About this Blog

The blog focuses on the essence of wine and food, not how many points or stars it receives. The opinions are mine and should be taken only as that, an opinion not gospel.

Like many collectors, initially I was very much influenced by wine ratings. I purchased wines based on points, even if I had never tasted the wine. And it was much worse than that. I would drink a wine with a high rating, not like it, yet since it was highly rated I’d rationalize that I did not yet appreciate the wine, or that my palate was not sophisticated enough to understand the wine. How’s that for lunacy? As a result my cellar grew in all directions while my palate narrowed. By the time I realized the style of wine that I enjoyed, my cellar abounded with wines whose styles I did not enjoy. All of these wines were very highly rated, just not my cup of tea, or glass of wine to be more accurate. Fortunately I was able to sell many of these wines to those who either enjoyed them or wanted highly rated wines. Don’t misunderstand, I am not against wines with high ratings, in fact I own many. It is just that I now purchase wines based on the producer, the style and my palate, not the rating. Nor do I shun reading reviews. I very much respect Antonio Galloni, Alan Meadows, Eric Asimov and John Gilman and read their reviews routinely. I pay attention to what they write, not the points they award.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Belmont Tavern

Every couple of months I join a group of friends for a Monday night dinner at The Belmont Tavern on the Newark/Bellville boarder.  The Belmont Tavern is more than just a bar/restaurant; it is an “institution”, and has been for the past half century. This cash only spot has separate owners, the Cuomo family owns the bar concession, while Annette Wroblewski maintains and owns the kitchen since Stretch passed away in 1989.

I will do my best to provide an historical glimpse of the Belmont.  If any one has any corrections or additional information please leave them in the comments section.

The Cuomo family took over the tavern in 1965.  Tommy Cuomo aka "Cowboy" and his brother John ran the bar in those early days.  They were later joined in 1969 by John’s son, Jimmy, who runs the bar today.   Two years later they brought in Charles "Stretch" Verdicchio, to cook for the regulars. Stretch introduced the Verdicchio family recipe for Chicken Savoy to the Belmont and it has been the main attraction ever since. A relatively simple dish, in which chicken is cut up, rubbed with spices and herbs and then roasted in a extremely-hot oven and splashed with red wine vinegar before being served. While the dish is often imitated throughout all of northern New Jersey, it has never been duplicated.

Stretch with Joe DiMaggio
While the perception is that the Belmont is a “wise guys” spot, the food and aura of the Belmont attracts movie stars and professional athletes in addition to the loyal crowd (predominantly Italian) of local regulars.

In addition to the “Savoy” most items on the small menu are standouts on their own.  These include Clams Oreganata; Scungilli Salad; Shrimp Beeps (shrimp in a spicy tomato sauce); Cavatelli with Pot Cheese (Ricotta) and Pork Scallopine Francese.  The Belmont serves no dessert, unless you bring your own.

If you are looking for fine wine, “fugget-about-it”.  The list ranges from red to white.  Opici is poured from gallon bottles. Bottle selections consist of  Corvo Red (cold or warm), Corvo White, Ruffino and Travaglini Gattinara.

Reservations are not accepted.  Unless you get there very early, be prepared to wait.  Service, once on the blatantly un-courteous side, is now quite good and friendly.

The food is consistently good here.  No fancy preparations, just the dishes they are known for.  We began with a basic salad of Iceberg lettuce, onions and tomatoes perfectly seasoned with vinegar and oil.  It is the salad that graced our table at home every night while growing up.  I loved it then and I love it now, especially compared to the fancier limpy mesculan concoctions served today.

Clams Oreganata are perfectly cooked as always, crunch crispy breadcrumbs cover a barely cooked, briny clam beneath.  I could eat dozens of these.

Italian Long Hot Peppers (no pic) sautéed in olive oil are not lethal tonight, so I had a couple and enjoyed them very much.

The Belmont serves 3 pasta dishes, Cavatelli with Ricotta, Spaghetti Aglio e Olio (oil and garlic) and Spaghetti with Shrimp Beeps.  While all are great, our favorite is the Beeps. The shrimp is never overcooked and is dressed in a delicious and slightly spicy tomato sauce.

In addition to the famous Chicken Savoy, we ordered Mad Chicken (Oven Roasted without the addition of the Vinegar) and Pork Scallopine Francese.

Chicken Savoy
Mad Chicken
Pork Scallopine

A few bottles of 2013 Corvo Red, served at room temperature, complimented the food nicely.

A cup of Espresso brewed and served from a Maganette ended a delightful evening.

If you have never been to the Belmont, make it a bucket list item...and tell Jimmy that Mark sent you.  You will be glad you went.


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