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Need some recs for xmas gift certificate: dinner for two in Maplewood area or nearby

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I would like to give my hairdresser and his partner a gift certificate for dinner as a xmas gift. They live in Maplewood. I have done this before, gave them dinner at Lorena's and that was a hit, but I am not familiar with the area and could use some help. I am figuring on $150 to $200 as a gift. There is a restaurant in Montclair, Culinearia (forgive my spelling if that is wrong) that looked sort of interesting, what do you think. I would prefer either Italian or modern American cuisine, but open to almost anything except sushi.

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  1. Giotto or Corso 98 are good in Montclair for Italian, but neither are Lorena. Culinariane in Montclair is very good and comparable to Lorena's. Verjus in Maplewood is good. Also, check if Arturo's in Maplewood is doing tasting dinners. Casual but fun.

    1. I second Giotto and would also look into Salute in Montclair, went once and was very impressed. There is also Resto & Rob's Bistro in Madison, only about 20-25 minutes from Maplewood. I've never been to Arturo's but have heard good things about their tasting menu.

      4 Replies
      1. re: mcglo

        The tasting menu at Arturo's is no more; apparently a victim of it's sucess. But Arturo's is still doing well. We tried Resto in Madison and, while it was ok, it didn't quite live up to our expectations (and it certainly isn't in the same league a Lorena's).

        1. re: jmoryl

          Why did Arturo's stop its tasting dinners?I thought it was a summer thing. Are they coming back? We enjoyed them.

        2. re: mcglo

          Arturo's used to be one of my favorite places. But on our last visit recently, the pizza was still excellent, the other items (pasta, meatballs, bruschetta) seemed to be a little off. And is it me or is it annoying when after every course, the server asks "how is everything tasting"?

          1. re: tootsnj

            It's you, because at most places in this price range , the server doesn't care.

        3. In Montclair, I'd highly recommend Blu, where for $150-200 your (VERY LUCKY) hairdresser and guest will be able to sample a fantastic tasting menu AND bring their own wine. I'd say give them $150 gc there and a good bottle of wine or champagne to take with them! www.restaurantblu.com

          Personally, Culinariane totally underwhelmed me; the only other rec I'd make in Montclair is Fascino, but Blu has continued to have the 'wow' factor for me for 5+ years now!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Curlz

            I agree that Blu is a great pick as well, but just be aware that they are closed thru the holidays. They are opening a new restaurant in New Brunswick during this time.

          2. Ah...didn't realized they've closed while Daryl gets going. Thanks for the heads-up! I still think it's a great gift, though--and since it probably won't get used until after the holidays, that shouldn't be a prob.