This downtown favorite opened in 2007. For a decade it’s been serving fine Northern Italian cuisine, not just to folks in Bayonne, but to the many out-of-towners who have discovered it by word of mouth.
It has a charming backstory. Owners Sal and Kim Martinez are restaurateur-lifers; their seven kids grew up “playing restaurant.” Two of those kids are Sarah and Ellie. Sarelli’s was the name for their imaginary restaurant when they were kids.
Now, the real thing stands in one of the most appealing parts of town. The “KP” was added in 2013 when partner Ken Poesl came on board. Most folks know Ken as the owner of Ken’s Marine Services, and a real Bayonne booster.
We visited on a rainy, late-fall day between the mega holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Specialties include margherita salad (arugula, mozzarella, sun dried and fresh tomatoes, and roasted pepper); seafood risotto; tortelloni quattro formaggi (green tortelloni in rich cream sauce); pollo scarpariello (boneless chicken sautéed with sausage, rosemary, garlic, and white wine); bistecca ai ferri (sirloin, sautéed onions, and roast potatoes); stuffed eggplant appetizer; fantasia susanna salad (arugula, mixed fruit, dry ricotta cheese, walnuts, and raspberry dressing); pollo all livia (chicken breast with red pepper, Portobello mushrooms and mozzarella with balsamic sauce); and tilapia gorgonzola.
We followed the chef’s advice and ordered lobster tails, and I couldn’t pass up the broiled haddock. We started with the fantasia susanna salad, and ended with tiramisu. Terri ordered a pumpkin martini, and I ordered my usual beer at the restaurant’s full bar, while Terri photographed the dining room with its warm, welcoming colors: mustards, reds, and soft browns, with pictures and paintings on every wall. She got a great shot of the gas fire that burned in the far corner of the room. A staff as welcoming as the restaurant itself enhances the ambience. Josh Groban was singing “You Raise Me Up” in the background, but it’s possible you could visit on an evening that features live music.
Terri loved the pumpkin martini, pronouncing it like an “iced latte, smooth, creamy, like pumpkin pie but light and not sweet.” We both highly recommend the fantasia susanna salad. The combination of greens with fresh fruit and a light raspberry dressing was superb. We noticed that lots of other folks had ordered it as well, along with sangria, which is apparently a Sarelli’s favorite. Terri says she orders lobster frequently, and these tails were prepared especially well. They came with rice and green beans amandine. I, meanwhile, order a lot of broiled fish. The haddock was beautifully light and flaky with an unfussy butter lemon sauce over a bed of rice. As for the tiramisu, I ate the entire thing myself. It was rich and light at the same time, a hard combo to accomplish.
Sal stopped by our table so that Terri could photograph entrees that our fellow diners had orderd: a delicious-looking vitello saltimbocca and salmon over a bed of spinach.
A table of Bayonne teachers—Mary Sue Stevenson and Trish Niland from the Walter F. Robinson School and John Bransfield from BHA—were clearly enjoying their evening out at Sarelli’s.
The restaurant also has a party and catering menu. And during the warmer seasons, try dining al fresco in Sarelli’s outdoor café.
But we’re a long way from summer. On this late November evening, we were happy to be inside, in a cozy dining room, eating hearty Northern Italian fare.