Sunday, January 4, 2015

Bocconi in Hackensack is offering big flavors in a small setting

A special of Grey Sole Oreganata at Bocconi Pasta Pronto & More in Hackensack included shrimp, vegetables and potatoes -- a well-balanced one-dish meal. I asked the kitchen to make it without butter.


It's nice to find a restaurant with good food, good service and moderate prices where you usually can get a table for dinner without a reservation.

Bocconi, which means "bites" in Italian, is a 50-seat BYO that shares only eight off-street parking spaces with another restaurant near one of Hackensack's busiest intersections. 

Bocconi opened more than five years ago, and has survived thanks to a brisk lunch business from a big medical center across the street.

Ravioli with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe is served in marinara sauce.

We asked to share an Arugula Salad. The kitchen split the salad and served the portions in broad soup bowls.

'Sit anywhere'

When we arrived at the Italian-American restaurant a little after 4:30 on Saturday afternoon, we were told we could sit anywhere.

Two other tables were occupied. 

We chose a table for two, but when our salad and appetizer arrived, the waiter pulled over another table to make room for all of the dishes.

We chose from the regular menu and a sheet of daily specials with prices.

We ordered an Arugula Salad to share ($7.95), an appetizer of fried Crab Cakes to share ($9.95), Ravioli with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe for my wife ($12.95) and a special of Grey Sole Oreganata for me ($18.95).

We enjoyed all of our food, but my wife doubted the the crab cakes, though tasty, contained much crab meat and none of it was lump.

My sole fillets were accompanied by three or four shrimp, vegetables and potatoes -- a beautifully balanced entree. 

An appetizer of four Crab Cakes came with salad and a homemade tartar sauce.

Bocconi is a BYO.

Crusty bread was served with butter and a plate of extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt, which is unnecessary and can mask the peppery taste of the oil. 

The dining room was filled with a soundtrack of the legendary Luciano Pavarotti, and some specials were listed on one of the two TVs.

'Restaurant Row'

Bocconi is one of three eating places on busy Essex Street, near Prospect Avenue, that form a modest restaurant row.

The Italian-American restaurant shares its L-shaped parking lot with Fire Pit Barbecue (357 Essex St.), which serves Portuguese-style ribs, steak, pork and even grilled codfish with potato, pepper and onions.

On the other side of Bocconi is Mazza Falafel (365 Essex St.), a Middle Eastern restaurant offering falafel, salads, stuffed grape leaves, shawarma and kufta kabob.

Mazza Falafel has no parking lot, and the eight spaces shared by Bocconi and Fire Pit Barbecue include two reserved for the handicapped.

There is plenty of parking in a big lot across the street at 360 Essex, a medical arts building with Starbucks Coffee and Cosi on the ground level.

And Bocconi, Fire Pit Barbecue and Mazza Falafel have delivery available.

Review of Bocconi

I came across only one newspaper review of Bocconi, which opened in 2009.

The Eating Out on $50 review appeared in The Record of Woodland Park on May 28, 2010, when Jeffrey Page praised "this dandy Italian restaurant that served terrific food in generous portions and at moderate prices."

Unfortunately, Page got the location of the restaurant wrong, saying it was at Essex Street and Summit Avenue, when it is almost a block away, near Prospect Avenue.

Bocconi Pasta Pronto & More, 363 Essex St., Hackensack; 201-342-3888. BYO. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays.

Entrance to parking lot is on Prospect Avenue.


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