Divina is an excellent name for chef/owner Mario Carlino’s restaurant. The food is absolutely divine. Born in Calabria, Italy, Mario attended culinary school in Salerno and worked in numerous countries honing his culinary skills before coming to the U.S. He opened Divina in 1994 and the food, service and comfortable atmosphere are the reasons behind the success of the restaurant that has been enchanting diners for almost a quarter of a century.
At Divina, there may be as many as ten specials printed out and inserted in the menu each day. Perhaps the list will include chicken agro dolce on the bone, made with honey and red wine vinegar or branzino sautéed with white wine over spinach. As a chef, Mario is an exponent of simplicity, executed with quality ingredients. His philosophy is that a meal must be satisfying but light and he achieves this rare and difficult balance. Begin with antipasti of fried calamari, zuppa di clams and shrimp with white wine, hot peppers and garlic – all are excellent choices. The traditional homemade soups, pasta e fagioli, minestrone, escarole and beans and tortellini are also top shelf. There are 12 pastas on the menu, each more tempting than the other, but few dishes can compare to Mario’s lasagna. It is just like your mama made, assuming that mama was a first class chef. Main courses feature seafood, veal and chicken; simple, yet delicious. The quality of the ingredients comes shining through in every meal.
Traditional dishes feature chicken Francese, Pizzaiola or Parmigiana; but there is also chicken fantasia with roasted peppers, eggplant and mozzarella. Another specialty is chicken mascotta with shitake mushrooms, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, in a Marsala wine sauce. Veal dishes include principessa with sliced eggplant, tomato and mozzarella; veal pizzaiola or Milanese and veal with wild mushrooms.
Seafood entrees are zuppa di pesce marechiara, with scallops, shrimp, calamari, clams and mussels over linguini; fillet sole Livornese, with onions, capers, olives and fresh marinara; fillet of sole Milanese with fresh tomatoes; shrimp scampi in white wine and garlic over linguini; shrimp marinara (over linguini) and linguini with scallops and broccoli.
Desserts are made in-house and each is extraordinary. They include the traditional favorites such as cheesecake and tiramisu, but the special is a gluten-free, flourless pistachio cake, made with a pound of ground pistachios and egg whites. Powdered sugar is dusted on top and custard cream adds a little frill on the side.
The atmosphere at Divina is warm and nicely decorated. But it is the food and the service that take center stage at the restaurant. It’s wise to make a reservation if you plan to come for a weekend meal, especially on Saturdays. Make sure that you bring your favorite bottle of wine, the restaurant is BYOB.
Divina Ristorante is located at 461 Bloomfield Avenue in Caldwell, New Jersey. Call 973-228-5228 for reservations. Visit their website to take a look at the menu and hours at www.divinaristorante.com.