Sunday, February 14, 2016

Night out in Wayne: Romantic Italian meal with wine, then all that jazz

On Saturday night, a special at Amore Cucina, also known as Amore of Wayne, were these Heart-Shaped Crab Cakes served over diced fresh pineapple in a cranberry sauce.

Another appetizer special, fresh Blue Point Oysters, were the perfect start to a romantic dinner with sparkling wine on the eve of Valentine's Day.


When I put "Amore" in my car's navigation system, nearly a dozen restaurants using the Italian word for "love" appeared. 

Amore Cucina in Wayne was the one we were looking for, and the restaurant came through with a romantic, heart-healthy meal on the even of Valentine's Day.

We had tickets to see blues singer Catherine Russell on Saturday night at William Paterson University's Shea Center in Wayne, so the nearby Amore was a natural choice for dinner before the show.

And since we were driving more than 20 miles to Wayne in single-digit temperatures, I decided to stop first at the Costco Wholesale off of Route 23.

The Wayne warehouse is one of only two in the state with a liquor license, and I wanted to pick up inexpensive house-label Kirkland Signature Prosecco and California Cabernet Sauvignon, a total of five bottles.

Amore Cucina operates a bar and grill on the building's lower level, but the restaurant allows customers to bring their own wine with no corking fee. We drank a bottle of Kirkland Signature Asolo Prosecco Superiore, a sparkling wine from Italy, we bought earlier at the Costco Wholesale in Wayne for $6.99. Other brands of this prosecco average $12.

Good food, good bubbly

After we braved the shopping frenzy at Costco an hour before closing time, we got to Amore Cucina about two hours before we had to leave for the concert.

Service was casual, but that meant we had a leisurely and delicious seafood meal washed down with a bottle of prosecco, which we cooled in an ice bucket the servers provided.

Before we ordered, I toasted my wife on the eve of Valentine's Day.

I started with a Trecolore Salad ($9.95), which was mostly peppery arugula; and a special starter of four Blue Point Oysters ($8.95), served only with wedges of lemon. Perfect.

My wife chose another special, Heart-Shaped Crab Cakes over fresh pineapple in a cranberry sauce ($13.95).

The cakes had a grease-less crust filled with hot crab meat, and the savory forkful I tried contrasted nicely with the sweet fruit.

I was intrigued with a special of Black Linguine with seafood in a light tomato sauce, but to cut down on carbs went with the Flounder Milanese listed on the menu ($21.95), because it was served with more arugula salad, and you can never eat too much of the peppery green.

Like the crab cakes, I bit into a grease-less crust to reach the hot, moist, delicious fish.

My wife also chose from the menu, Fettuccine Mar Monte with shrimp in a light cream sauce ($21.95), but took home leftovers.

We finished with cups of tea and strong black coffee ($2.50 each).

An Italian classic, Flounder Milanese, was served with a wonderful arugula salad.

I started with a Trecolore Salad with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese in an oil-and-lemon dressing.

Fettuccine Mar Monte included shrimp, fresh tomatoes and asparagus in a light cream sauce.

Amore Cucina has two dining rooms that accommodate a total of about 130.

Short drive to show

Amore Cucina is on Ratzer Road, about 3 miles from the Shea Center for Performing Arts on the WPU campus.

We loved Catherine Russell, who turned back the calendar to the first half of the last century and performed blues song associated with Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Ethel Waters and others.

She was backed by a terrific quartet, especially pianist Mark Shane.

I laughed at the lyrics of one of her songs, a warning to a persistent former lover:

"Now, my man is an undertaker and he's got a coffin just your size."
Wayne v. NYC

At nearly every show I've attended, the emcee always gets in a plug for WPU's Shea Center in Wayne, noting how much more expensive it is to go and see the same talent performing in Manhattan.

Of course, what he doesn't mention is the harrowing drive home over poorly lit, winding and descending two-lane township roads where locals think nothing of driving over 50 mph or stay glued to your rear bumper.


Amore Cucina, 611 Ratzer Road, Wayne; 1-973-595-7717. Web site: Love is in the air

Shea Center for Performing Arts at William Paterson University, 300 Pompton Road, Wayne. For box office, call 1-973-720-2371.

Costco Wholesale, 149 Route 23, Wayne; 1-973-339-4006.

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