I have a large soft spot in my heart for Italy. If you have not learned this about me already, you soon will by following my blog. It is where I truly founded my appreciation and passion for all things food. I have always loved food (I even went to school for it earning my degree in Hospitality Management for my Bachelors). However; it wasn’t until my first trip to Italy (I have now gone twice) that my palate expanded and my craving for food knowledge began to grow.
Now that you know my not-so secret obsession with Italy, you will understand why the restaurant I am about to tell you about is so special.
I recently had my second visit to Trattoria da Pino in Seacaucus, NJ. It is a small, unassuming, restaurant (true to most trattorias in Italy) with only about 6 tables. The interesting feature is that there is only one chef. Truly only one chef; no sous chefs will be found (Unless you count his wife and daughter helping with the dishes). Pino is the owner and chef of Trattoria da Pino. His roots are in Salerno, Italy and I was lucky enough to have him explain some of his hometown dishes and his love of cooking during my visits. This restaurant is truly a tribute to his passion for Italian food.
Each dish is housemade and made to order for each customer. When you come to Trattoria Da Pino it runs on true Italian time; which means there is absolutely no rushing. It is an all-night affair. On my last visit we arrived for our 8PM reservation and walked out at midnight. (Diner tip-Bring a lot of wine, its BYOB, and it WILL be a long night!)
His nightly specials are scribbled on one piece of lined notebook paper with scratched off items and mark-ups and it is passed from table to table by one of the 1-2 waitresses on shift. After talking with the wait staff it is apparent that they have been serving at Pinos forever. They treat you as if you are eating dinner at your family’s house.
Should you choose to play Italian dish roulette, like we have on our visits, you can just let the waitress have Pino make you his plates of choice. After 4-5 rounds of full appetizer platters and a salad you feel like you are about to burst. Don’t worry though you will have some time to re-energize before the main course. Because each meal is made to order there is often a decent gap from course to course. Finishing the main course is always a stretch after all the starters. I will admit… I have yet to be able to make it to the dessert course.
Once Pino is done with his cooking for the night he often times comes out to talk with his remaining customers. Sometimes you may even get lucky enough to share some of his homemade wine with him.
Trattoria Da Pino has been the most authentic Italian food and experience I have had outside of Italy to date. Pino’s food is cooked with heart; not to mention it’s absolutely delicious. Each pasta is cooked to the perfect al dente, the seafood is always fresh, and don’t even get me started on the homemade mozzarella!
I highly recommend Pinos if you are looking for a unique dining experience. However; please note Pino is not the most technologically savvy. There is no website or social media to follow them. A reservation is a MUST so you will need to call. With such limited space, trying to walk-in will most likely not be successful. The restaurant is open for dinner Tuesday-Sunday nights.
I will be going back this Friday for Valentine’s Day and I’m already salivating just thinking about it!
Here is the Yelp page and contact information for this neighborhood gem: http://www.yelp.com/biz/trattoria-da-pino-secaucus