I warned you in last week’s Weekender that details of my grubbing in New Jersey were coming your way this week, and I wasn’t kidding. Yesterday, I told you all about my trip to the Sweet Spot Bake Shoppe, a cupcakery that competed on and won Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. Now, we’ll take a look at two nights and two dinners, most of which was wonderful, but some of, not so much.
On my first night in Jersey, we went to the Lockwood Tavern, a restaurant I apparently frequented as a child, but was too young to remember. My parents recalled Lockwood having wonderful pizza, and where there’s pizza, there’s the Smart Cookie Cook.
Unfortunately, my overall experience wasn’t stellar. Our waitress had an attitude, which she took out on this poor younger bus boy who could not catch a break to save his life. The kid was clearly having a bad night, and when he accidently sent a bowl of dip sailing to the floor, the waitress gave him the death stare to end all death stares. She also snapped at him earlier in the night for unknown reasons. Poor kid.
Now, I can get past an intimidating waitress if my food’s good enough to submerse myself in it entirely. However, the appetizers were subpar. I ordered cheese fries because, in case you didn’t know, I have an unholy obsession with them. The fries themselves were good, but they were blanketed in a plastic layer of bland, lifeless American cheese. Not only was the taste of the cheese off-putting, but that elastic texture was just unnatural. The fries would’ve been so much better with some mozzarella instead.
We also ordered what was Lockwood’s take on the Bloomin’ Onion, and quite frankly, it stunk. The onion showed up to the table limp and lackluster, like a once proud onion that had a piano dropped on top of it. The breading was too thin, and it was flavorless except for an overabundance of black pepper. Worst of all, at least 25% of the breading was undercooked. Not only is that gross, but it’s unsafe.
Now, here comes the good news: the pizza. As my father perfectly explained, New Jersey is the opposite of CNY when it comes to pizza; you can find a good pizza just about anywhere. I can’t tell you how good it felt to be reunited with the thin-crusted, foldable, buried in gooey cheese pizza I grew up loving. Thank god I can count on even an otherwise subpar restaurant to turn out pizza ten times better than anything I can get at home.
Lockwood’s pizza had a tasty thin crust that barely stood up to the generous mound of melty mozzarella gloriously piled atop a layer of sweet yet zesty marinara. It was the right balance of everything, sliced into big, fat slices that were so substantial I only needed two to fill me up. Usually, I need four (I haven’t been tested yet, but I’m pretty sure I have two stomachs).
I capped the night with some Chocolate Layer Cake, which was tasty, but not the greatest cake I’ve ever had. I believe in only eating things worth eating, meaning that they’re so delicious that you don’t care if you’re overindulging; Unfortunately, this cake wasn’t really worth it. The presentation, however, was beautiful.
Dinner the next night came from my hands-down favorite restaurant of all-time, Mama’s Restaurant & Café Baci, which I’ve reviewed not once, but twice before. It’s that good. Unfortunately, due to uncontrollable circumstances, we had to get take-out rather than eat-in. I was not thrilled because I’m very particular about eating my food hot and fresh, not after it’s been sitting in a container.
Well, Mama’s must know some secrets I don’t know because their take-out was just as wonderful as all the meals I’ve had eating in there. That’s right folks; Mama’s is so amazing that they can stick their heavenly cuisine in containers and have it travel 20 minutes and STILL taste incredible. Are the wizards? Aliens? All of the above? I don’t know, but I don’t care as long as they keep making delicious food.
I ordered their Eggplant Parmesan with their signature Rosa sauce instead of marinara. This Eggplant Parm had a pretty high bar set for it since I inevitably compared it to my favorite recipe for Eggplant Parmigiana. I was concerned Mama’s wouldn’t be able to compete, but they gave my recipe a run for its money.
Mama’s reached near eggplant parm perfection: melt-in-your-mouth eggplant encased in the perfect thickness of crisp, flavorful breading. Then, I almost needed an inhaler when I saw the exhilarating abundance of fresh melted mozzarella cheese burying the eggplant. Seriously, you can barely see the eggplant underneath. It’s too much cheesy bliss to handle!
The Rosa sauce, which I’ve had multiple times from Mama’s, was just wonderful with the Eggplant Parm. It took the dish from great to amazing, giving it an added boost of indulgence (because all that cheese wasn’t indulgent enough). Rosa sauce is creamy, rich, and bursting with the vibrant flavors of sweet tomato and fresh herbs. Side note: they sell the stuff in jars at their restaurant. I’ve got to get me some!
We also sampled a trio of appetizers: Fried Ravioli, Garlic Knots with Mozzarella Cheese, and Onion Rings.
Surprise, surprise; every app was fantastic. The Fried Ravioli was crisp and tasty, the Garlic Knots were slathered in butter and garlic and buried in epic amounts of mozzarella cheese, and the onion rings…oh baby. Those rings sat in a car for 20 minutes, and yet I think they might be the best rings I’ve ever had. Mama’s perfected their beer batter breading. It’s crisp, airy, and not flavorless like so many breadings are. In fact, I probably could’ve eaten the breading without the tender, tangy onion cradled inside because it was that delectable. Don’t judge me.
The only bad part of my Mama’s meal was that they forgot my dessert. We ordered Tiramisu, but alas, there was no Tiramisu to be found. Me being a lover of dessert, I almost cried Tearimisu tears (get it?). Because the rest of the meal was so good, I can let that go, but I was very disappointed.
For the hundredth time, I implore you to get your food-loving butt to Mama’s. You’ll never have another meal like it. All of their food is made with quality ingredients, and I’ve yet to have something there that wasn’t delicious. Plus their menu is HUGE and extensive, with options for any diet needs. Check it out here.