Neighborhood Eats: De Novo in Upper Montclair

UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. (WABC) -- All aboard for this week's Neighborhood Eats!

The restaurant we're visiting in New Jersey is in what used to be a train station.

The name of the restaurant, De Novo, means to start again, and the owner is starting again after owning two other successful spots in Montclair.

His newest restaurant is located at 275 Bellevue Avenue in Upper Montclair, and the easiest way to find it is to look for the train tracks.

"It's a European feel, you're having dinner and the train goes by, it's great for us because the commuters come off the train, they'll grab a quick bite, and then they're off on their way home, or they'll have family come meet them and they'll have a bite to eat and then they'll go home," said Demetri Malki, the Owner and Culinary Director.

Whether it's on their way home, or a destination, De Novo is fast becoming a go to spot.

"We usually come in the evening, get a bottle of wine, share plates," a customer said.

The food features Italian, Greek, and Mediterranean flavors.

The chef, Adolfo Marisi, has spent the last several years cooking in Florence, so it's no surprise is pasta is made fresh. He uses a chitarra, which is Italian for guitar, and it's used to cut pasta.

This time, he was making taglioni. For the sauce he uses quite a bit of garlic.

"There's a little sprout in there, we take it out, it's a little bitter, and then we cook down the garlic three times in fresh milk," Marisi said.

The result is sweeter garlic that's pureed and mixed with tomato fondue, a concentrated sauce, and the pasta is tossed right in.

"We're trying to keep this cuisine very true and traditional to its origin," Marisi said.

"What I wanted to do is create a neighborhood restaurant where people can come two to three times a week," Malki said.

"I like the ambiance of the place. I've been in Montclair all my life, I like the train station and the food is very good," a customer said.

Demetri took time away from restaurants to be with his family, but he always knew he'd return to Upper Montclair when the time was right.

"They embrace you if you do right by them, they will embrace you and support you," Malki said.


Demetri Malki, Owner/Culinary Director

Serves 6-7 as a first course

For Pasta Dough
500g (approx 3 1/4 cups) "00" Flour
1 whole egg
230g (approx 6-7) egg yolks
40g (approx. 1/4 c) milk
16g extra virgin olive oil
Durum flour for rolling

Mound the flour in the center of a large work surface, and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and all other ingredients. Using a fork or your hands, slowly incorporate the flour, beginning with the inner rim of the well and working outward. When all the flour is incorporated, gather the dough together in a round mass. Begin kneading dough with the palms of your hands. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Wrap dough ball in plastic wrap, and let rest for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.

After the dough is rested, prepare the tagliolini either using a hand-cranked pasta machine, pasta attachment on a Kitchen-Aid, a chitarra, or by hand. Divide dough into four pieces, and keep 3 covered while you're working on the first. Roll by hand, or pass through pasta machine to progressively thinner settings. Dust with flour as needed to prevent sticking. Fold and roll repeatedly until you reach the desired thinness. Use the narrow setting on the pasta machine to cut into strips. To cut by hand, cut each pasta sheet into 10-inch lengths. Brush lightly with flour, roll up the sheet, and using a sharp knife, cut into 1/4 inch or narrower strips; unroll gently. Use immediately, or dry on a floured work surface and store in an airtight container for 3 days.

For Tomato Fondue
2 15-oz. cans San Marzano peeled tomatoes (or equivalent amount of fresh, peeled tomatoes)
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup basil leaves, well packed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 green sweet bell pepper, cored and seeded but otherwise left whole
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Lower flame and simmer for 45 min. Cool. Remove green pepper and discard. Let sit overnight, refrigerated to rest and reduce.

For Poached Sweetened Garlic
6 cups milk
15 large cloves of garlic, peeled
Chopped fresh thyme, sage and rosemary, to taste

Add 2 cups of milk to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add garlic, and poach at a bare simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Remove from flame and strain, discarding the milk (it removes the garlic's bitterness). Repeat process two more times, saving the milk on the last round of cooking. Add fresh thyme, sage, and rosemary. Combine all ingredients and blend to a paste with an immersion blender. Paste can be stored, covered and refrigerated, for three days.

For Topping:
Parmigiano cheese
Toasted breadcrumbs
Chopped fresh basil

Cooking and plating:
Reheat the sauce in a pan large enough to eventually hold the pasta. Add spoonfuls of the poached garlic paste to taste.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water. It will only take 3-4 minutes so be sure not to overcook. Retain some of the cooking water and drain. Add pasta to sauce, along with a small amount of the saved cooking water. Toss to coat completely.

Serve topped with shaved Parmigiano cheese, toasted breadcrumbs and chopped fresh basil.
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