When New Jersey culinary legend Andrea “Andy” Clurfeld – 30-year food journalist, former James Beard Awards Committee member and Pulitzer Prize finalist – tells you that you just have to check out a new restaurant, you go.
That was my rationale when Andy asked me if I wanted to go to Osteria Radici, a warm yet modern Italian restaurant that’s new on the block in Allentown as of August of 2017. However, despite the young age of Chef Randy Forrester and wife Ally Forrester’s new culinary diamond in the rough, it’s already caught the attention of the James Beard Foundation as one of the nation’s Best New Restaurants.
Allentown? I thought. Where the hell are we going? But I trust Andy, and I also trusted my rumbling belly and ridiculous love for pasta.
Andy organized a dinner with seven of us in various branches of the culinary world, including a former bakery owner, the manager of a local seafood purveyor and a former New York Times restaurant critic. Although I didn’t know anyone before that night, I knew I immediately belonged when Ally asked us all if we had any dietary restrictions or strong dislikes and for the first time I can remember, not one person at my table said a word.
I felt even better when it went unsaid that we would all go for all four courses, sharing them all eagerly including a lamb tartara appetizer with parsley pesto, mushroom crema and pane fritto ($14), creste de gallo with pork cheek, mushroom succo and salsa verde ($15) and weakfish with smoked potato, beet, radish and smoked pork brodo ($25).
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Even as a food writer, I can happily admit that I had no idea what many of these were until Ally either explained them or I saw them sitting in front of me. However, from my first course of local fluke crudo with celery root, horseradish and breakfast radish ($15) I pretty quickly understood that it didn’t really matter what I ordered – it was going to be good.
Three and a half hours later, we all slowly made our way out of this upscale yet unpretentious Main Street eatery with full, satisfied stomachs. On that hour-long drive home through the nor’easter that is now pummeling through New Jersey as I write this, I realized that yes, Andy was right – Osteria Radici was worth that Turnpike journey. I’m not sure how the James Beard Foundation found this emerging gem so fast, but I’m sure glad they did.
Where: 4 S Main St, Allentown, NJ 08501