Carlucci’s Grill

This family-owned Italian restaurant measures up nicely against other ‘pizza and more’ restaurants in the area.

By: Faith Bahadurian

Carlucci’s Grill

Southfield Shopping Center

335 Princeton-Hightstown Road (Route 571)

West Windsor

(609) 936-0900
Food: Good plus

Service: Friendly and efficient

Prices: Inexpensive to moderate

Cuisine: Italian-American

Ambience: Well-spaced tables and not too noisy

Hours: Lunch: Daily 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; Dinner Sun.-Thurs. 4-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 4-11 p.m.

Essentials: Major credit cards accepted; no smoking; wheelchair accessible; BYO; reservations only for parties of four or more on weekend nights.


   I have long enjoyed the occasional casual dinner at Carlucci’s Grill in West Windsor — one of five restaurants the family owns — but a recent visit prompted me to try some different dishes for a change, and I was glad I did.
   Tucked away into a corner of the Southfield Shopping Center, the restaurant has pleasant booths and well-spaced tables inside, under a trellised canopy wrapped with leafy vines. This time of year, a spacious plaza outside offers al fresco dining under umbrella-shaded tables. It’s not a fancy place, but it’s friendly and reliable, offering wood-fired pizzas and all the Italian-American standards one would expect, plus some more interesting choices and daily specials.
   As soon as you’re seated, a small plate of focaccia doused with good fresh tomato sauce is set in front of you; a basket of regular Italian bread is available on request. Water appears quickly, too, and is promptly refilled throughout the meal. Skip the fried artichokes and mozzarella (which appear to have been frozen pre-breaded), and try instead, as I recently did, the Auricchio Sformato ($6.95), succulent roasted red pepper with melted provolone cheese on top, and crisp grilled bread to drape it on. On the same visit, we also ordered grilled asparagus from the evening’s special appetizers, topped with Fontina cheese ($6.95). Both of these appetizers were quite good, comparable to presentations at restaurants with loftier aspirations.
   Entrées come with a choice of soup or house salad ($2.95 and $2.50 à la carte, respectively). The soups are substantial — I’ve enjoyed both lentil and pasta e fagiole — and the salad is crisp and fresh. Dressings are fairly standard, however, including the house balsamic dressing, so maybe next time I’ll opt for simple oil and vinegar.
   Among the entrées, I’ve always loved Carlucci’s pappardella Angelica, wide noodles with grilled bacon-wrapped scallops and wilted arugula in white wine and lemon butter sauce. At $12.95, it is a bargain, as are the other 10 pasta dishes at that price. An additional 10 more basic pasta choices are yours for a mere $10.95, also with salad or soup. One friend of mine especially enjoys the seafood cannelloni in tomato cream sauce when it’s on the specials menu, as it often is on weekends. There are numerous chicken, seafood and veal choices; the most expensive item I’ve come across was a $23 filet of beef special on my recent visit.
   That evening I ordered the tortellini Genovese ($15.95) from the specials, and received tender tricolor cheese-filled pasta with tiny bits of flavorful sausage in a cream-touched chunky tomato sauce that also included tender spinach. There is a surfeit of cream sauces on the menu; I usually avoid them, but this time was glad I didn’t. The serving size was generous; I took almost half of it home.
   My companion opted for the Pollo Portobello alla Griglia ($12.95), a very large grilled chicken and vegetable salad, and was more than pleased. The chicken breast had been pounded thin before grilling, then jauntily perched atop mixed lettuces garnished with little piles of several kinds of delicately grilled vegetables (including the portabella mushrooms) along with sun-dried tomatoes, roasted artichokes and peppers, olives and cucumber. This came with the same balsamic dressing, which she liked better than I did, but didn’t need much of because the vegetables had plenty of their own delightful juices. The wonderful whole was much more than merely the sum of the parts.
   Coffee ($1.50) was fine, and the slice of mocha cake ($5.95) we shared, from the Italian dessert maker, Bindi, provided a light and airy end to a good dinner, although I wish the whipped cream garnish was the real thing. Bindi does especially tasty sorbets, and I was later told that the dessert menu has just changed for summer, to include more of those.
   Carlucci’s Grill measures up nicely against other "pizza and more" Italian restaurants in the area. While the standards are, indeed, standard, and the kids will have no trouble finding something to enjoy, the careful menu-reader will find plenty of choices that surpass expectations. And with such a generous menu, I look forward to many more explorations.
For directions to Carlucci’s Grill, click here.