The prix-fixe lunch at Chez Catherine is the best-kept secret in Westfield, says actress Anna Mastroianni, who owns Sole, a Westfield shop that sells imported Italian children’s shoes. Mastroianni may not realize it, but she—and everyone else who loves to eat at the more than 55 restaurants in Westfield—has one amazing Frenchwoman to thank.
More than 25 years ago, Catherine Bordeaux opened one of the best French restaurants in New Jersey. She was a woman at the top of a field that even today has few women at the top. Her reputation was so widespread that even Julia Child once visited. Bordeaux died in 2003, but her demanding standards, her success, and her legacy continue—at her own restaurant and at the restaurants and cooking schools of those who learned at her elbow.
“She was the catalyst to bringing fine dining to Westfield,” says David Martone, owner of Classic Thyme, a cookware shop and culinary school on Broad Street. (If you doubt that Westfield is for food lovers, consider that Classic Thyme is one of four places where you can take professional cooking classes in town.)
Martone, a graduate of the Chez Catherine kitchen, remembers Bordeaux as a perfectionist. No employee wanted to be responsible for something that wasn’t quite right, and if you were, you’d better duck.
Maintaining those standards at Chez Catherine today (sans the throwing of dishes) is owner Didier Jouvenet, formerly of La Grenouille and the Carlyle Hotel in New York City. Here, you can dine on an appetizer of braised endive with Montrachet goat cheese, roasted peppers, and balsamic vinegar; an entrée of roasted rack of lamb with rosemary au jus; and a dessert of fresh raspberry cocotte.
Another graduate of the Chez Catherine kitchen is Jeffrey Rust, chef at Jeffrey’s on Central Avenue. Both the cuisine and the decor here are creatively American. Jeffrey’s is known, in part, for its martinis and its wine—this is the first restaurant in Westfield to receive a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. Rust serves classic American favorites like Boston Bibb salad and crab cakes with a modern touch. Definitely try his signature lavender ice cream.
If you’re looking for great Northern Italian food, it’s tough to compete with the sophistication of Acquaviva Delle Fonti (literally, “living water of the fountain”). Here, you can order a salad of arugula with roasted butternut squash, prosciutto and balsamic vinaigrette; an entrée of two petits filets mignon with gorgonzola, creamy polenta and brandy sauce; and, for dessert, a fresh pear and fig strudel with grilled almonds and homemade gelato.
Two new restaurants that have been well-received are Blue Wave (formerly Blue Water), a seafood specialty restaurant that serves classics such as oysters Rockefeller and modern seafood dishes such as diver sea scallops in a maple walnut sauce; and Splash of Thai, a burst of energy on the town’s south side.
The restaurants along Elm Street tend to be more casual. There’s Sweet Waters Steak House, which offers prime cuts of beef (including a 10-ounce filet and a 28-ounce porterhouse); Isabella’s American Bistro (serving cheddar-stuffed meatloaf, New York strip and fries); Theresa’s Restaurant (an Italian restaurant offering rigatoni with Italian sausage, cannelloni beans, baby spinach, and sundried tomatoes). Also on Elm is Ferraro’s, with relaxed Northern and Southern Italian food—by far the most family-friendly restaurant in town, appreciated by parents who don’t want to sacrifice good food, service, and ambience just because the kids want pizza.
Also worth checking out is the Mojave Grille on Elm Street (a Southwestern restaurant with specialties such as a pecan-and-five-spice-encrusted salmon); Muskan on South Avenue (Indian); Nagoya on North Avenue (Japanese); La Spezia on South Avenue (Italian); The Brick Oven on Quimby (Italian); and Northside Trattoria on Prospect (Italian).
Shoppers are drawn to Westfield by the many brand names represented in its stores, such as Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, Williams Sonoma, Smith & Hawken, and Coach. But more fun are the boutiques, including Juxtapose Gallery (jewelry), Knit-a-Bit (luxury yarns), Anthology (Free People), Nirvana (Diesel), and Menina (Diane von Furstenberg, Tibi).
For shoppers in need of sustenance, there are gourmet sandwiches and salads at Feast Catering (with European Chef Stephen Bigmore), and Xocolatz Café (with chef Jaime Chaves from Brasil). Both are on Elm Street. Try the Susan salad at Xocolatz, a breaded chicken salad with olives and feta cheese, named after Susan Cahn, a co-owner of Knit-a-Bit, who orders it religiously.
Bovella’s Pastry Shoppe has the best pignoli cookies around, soft in the middle and perfectly addictive. The gelato at The Chocolate Bar on Quimby is homemade and fabulous. You’ll be stunned here by the outrageous prices for chocolate-covered strawberries, pizzelles and biscotti, but they’re worth it.