreat as you anticipate seeing and hearing the diners enjoying their escape. As with all of our visits, as soon as you enter beyond the sturdy double doors, you are greeted by their hostess and if you are lucky enough, Labinot Dautaj (Labi or La as he is known to his friends) might drop over to welcome you too. Now we don’t mean this in a bad way. In all the years we’ve be dining at Momento, We’ve never seen Labi slow down. If he’s isn’t checking on his guests, he might be checking on the bar, serving food or helping in the kitchen. Labi has been part of the family restaurant business since he was young and it shows. He knows the restaurant business, he knows how to treat guests and now he is adding quite a few new tricks of his own to Momento.
We were seated by Labi and he saved us a special table in the corner where we would have a little privacy since we spend most of our evening in conversation. We love the way Momento’s tables are laid out. Every table has a great view of the room and of their white piano which is often used to entertain diners. Our waiter greeted us at the table and asked if we would like to start with a cocktail. Being a guy of routine, and it being winter, Dave went with his traditional Black Russian. Cynthia however asked for a recommendation of a cocktail to enjoy. As with every experience we’ve had at Momento, they were able to fit something to Cynthia’s mood and liking and it was delivered by the bartender who was probably looking to ensure one of his patrons was happy with her cocktail. Cynthia was presented with a Fabulous Manhattan made with Angel’s Envy Bourbon which is one of Cynthia’s favorite Bourbons.
To continue with our evening, our waiter presented us with menus and read off the specials and the wine list. We have very much enjoyed Momento’s wine list and it seems to change from time to time as they add many new great wines to their list. Most of their wines are by the bottle which makes a lot of sense in this kind of restaurant where couples and families frequent. Dave and Cynthia have different way’s of choosing their wines. Dave tends to pair with his food and Cynthia often chooses by her mood. So this is a fun challenge for the two agree upon a bottle to share.
For this evening, we chose something new we had not tried and that was a 2014 Margo Pinot noir from Colene Clemens Vineyards. In later research, we found out that the 2014 Margo was named after Colene’s great granddaughter. This is a wine we would certainly recommend on the splurge worthy list at around $40.00. It was a very vibrant Pinot, very fresh on the nose with a broad flavor ranging from a dark cherry to fresh lighter red. This ended up being a great choice for all of the food to come.
After settling in with our wine, our fresh hot bread, butter and olive oil, our waiter presented us with menus and read off the specials. One of the specials was a Burrata Appetizer. The Burrata was nice and firm on the outside and beautifully creamy on the inside. Served simply with assorted greens, fresh tomato, prosciutto and shaved Parmesan cheese, this was light enough to save room for a main entree but savory and creamy enough so your felt as though you has a proper starter course.
Following the starter course, we placed our orders for our main entree. Cynthia chose the Veal Gorgonzola and Dave chose the Salmon. Both dishes were beautifully prepared. To the left is a picture of Cynthia’s Veal Gorgonzola. It was served with Mushrooms, Cherry Tomatoes, Leeks, Gorgonzola Cheese and a Silky Cognac Sauce with a side of grilled vegetables and smooth and creamy Mashed Potatoes. The veal was tender and melted in your mouth. Dave’s Salmon was cooked perfectly. It was flaky and still moist. So many places overcook Salmon and this dish was a delight.
After finishing our entrees, we relaxed and finished our wine. We were certainly happy that we had left just a little space in our stomachs for some dessert because the dessert at Momento never disappoints. We were delighted to see some different desserts for this evening. Dave went out of his comfort zone not being a big chocolate person and ordered the flour-less chocolate cake, an espresso and a snifter of Frangelico. Cynthia chose the Limoncello Cake, a Cappuccino. Both desserts were the perfect way to finish the evening. The flour-less chocolate cake, while dense, was not overly filling or overly sweet. The Limoncello cake had the right balance of tartness to sweetness. Anyone who has dined with Dave knows he judges dessert time heavily on the quality of the espresso. The Grind, Temperature and Extraction time makes all the difference and most places make horrible espresso. Momento is NOT one of them. Momento makes a fabulous espresso that perfectly rounded off the dessert.
So to wrap up our first stop on our 2018 First Sunday Supper Tour, we highly recommend you stop by and dine at Momento in West Milford. From the beautiful scenery during a winter dinner escape to dining outside during the summer listing to the gentle waters flowing in their large Italian courtyard water fountain , it will be an evening we won’t soon forget.
Let us know in the comments if you’ve visited Momento and how your experience was.