Monday, November 21, 2016

A great meal in Newark's Ironbound depends on finding a parking space

Grilled Large Prawns with Garlic Sauce at Tony da Caneca, a Portuguese restaurant that opened in 1965 and calls itself one of the three originals in Newark's Ironbound section.


Allowing 2 hours for dinner before a jazz concert would seem like enough, but not when you plan to eat in one of the Portuguese restaurants in the Ironbound section of Newark.

Late Saturday afternoon, we stopped at the two Pic-Nic Portuguese barbecue restaurants, one in East Newark, a suburb of Newark, and the second on Ferry Street in the Ironbound.

The lot next to the East Newark restaurant was full and at the second, I didn't see a lot next to the building.

So, we fell back on one of the original Portuguese restaurants in the city, Tony da Caneca, which is far from Ferry Street and has a comparatively large parking lot to accommodate a brisk party business.

The interior appears to have been completely renovated to accommodate large groups, and that has changed the restaurant and the Old World service I remembered from a 2009 visit.

But we were happy with the seafood we ordered, especially the unusually large shrimp from Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony.

My wife ordered the Large Grilled Prawns, as they are described on the menu, and they appeared to be 8 inches and 6 inches long.

They were served with rice and house-made potato chips ($32). 

Entree prices included a bowl of chicken soup for my wife and a mixed salad to share.

My Grilled Seafood Combination ($21) included fish, scallops, shrimp, a small lobster tail, vegetables and boiled potatoes. Two small glasses of Portuguese red wine were $6 each. 

The complimentary mixed salad for two looked great, but once we ate the top layer of tomato and cucumber slices, olives and a little spring mix, the foundation was all iceberg lettuce.

My undoing was filling up on the spongy, soft-crusted bread, which I used to soak up extra-virgin olive oil with herbs and garlic.

When we arrived around 5:45 p.m. on Saturday, one large celebration had just finished. And when we were leaving about an hour later, guests started arriving for a second party, below.

After dinner at Tony da Caneca, we drove to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center for a Sarah Vaughan Celebration. Three jazz singers -- Dianne Reeves, Sheila Jordan and Lisa Fischer -- paid homage to the Newark native. The street in front of NJPAC is now called Sarah Vaughan Way.

On Sunday afternoon, we returned to NJPAC for the 5th annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, co-presented by WBGO-FM, the jazz station in Newark. Five finalists were chosen from among hundreds of audition tapes to perform, above. The Sassy Award went to Deelee Dube (pronounced "Do-bay"), a singer-songwriter from London, far right.


Tony da Caneca, 72 Elm Road, Newark; 1-973-589-6882. Website: Authentic Portuguese Cuisine

New Jersey Performing Arts Center, 1 Center St., Newark. Website: NJPAC

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