eat & drink
HOW WE REVIEW Restaurants are chosen for review at the sole discretion of the dining editor, based on input from our food writers and critics around the state. Our reviewers visit a restaurant at least twice, always maintaining anonymity to avoid preferential treatment. The reviewer brings up to three guests per visit and tastes everything
that is ordered. NJM reimburses the reviewer for all food and beverage expenses. After the final visit, the reviewer conducts a phone interview with the chef, owner or other
key members of the team. The review is then submitted to NJM and edited for clarity and fairness. Stars are assigned by the editor in consultation with the reviewer. As a
final step, an NJM staffer checks the review for accuracy, always calling the restaurant to confirm all facts.
Excellent Fair Good Very Good Extraordinary P H O
FOOD New American
AMBIENCE Cozy, like a 1950s den, with well-spaced
tables and unusually comfortable upholstered chairs
SERVICE Has ranged from blasé to delightful
PRICES Appetizers, $9-$18; entrées, $15-$32;
OPEN Dinner, Monday-Saturday
F801 Haddon Avenue, 856-240-1164;
By Adam Erace
Dominic Piperno used to take the train from his home in Collings- wood to and from his job as sous
chef at the acclaimed Philadelphia res-
taurant Vernick Food and Drink. “On the
train were all these cooks and servers
from Jersey,” he says, “because Philly’s
where you can make money to further
To change the paradigm, Piperno
and his wife, Lindsay, a front-of-house
veteran, opened Hearthside in Collings-
wood in September. They built the
restaurant to accommodate a big,
wood-burning grill and oven like the
ones Piperno used at Vernick and during
culinary school in Chianti, Italy.
Much of the menu is cooked over
wood, from sweet, heads-on Gulf prawns,
finished with lemon-garlic butter, to the
ethereal apple fritters, their batter enriched with applesauce made from fruit
slow roasted in the oven overnight.
The open kitchen and hearth, as they
call it, give the restaurant a glow. Aiding
the cozy vibe are sensationally comfort-
able banquettes and cushioned chairs.
Piperno and co-executive chef Aaron
Gottesman, friends since they worked
together briefly at Vernick, aim to keep
things “approachable but not dumbed
down,” says Gottesman.
Collingswood’s standout establish-
ment is still the Sicilian BYO, Zeppoli,
where Piperno cooked for three years.
tening and blistered shishito peppers,
and a kimchi whose crunchy fennel and
sweet corn made it far more interest-
ing than the usual all-cabbage version.
Mecca’s latest kimchi gets its boost
from apples and Brussels sprouts.
“Cooking is deep rooted in my blood,”
says Mecca, whose family owned an
Italian bread bakery in Cliffside Park. “I
grew up helping my grandmother and
mother prepare meals, from setting the
table to stirring a pot of tomato sauce
to delivering our family’s Italian bread
or assembling ravioli. That is where I
found my love for food.”
Not surprisingly, a restaurant of this
quality creates terrific ice creams. Enjoy
the boozy essence of the vanilla, made
with bourbon-aged vanilla beans. The
bread pudding struck me as tame—I
prefer mine dripping with caramel,
chocolate and any other goo—but my
companion liked it precisely because it
wasn’t too sweet or rich. The pecan pie
was notable for its thin, buttery crust
and wonderful pecans. Toasted before
being baked in the pie gives them a
richer, nuttier taste.
A strong cappuccino ends the meal
on an appropriately upbeat note. But
consider prolonging the evening over
another cocktail, a liqueur or, heck, another dish of ice cream. Mathews is the
kind of place where you want to linger.
It’s a worthy addition to Jersey City’s
already notable restaurant scene.
In the bar room,
the crowd digs into
dishes like corn
fritters (right) with
bits of rock shrimp
on soft pimento
with an herb salad.