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Great restaurant for small wedding in Princeton area?

Hi Chowhounds, I need your help! My fiance' and I are relocating to Princeton in the summer, and have realized that planning a wedding from across the country is no small task. I plan on flying out to Princeton for a weekend next month to check out some places, but could definitely use a nudge in the right direction from all you well informed folk with such good taste. Here's the info:

room for 75 guests
Must have great food
Not too pretentious or stuffy
Did I mention they must have great food?

Any reccommendations would be appreciated-some people have mentioned EnoTerra and Acacia, so input on those places are welcome, but more suggestions would be great!

Anything within an hours' drive of Princeton is fine.

Thanks so much!

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  1. Tre Piani (in Forrestal Village) has fabulous food and a lovely, airy setting. They have a beautiful private room, as well as some outdoor space. I suggest you contact Chef Jim Weaver, who is dedicated to preparing local, sustainably raised food that tastes great. We frequently drive down to dine there.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ChefJune

      How come Tre Piani seems to get such a bad rap? Maybe not on here, but I have heard so many complaints about the place, but nobody can give me exactly why they don't like it.

      I met my wife here for lunch one spring day last year, or maybe it was the year before, and we sat outside, and just had a gorgeous lunch. I had some sort of filet mignon tips in a pasta that was absolutely to die for. So good! Definitely need to go back here.

      I would never have thought about this place for a wedding, but that would be awesome if you could do some sort of event there, and could have an indoor/outdoor thing going on. The courtyard outside there is indeed a nice setting.

      Best of luck, and congrats on the upcoming nuptial! Cheers! -mJ

      1. re: njfoodies

        We've had many very good meals here and I'd bet they'd do a great job with a 75 guest wedding.

        I think part of the rep stems from the early days when they had the casual menu downstairs and the formal menu up. Bit of a different experience, many reviewers may not have realized the differences and maybe too many items for the kitchen to manage well.

        Now they've evolved into a consistently focused and great place that we enjoy going to. Not a red sauce joint but classic regional cuisine with well prepared local ingrediants. TreBar is a great addition as well and we enjoy the small plate and extensive wine by the glass offerings for a more casual night out.

    2. I suggest trying Mediterra on Palmer Square in Princeton. Also, from a wedding phoyography perspective Palmer Square, Princeton University, the Princeton Battlefield and the town of Princeton itself offers a more interesting landscape for photography than Forrestal Village (which over the years has been a poorly orgnized collection of retail/outlet stores; assuming you don't want as maidenform outlet in the background of your photos) .

      Over the past ten yeas anytime I've dined at Tre Piani (whether for leisure or business) I have been under whelmed.

      Another town worth exploring is Lambertville, NJ / New Hope, Pa (about 20-25 minutes west of Princeton) There are some lovely restaurants (Anton's at the Swan, Hamilton Grill, The Landing, The Logan Inn, to name a few) thatt you an your fiancee should check out.

      6 Replies
      1. re: pm_fan

        Another comment about being "under whelmed." But no reasoning to what under whelmed you. Was it the food? The wine? The service? Ambiance? -mJ

        1. re: njfoodies

          Sorry for the over use of "under whelmed". I guess I've been watching too much Michael Kors on Project Runway :-)

          I've always heard people rave about how great their meals were. Then I actually got a meal myself I found them under seasoned and lacking flavor. But perhaps I will give them a try again, as they may have a new chef since the last time I was there.

          1. re: njfoodies

            Last August, I posted a lengthy review of a miserable meal we had at Tre Piani. Frankly, I found the ambience to be lacking, the service to be poor, and the food to be amateurish. It was a comically bad meal with a big price tag. I wasnt alone in my opinion and a couple other people provided details on why they don't like it, as well. See below:

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/598428

          2. re: pm_fan

            Mediterra is an "interesting" suggestion. I've dined there several times, and with the exception of the first time I went -- soon after it opened, years ago -- I have never been served anything to get excited about.

            Has something changed?

            1. re: ChefJune

              Mediterra has always been weird to me. Weird meats with weird sauces, and have yet to be wowed. Many people love the place though. May have to try to revisit one of these days. -mJ

              1. re: njfoodies

                It's not that great, if you compare it to a broader universe of fine dining restaurants in America. However, if you compare it to the options in downtown Princeton, it's pretty good. It's definitely better than Lahiere's. It's more sophisticated than Witherspoon Grill, which is a safe choice for reliably, though uninspiring food.

                I think it's sister restaurant up the road in Kingston, Eno Terra, is better.

          3. Thanks so much for the input, everyone! I've actually checked out the TrePiani website before, and it was unclear if they could accommodate a party of our size in one space. (I'd hate to have my aunts forced to dine upstairs like second-rate guests, or anything like that!)

            Knowing that they have an outdoor area is even more compelling.

            Thanks for all the other great suggestions too, I'll investigate them all-and even though we can only pick one wedding site, it's great to know where to find the good eats in our new home anyway!

            5 Replies
            1. re: dinasaurus

              I'm not sure I'd get too excited about Tre Piani's outdoor area. The restaurant sits in the middle of a failed open air shopping mall that couldn't really support many stores, so there's few people walking around. The outdoor area looks out over a gym and some empty storefronts. It could have been pretty, but without bustling stores and foot traffic, it's pretty depressing.

              I would strongly suggest that you check out Lambertville. It's a scenic little town on the Delaware River and the D&R Canal. It's got character and charm, both of which are in short order in the sprawl of New Jersey suburbs. Hamilton Grill is a great restaurant that has a large outdoor area that could surely be configured to seat 75 people. It's quaint and elegant. The food has been excellent every time we've gone. It's BYOB, so you'd have to figure out that part of the deal, but that would be true at lots of places in New Jersey, unfortunately.

              Lambertville is about a 20 minute drive from Princeton.

              1. re: glutton

                Hamilton Grill Room is a great option if you don't mind going to Lambertville! I couldn't agree more!

                As for it being "unfortunately" a BYO, I gotta disagree with that. To me, nothing better than a restaurant with good chow that is BYO! How can you not love bringing a bottle from home and not paying over inflated prices for vino? Doesn't get any better to me! -mJ

                1. re: njfoodies

                  I say unfortunately because this is a wedding party, which means arranging for cases and cases of wine to be delivered. It's just another thing to plan.

                  1. re: glutton

                    Gotcha, and see exactly what you are saying. Good point, but definitely worth the hassel in my opinion. If purchasing local though, there are quite a few shops in the area who I am sure would deliver it for the special ocassion when buying in quantity. -mJ

                    1. re: njfoodies

                      Hamilton's puts on a beautiful wedding! We witnessed one there one night while having drinks at the boathouse... Many liquor stores offer off premise services where they will set up an entire bar as well as wine. They even take back bottles that weren't used. Rats is great too, very expensive, but amazing. I attended a wedding there... about 90 people attended and the couple was married on the bridge. www.groundsforsculpture.org

            2. You might consider the Harvest Moon Inn in Ringoes, approx 30 minutes away
              http://harvestmooninn.com/

              The Perryville Inn in Perryville, approx 55 minutes away
              http://www.theperryvilleinn.com/

              The Frenchtown Inn in Frenchtown, approx 55 minutes away
              http://www.frenchtowninn.com/

              IMO all serve excellent food, are attractive settings and do weddings.

              Best Wishes and Congratulations.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ALM54

                I thought of one more...

                Ninety Acres at Natirar
                http://www.natirar.com/

              2. im wondering if eno terra in kingston would be a good place to consider

                1. What about Rat's at the Grounds for Sculpture? It's about 20 minutes from Princeton. I know the name is horrible, but it is an upscale restaurant. The Grounds are absolutely beautiful, the restaurant accommodates private parties, the food is supposed to be some of the best in the area, and there is a lovely patio as well.