Sunday, January 31, 2010

Benito's Trattoria keeps it all in the family

John Bucetaj took over Benito's Trattoria back in 2002, but that doesn't mean that former owner Alberto Dutaj, who is Bucetaj's uncle, doesn't stop by for a visit every so often. This is a family-run restaurant, after all.

"As a child, all of us have been in this business," Dutaj says. "We have families all over — New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas. New Jersey is a really beautiful state, and we like it here."

Located on Main Street in Chester, Benito's Trattoria, which serves northern Italian cuisine, has a reputation in town, as made evident by its Zagat rating.

"To be Zagat rated, it's basically a customer review," Bucetaj says, "And we've been in Zagat for the past 12 to 13 years."

All of this is due to the family's strict adherence to making sure that the food they serve here is top-notch.

"Everything's homemade here," Dutaj says. "From sauces, to everything we make, from scratch. It's very old-school and strict. We don't buy anything premade.

"It's been the same cook for 16 years, so the sauces and the preparations are continually staying the same," Dutaj continues. "Nothing changes except the specials. We play around with the specials. But the basics, the foundation, the sauces, are what keep this cuisine so delicious and unique from everybody else."

Some of those delicious and unique items are the Pollo Benito, which is a breast of chicken topped with portobello mushrooms, roasted peppers and goat cheese in cognac sauce, and the Vitello Della Case, which is veal scallopini topped with sliced tomatoes, salami, artichoke hearts and mozzarella cheese in a white-wine sauce.

"The menu is very, very good," Bucetaj says. "We (also) have homemade pastas, and the customers like (our) ravioli and linguini. All the pastas we make are in-house."

Benito's also has seafood topping the bill along with its stellar pastas and meat dishes.

"We get fresh seafood three or four times a week," Bucetaj says.

To go along with the great food is a warm and inviting atmosphere perfect for dates, family or friends. The restaurant's BYO policy allows customers to buy affordable alcohol to bring in to accompany their equally affordable meal.

"We prefer to do it this way" intead of having a liquor license, Dutaj explains. "It's affordable for the customer, (and they can) go into a liquor store and buy the same bottle of wine that they would buy in a place that had a liquor license for $30 less, so it's affordable."

Having such a sterling reputation also means that it's not the kind of place that you can just walk into and expect to find a seat.

"We recommend reservations," Dutaj says. "Absolutely on the weekends."

It's been busy like this for years, and Bucetaj makes sure that it stays that way.

"The business, when I took over from my uncle, was established," Bucetaj says. "But we changed a few different things, like the chairs, carpets, and tiles. At the end of February, the beginning of March, I'm (actually) going to do renovations."

What those renovations are, Bucetaj won't say, but as long as it means that the place will still be serving great food in Chester, that's absolutely fine.

"Chester is a beautiful town," Bucetaj says. "I've been working around here for so long that it's more like a hometown. I feel very comfortable (here)."

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