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We had to take my wife's laptop to an authorized repair shop in Nutley (above) yesterday, so we timed it to arrive at American Bistro on Washington Avenue around 4:30, when it opens for dinner Tuesday through Sunday.
Despite the name, the strong suit here is seafood and traditional Italian dishes, served on large oval plates, easily enough for two to share.
After me, my wife and son were seated, a waitress brought over a platter of free cold antipasto, which included some gorgeous, fatty slices of what I thought was salami. We were about to fall on it when I remembered we aren't eating meat. I picked it up and asked her if she could bring us a meatless version.
She returned soon with grilled vegetables, marinated red pepper, hot peppers, cheese and mushrooms -- wonderful with fresh bread, crackers and toast. We ordered one lobster bisque to share ($9) and received two standard-size bowls of a rich and creamy soup
We didn't know about the big portions. We ordered trout fillets ($20), fillet of sole with a crust of potatoes ($24), and linguine in a spicy, fra diavolo sauce with lump crab meat ($22). We would have been satisfied by just two of the three dishes, and took home lots of leftovers.
My son's trout was encrusted in nuts and served with sauteed grapes, which were delicious; a parfait of thinly sliced sweet and white potatoes and green beans. My moist fish came with a big julienne of vegetables, and my wife's linguine was in a properly spicy sauce with lots of crab meat (diavolo is devil in Italian).
When the bill came, I noticed that big glasses of soda were $4 each, which I thought was a bit much. (A glass of wine is $7 and up). But everything else was fairly priced given the freshness, quality and portion size.
David Corcoran, who reviewed American Bistro in 2001 for The New York Times, sent me the name in response to an e-mail looking for an Italian restaurant in the Newark area. Thanks, David. American Bistro still is a reliable spot for great food and service. Click on the link below for its Web site: