Authentic Mediterranean at Calandra's Mediterranean Grill
Calandra’s Mediterranean Grill’s chef Robert Caravaggio is one of those chefs who trained the “old school” way starting in the kitchens of his Nonna, his mom, and his aunt. After a twenty year stint in Las Vegas where he manned the kitchens in places like Sam’s Town, The Tropicana, and Treasure Island specializing in both Northern and Southern Italian cuisine, the need to be near family brought him back to New Jersey. Serendipity happened when he met the Calandra brothers and as he says, he and Anthony “just hit it off.” In the year and a half that Chef Caravaggio has been at the helm of the Mediterranean Grill, he has completely redone the menu in the restaurant, the bar, the catering service, and even the room service at the Hampton Inn & Suites where the restaurant is located. He has created new dishes and some that are wonderfully nostalgic and harkening back 100 years of Italian tradition.
There are several restaurant selections worth noting: the Calandra Salad–a deconstructed Greek Salad with cucumber, feta cheese, kalamata olives, onion, grape tomatoes, avocado and dressed with season lemon vinaigrette; and the Watermelon Salad, which includes fresh mint, basil, and pan-seared scallops, seasoned with salt and pepper and extra virgin olive oil. Another salad worth tasting is Insalada Capri, which features sliced beefsteak tomatoes, burrata cheese, sliced prosciutto, roasted walnuts, fresh pesto and just the right touch of lemon vinaigrette.
Chitarra Amatriciana is a pasta dish named for guitar strings which it resembles. The pasta is dressed with onions, fresh basil, roasted tomatoes, a touch of pomidori sauce, fresh parsley, fresh pecorino romano, and of course a touch of evoo. A real standout is the Chippino, a fisherman’s stew from the Liguria region, near Portofino. It’s a wonderful combination of calamari, salmon, mussels, clams, and shrimp with a spicy tomato and wine broth which is served with toasted crostini made of course from the amazing Calandra’s fresh baked bread. Fish is big in Italian cuisine, so you’ll find Chef Caravaggio’s take on Bronzino that is served grilled, with curry-infused couscous, and roasted cauliflower with Italian bread crumbs and garnished with grape tomatoes, shallots, and lemon zest. Not to be missed for lamb lovers is a Mediterranean Rack of Lamb, made from Australian lamb which the chef says is bigger and more flavorful than popular New Zealand lamb. Served with sun-dried tomatoes, couscous, and a cucumber-based fresh Greek salad.
Chef Caravaggio gives kudos and says: “I’m proud of what we do here. I have an amazing kitchen crew. I couldn’t do it without them.” He also notes that both servers and kitchen staff have been with the Grill for an average of 10 years.
Using the finest ingredients he can procure as well as utilizing the baked goods from the renowned Calandra’s Bakery, which delivers twice daily, the Grill has found itself with rave reviews from Zagat, Diner’s Choice, Open Table, and Trip Advisor. A trip to this truly singular dining experience won’t disappoint. And as Chef Robert says: “It may be the most authentic Mediterranean restaurant you’ve ever visited.”
6 oz salmon, cut into 1-inch pieces
(you can substitute salmon with other firm-fleshed fish filets)
6 oz calamari rings
4 ea mussels (main or PEI Mussel)
4 ea little clams
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup white onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon dried crushed
red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup white wine
3 bay leaves
4 ea large shrimp, peeled and
deveined (size 13/15)
4 oz fresh clam meat
Salt and pepper
¾ cup clam juice
(fish broth is recommended)
5-6 ea grape tomatoes, halved
½ cup pomodoro sauce
2 tablespoons fresh basil, julienned
Italian Parsley, chopped
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the butter, onion, garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until golden brown and onions are soft. Add salmon, calamari, mussels and clams and sauté 3-4 minutes. Add bay leaves. Stir in wine and reduce by half. Add shrimp and clam meat. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir in clam juice and pomodoro sauce. Add tomatoes and basil. Reduce heat, cover and gently simmer 10-12 minute while the flavors blend and the mussels have opened. Season to taste, with additional salt and red pepper flakes. Ladle the soup into bowls, finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and parsley. Arrange your crostinis around your soup bowl.
Preheat oven to 350º. Slice Calandra’s seedless French Bread on an angle, ½ - ¾-inch thick, 6-8 slices. Brush 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil evenly over bread slices. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon oregano, a pinch of red pepper flakes and salt, ½ teaspoon granulated garlic powder and 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese evenly over bread slices. Place bread slices on baking sheet. Bake approximately 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
Calandra’s Mediterranean Grill
118 US Highway 46 East, Fairfield, NJ
Open 11am-10pm - 7 Days