By Jaime Julia Winters
Daniel Muscio knows what keeps the clients coming back - the freshest cuisine, impeccable service and a warm atmosphere...
Since Muscio bought Paisano's, located in Rutherford, he transformed the restaurant from a family pizzeria to a gourmet Italian restaurant. Although the restaurant has gone "gourmet" with Chef Julio Monterrosa creating dishes with infusions of Thai, Japanese and French, Paisano's has maintained its reputation of a family restaurant. Muscio says he's seen many of his clients go from kindergarten to college and wouldn't have it any other way.
A large, yet cozy, dining room in warm tones, quiet curtained niches and slate patio, give diners - whether families or intimate couples - the perfect environ¬ment to enjoy their dining experience at Paisano's. Although the menu still carries Paisano's famous pizza, it is also packed with dishes such as Fettuccine Mountain and Sea with Porcini mushrooms, jumbo shrimp and spinach in a creamy sauce over pasta made on the premises and Veal Saltimbocca with prosciutto, cheese and spinach. Appetizers include Paisano's famous Ginger or Cajun Calamari.
But most order from the chef's extensive specials menu that changes nightly and in which the dishes highlight Monterrosa's talent for combining unlikely flavors into a mouth - awakening experi¬ence. Specials include soft-shell crabs,duck, pork loin, filets of beef and fresh fish. A favorite of both the chef and diners is the potato-crusted talapia with shrimp in a Grand Marnier sauce. Mouth-watering breast of duck in a teriyaki glaze with pineapple chutney is prepared to perfection. Pork chops are maple-glazed with raisins and walnuts and oven roasted, and served with the smoothest whipped potatoes. Monterrosa says he wants diners to experience what they wouldn't at home. Monterrosa also likes to make a show of his dishes, and presentation is as important as the taste. The family-style portions are generous, so plan on bringing some home.
Desserts are made on the premises and include the traditional Tiramisuand Apple Crisp. And, for the adventurous, the Chocolate Caramel Volcano is a great ending.
Paisano's is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to l p.m., Saturdays from noon to 1 p.m. and closed Sundays. Diners are welcome to BYOB. All major credit cards are accepted.