I’m personally not Italian, but my boyfriend is, so I’m semi-qualified to talk about this subject. Also, this is based on our frequent conversation consisting of REAL Italian food being explained to me.

What makes a real Italian restaurant is the sauce, good bread and fresh ingredients. If you don’t have that, you’re off the list. A lot of what my boyfriend usually talks about was mentioned by New Jerseyans. Here are some of their answers:

John Thomas said the statement my boyfriend agrees most with:

“Something other than chicken parm, chicken francese, chicken chicken chicken”

Ray Pipher commented:

“Creativity. Service and ingredient quality. “

Filippo Provenzano added:

“Not bastardizing the menu with Italian American shmears such as cream in the carbonara, chicken parm (in Italy it's melanzana solo). Simple recipes and quality ingredients.”

Lucia Falcone-Prio simply put it,

“The food and atmosphere. The bread and sauce”

Our very own Dennis Malloy, who we all know is a true Italian, chimed in on the conversation:

“Wow those are really good and hard to top. I would say if the owner has an Italian accent that’s a very strong indication that the food will be authentic Italian cuisine. Also, not an overabundance of choices on the menu without any of the typical Italian/American items. In a lot of true Italian restaurants, the owner or manager will come by to say hello and see that everything was good. Real Italians have a lot of pride in their cooking and love to hear compliments. There are some non-Italian chefs that make excellent Italian food as well. They either studied in Italy or learn from one of the better chefs here.”

Now that we have told you what makes a REAL Italian restaurant, here are some of the best ones to visit in New Jersey:

Rob McGinley
Italian food has so many different layers but if I’m eating out I have 3 basics: the pasta needs to be cooked correctly, the sauce should be on point, and the chicken cutlets should be pounded, breaded and seasoned the proper way. If they fall flat in any of those areas, I’m out before trying anything else. In the area, Espo’s, Cafe Picasso and Da Filippo are amongst the best.

via Somerville NJ Talk of the Town Facebook Group
via Somerville NJ Talk of the Town Facebook Group
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Espo's in Raritan 

Espo's Google Maps
Espo's Google Maps
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Cafe Picasso in Somerville

Cafe Picasso on Google Maps
Cafe Picasso on Google Maps
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Da Filippo Autentica Cucina Italiana in Somerville

Christina Meerloo
Omg best and most legit Italian is AMA pizza!!!!!

via Somerville NJ Talk of the Town Facebook Group
via Somerville NJ Talk of the Town Facebook Group
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Jonathan Hawkins
The sauce needs to be right!! Elio's on Inman Ave in Edison - great food. I'm originally from North Jersey too, I feel like almost any place is worth going to up there.

 Elio's in Edison

Elio's on Google Maps
Elio's on Google Maps
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Kim Murphy Macaulay

What makes it good: seasonal ingredients, authentic Italian food, ambiance, and great service. Favorite restaurant - many great ones but best of the best -Il Capriccio Ristorante in Whippany

Il Capriccio on Google Maps
Il Capriccio on Google Maps
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Vinny Tavaglione
Viaggio Ristorante in Wayne is something that is out of this world! Homemade pasta dishes, house-cured meats, an extremely enthusiastic owner and chef! If you’ve never been you have to try it. The atmosphere is nice inside and he has a chef's table where he will cook whatever he chooses and will do this for parties if requested as well. I am constantly wowed by his food and presentation! If you have not tried it you have got to! He also has another restaurant in Westwood called Osteria Crescendo that has a liquor license and amazing atmosphere!

Viaggio via Google Maps
Viaggio via Google Maps
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Jeff Graham
Girasole in Bound Brook. Consistently amazing food, service, and atmosphere. Have never had a poor meal or service in all the many years of going. Hard to find standards like that.

Girasole via Google Maps
Girasole via Google Maps
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Kyle Udvarhely
15 Fox Place in Jersey City apparently, and I believe it is the Authenticity to even be considered Italian and not Italian American

Rochelle Starr
Panini Grill of Freehold. The food, the staff and just the whole atmosphere, the decor. You feel comfortable. They do everything they can to make your experience there great. Try it, you’ll love it. They also have parties and all the decorations done by Rosario are the best ever

Panini Grill via Google Maps
Panini Grill via Google Maps
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Marc Regenbogen
Patricia’s of Holmdel is a gem and La Cucina Nouveau in Englishtown also outstanding.

Patricia's of Holmdel via Google Maps
Patricia's of Holmdel via Google Maps
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La Cucina Nouveau via Google Maps
La Cucina Nouveau via Google Maps
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Richard Bello
I love Laicos in Jersey City. If you go there three times they Know your name. The food is a combination of old school red sauce and modern regional Italian

 

Kimberly Walsh Bevevino
Basilico in Raritan! From Italy & amazing homemade pasta. BYOB

Basilico via Google Maps
Basilico via Google Maps
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Maryann D'Allegro
Lou Cas in Edison is great!

Lou Cas via Google Maps
Lou Cas via Google Maps
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Ray Pipher
Creativity. Service and ingredient quality. LuNello in Cedar Grove.

Lucia Falcone-Piro
Calandra's Cucina Mediterranean in Fairfield

Florence Thauvin
Guerriero's in Morristown

Guerriero's via Google Maps
Guerriero's via Google Maps
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Dan Gianfrancesco
Belmont Tavern ALL DAY EVERY DAY! Literally a staple!

Belmont Tavern via Google Maps
Belmont Tavern via Google Maps
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Andrea Katherine
GPs in Guttenberg is the best! Small and definitely old-school Italian.

GP's Restaurant via Google Maps
GP's Restaurant via Google Maps
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Sandra Licata Walsh
Jozanna's in Middlesex: Good food, great staff and the owner sings.

Jozanna's via Google Maps
Jozanna's via Google Maps
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Olimpia Garruto- Grillo
There is nothing like Ristorante MV in Bernardsville. The food is spectacular. The atmosphere is second to none & family owned and operated. Truly the best!

Ristorante MV via Google Maps
Ristorante MV via Google Maps
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Antonela Ndoja
Pomodoro Pizzeria & Ristorante

Pomodoro Pizzeria & Ristorante via Google Maps
Pomodoro Pizzeria & Ristorante via Google Maps
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Chris Wang
Pasta Shop in Denville

Pasta Shop in Denville via Google Maps
Pasta Shop in Denville via Google Maps
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Stephanie Fleischer
Queen Margarita in Nutley. Incredible Italian bakery too and byob

Queen Margarita via Google Maps
Queen Margarita via Google Maps
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Laurie Ann
Bruno’s Bistro in Morris Plains. Fresh homemade dishes. And BYOB!

Bruno's Bistro in Morris Plains via Google Maps
Bruno's Bistro in Morris Plains via Google Maps
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Donna Lerner
Scalini Fedeli in Chatham

Andrea Lynn
Mouth-watering authentic Italian classics and friendly atmosphere! Cafe Rustica in Basking Ridge has both and more. Italian family-owned and run for 21 years this place NEVER disappoints!

Cafe Rustica via Google Maps
Cafe Rustica via Google Maps
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Patty Baglivi
The bread! BV Tuscany in Teaneck.

Lucia Falcone-Piro
Casa Bella in Denville

Casa Bella via Google Maps
Casa Bella via Google Maps
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Lucia Falcone-Piro
Novelli Restaurant in Wayne

Pam Miller
Osteria Crescendo in Westwood

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