NJ Food Guide - October, 2009

Inside This Edition: Nonna's in Florham Park, NJ and Prospect Tavern in Madison, NJ

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Nonna's - Florham Park is home to more than a few Italian Fare - Pizza joints, so is there room for any newcomers?  Nonna's thinks so and has made a big bet on Florham Park and it's a bet that appears to be paying off big both for ownership and diners.  I was immediately impressed by the size of the operation which is much larger than it appears from the outside.  The place is modern, comfortable and clean, and why shouldn't it be, as it is new but old enough to review for NJ Food Guide.  
The staff couldn't have been friendlier, and it was genuine as it is pretty to easy to tell when someone is polite because they have to be not because they want to be.  I was enjoying myself from the moment I sat down and when our soft drinks arrived in nice large glasses it was a good sign of things to come.  Checking out the menu revealed many of the usual suspects from the Jersey Italian dining world, and one of my personal favorites, Chicken Giambotta, was offered and soon on the way.


My Chicken Giambotta was priced very well at $15.95 and included a salad.  The dish was flavorful, plentiful and with an awesome price (don't forget this dish is made with sausage) represented an excellent value for this part of New Jersey.  Actually, all of the dishes are expertly priced for some major customer satisfaction.  Veal dishes are also just $15.95, side salad included and other chicken dishes drop to $13.95.  

So is there any room for this newcomer in Florham Park?  Judging by the amount of take-out food (pizza's and entree's) leaving and tables filling up, it's clear that Nonna's is here to stay.  The repeat business here is sure to flourish and Nonna's gift to Florham Park and neighboring towns is good simple food at the right price  It's clear that their efforts are being handsomely rewarded.  I even like the name Nonna's... it's simple, friendly and unpretentious, which reflects this restaurant perfectly. - Jersey Shadow -
176 Columbia Turnpike
Florham Park, NJ 07932
Phone: 973-410-0030 


Prospect Tavern - Prospect Tavern is in a lovely old stone structure near the post office and train station in picturesque Madison, NJ.  I've been patiently waiting an appropriate length of time to check this newcomer out, and what better time then a Friday evening for a meal and a look see.  A Friday night in the fall should be an excellent opportunity for me to see their A-Game. 
After arriving in a dining area that was almost empty except for two or three tables we were squeezed into a table for two back in the corner, despite asking for a bigger booth.  I pride myself on being a good customer, and I would never ask to sit at a larger table if I thought it would be burdensome to an establishment.  It seemed the staff was either expecting a Tsunami of patrons to arrive before we finished, or they were too lazy to take away the two places of unneeded silverware from the larger table that we weren't allowed to sit at, but hey, it's their place not mine. 
I will say that it isn't unreasonable to deny an oversized table to a party of two in peak hours and the predicted Tsunami of patrons never arrived during our stay.  It is very unprofessional for staff to cool their heals at an identical large booth, eating and enjoying, on break or whatever while paying customers sit in a cramped corner.  Now on to the meal.
Okay, my confidence so far wasn't real high on receiving a good meal, so I retreated when looking over the menu (which was nicely displayed on the paper placemat) to something simple and easy hoping for a good outcome.  I decided on the burger with blue cheese and onions for a whopping $10.95 cooked medium.  My guest ordered a cheeseburger cooked the same way.  Ordering a burger medium should result in a moist burger with a little pink in the center.  My burger was dry with not much flavor and not cooked to order but the blue cheese and onions did help to save the day a little.  My guest's cheeseburger was dry as well.  So the meal was mediocre... there are worse things in life than a disappointing meal. 
Really, at this point all I wanted to do was leave and forget that I just paid $10.95 for a not so special burger.  Upon leaving, the place was just as empty as it was when we arrived, and in today's environment, restaurateurs need an A-Game just survive.  One thing is for sure, and that is that somebody put an enormous amount of money into this place; but no matter how many dollars get invested into an establishment, the final determination of success or failure is in the hands of the people who pay the bills... the customers.  Not much going on here, and yes, it's their vision and their place, but it's my money and I'll be spending it elsewhere in the future. -Jersey Shadow - 
Prospect Tavern
14 Prospect Street
Madison, NJ 07940
Phone: 973-295-6255


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