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Jun 19, 2012 06:06 AM

Spuntino in Clifton

Has anyone been to or know anything about Spuntino Wine Bar & Tapas in Clifton at Clifton Commons? The web site seems to scream chain restaurant but I cannot find out anything about them. The menu actually looks pretty good, but I just can't get past a place named Spuntino using the words "Italian" and "tapas" in their name. After all, the word "spuntino" translates into "snack" in English. The fact that they feel the need to include the word "tapas" in their name pretty much tells you they are jumping on this band wagon that needs to be permanently taken off the road. But still, the menu does look pretty darn appetizing. Thanks for any information.

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  1. Where in the name is the word "Italian"?

    I suspect the vast majority of people don't know what 'sputino' translates to. I also suspect that most people will be calling it "Spuntino's."

    Does the menu in fact consist of small plates?

    6 Replies
    1. re: tommy

      opps. It's "Spuntino Wine Bar and Italian Tapas" according to their web site.

      Yes, the menu has a majority of small plates and the philosophy of the restaurant is to share everything.

      1. re: mangiare24

        Ah. Seems like the name is Sputino. And they describe themselves as a wine bar and italian tapas restaurant. That's not too egregious to my mind, especially considering few people know what Sputino means.

        A friend of mine has gone there a few times. I'll get some feedback from him. He seems to enjoy it.

        1. re: tommy

          Ok food if your in the area. Young loud crowd that seems alot louder because of all of the hard surfaces, comparable to Boom Burger. They try to make a big deal about the wine by having someone come over and present the bottle(a procesco in our case) but no one ever came back to pour any other glasses. 5 dishes + one bottle of wine= $100 not including tip. I work near the place so I'll probably go back for lunch. Didn't try any pizza. Went to Grimaldis for that, but thats a different story.

          1. re: double0

            Thanks for the info double0. Doesn't sound like my kind of place.

            From what you say it sounds like you do not like Grimaldi's. I happen to like it a lot (well, the 2 in Hoboken at least). Care to share?

            1. re: mangiare24

              Actually I did like Grimaldis. I've been twice for lunch. Had Ceasar salad, romaine,crotons, and a creamy dressing; no hint of anchoives. The 1st time was a ind. white pie w/eggplant .Grat flavors but the crust was a little soft fomy liking. It was more than enough for one person and my wife liked it reheated. The 2nd pie was tomato, jalepeno, and sausage again great flavor but I wish the crust was a little crisper. I can appreciate the softer crust just not my style. This was a small pie which is probaly good for three hungary eaters. Both meals in the $20 range, so good value. Nice service. The waiter had a handlebar moustace. The owner was around to make sure everything went well. They also have a salad bar w/cold cuts for $10 at lunch

    2. I've been to Spuntino 4-5 times, now, and my overall feeling is that I like the IDEA of the place, I love the big selection of wines by the quartino, and I really enjoy some of the items on the menu. Others, not so much. This is not fine dining by any means, but I also wouldn't put it in the chain restaurant category. For starters, iirc it's owned by the small group that owns a few Shannon Rose pubs (there's one next door to Spuntino) and a waiter told us that they also own the Applebees and Chevy's in the same shopping complex.

      The small plates concept is something *I* don't need -explained to me, but they feel the need to do so each time. Small plates. Smaller amounts of food than you're used to getting in restaurants around here. For less money. You may want to share a lot of them. Call me crazy, but that's how I eat mezze at Stamna, dim sum, and, oh, yes, when I go to a Spanish restaurant for tapas.

      Consistencies: 40+ wines by the quartino, great prices, nice-LOOKING (if you care about that), far too loud, a v generous salumi/formaggio plate for all of $10 for 3 items. Other consistencies: thoroughly inconsistent service. I've had horrible "why would I come back here" service, I've had v knowledgeable bartenders, and I've had mediocre and decent examples of both over the course of my visits, which sometimes start at the bar. We've always ended up eating at a table, though, as the bar area is even louder than the main rooms. I don't mind a vibrant atmosphere where you walk in and feel a place is hopping, but I sat at the bar one night chatting with a guy next to me, and we finally started laughing over how many times we were saying, "I'm sorry...what?" And I'm NOT soft-spoken. It's just not necessary--anywhere. And it's why I don't go near Shannon Rose on a Fri/Sat night---but over there, I chalk it up to a 20-something crowd, which is NOT what I've seen at Spuntino.

      Food-wise: In addition to the salumi/formaggio, I like the stuffed mushrooms, the gorgonzola/apple/walnut bruschetta (my choice for dessert), the arancini were better than I expected, the artichokes totally tasteless (and although we cleared other plates that night, we were never asked if there was a problem with them), and I had to ask for pepper to add to the cacio y pepe. In short, this is not where I'm going to DINE. But on a weeknight or a lazy Sunday when I don't feel like cooking and want to meet a friend, I'm learning what to order and what not to order and enjoying it.

      7 Replies
        1. re: Curlz

          (Ed)Doherty Enterprises actually owns close 100 restaurants. Shannon Rose(3) and Spuntino (1)are original concepts, not franchises, like his Applebee's(61), Panera Bread(30) and Chevy's(2)locations.

          1. re: fourunder

            Wow--I knew it was a mix of originals and franchises, but didn't realize it was that many! That explains the waitress telling us that he came up w/this concept b/c he was running out of storage for his wine collection...

            1. re: Curlz

              I believe he used to own some Pollo Loco locations , T.J. Cinnamon, Johnny Carino and Roy Rodgers as well......the latter, being his start after purchasing them from the Marriott Corporation. He started with 19 and grew them to about Doherty actually had another 40 places at one time....though not all at the same time. I also believe I read article this year that he has over 6000 employees and is projected to do about 350 million in gross sales this year.

              1. re: fourunder

                Makes sense--Spuntino used to be a Johnny Carino's.

          2. re: Curlz

            Thanks Curlz for your very informative review. Sounds like I can get the same and better food and service at a number of restaurants in the City. Next time I'm at Clifton Commons though I will try it.

            1. re: mangiare24

              You're welcome. Definitely worth a shot, but you've got to pick/choose--that's all.

          3. We made it to Spuntino yesterday and I must admit we were pleasantly surprised. Everything we had was good to very good. It's definitely a place to have "small plates" as the pasta we ordered was the weakest item. My overall criticism is that food is "safe;" nothing is aggressively seasoned or too out of the ordinary. For example, the roasted Brussel sprouts we had was very good, but could have been outstanding with the addition of a little salt and a heavier hand with the olive oil and maybe even a squeeze of lemon or a dusting of lemon zest. This was true of other dishes as well; they seem to make it almost to the finish line but with just a bit more "oomph" they can easily win the race. The three wines we tried were all very good and the server did not have to ask us once to repeat ourselves when ordering them without pointing to the menu. This was impressive.

            When we were there the place was not very crowded so there was no noise problem, though I can see how it could be a problem. Although we sat at a regular table, there is a "chef's counter" type of area at one end of the bar that seems more appealing and intimate. Our server was very competent without being annoying like some can be at a semi-chain type of place. We avoided the "small plates, tapas, sharing, etc." spiel by just saying "yes" when she first asked us if we had been there before, even though we had not.

            All in all, if and when we do find ourselves in the area we would definitely eat there again.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mangiare24

              Mangiare, I think you've hit the nail on the head--they're playing it safe from a flavor perspective! Totally agree with you there.

            2. Thought I would revive this thread as the NYT reviewed it in their NJ Metro section today and gave it a " Worth It" review. Informative article and pretty much nails the pros and cons of the place.


              2 Replies
              1. re: ttoommyy

                I'm laughing b/c I just reread my original 'review' (up above, 6/23/12), and the reviewer said much of the same--6 months later.
                I haven't been there in the last 2 months, but this review says to me that Spuntino is what it started out to be and they haven't done much to tweak the issues that I saw many times over in the first few months they were open. When the wine program and the salumi are the highlights, I can't say a place is 'worth it' for the kitchen. For the vibe, for the few things that I think are okay on the menu, and for the prices, yes.

                1. re: Curlz

                  We haven't been in a while either, but agree with you Curlz. If only they would take the time to tweak the issues you, the NYT and I all agree on, then I think they would really have something "worth it."