It has been a crazy couple of weeks! Assistant stage managing a show, crazy amounts of homework and little motivation to do it, college stress and finally a decision (Muhlenberg 2019!! :) ), and a surprise party! We threw a surprise party my wonderful friend, Becky’s birthday!

This party took place at a beautiful restaurant with beyond delicious food– Undici, an Italian restaurant in Rumson with a warm and inviting ambiance. From the chairs and benches outside, twisted and gnarled with dark wood, to the stacks of vegetables, hanging garlic, and clustered wine bottles, to the brick and stone interior, Undici is a rustic Italian dream balancing a comforting hominess with elegant class. That being said– in the midst of this aura of a refined European tavern we basically managed to make our table a cliche surprise party central. Balloons hanging from the chairs, colorful presents lining the windowsill behind the table, the whole shebang. The people next to us even asked if they could have their table moved. Too bad. There was nothing stopping us from making this the surprise party of the century. Except that the host asked the birthday girl on her way in if she was here for the birthday party… So much for a surprise…

We began our meal snacking on the crusty Italian bread on our table. I could have and would have eaten a loaf of this bread plain, but the toppings for the bread were what really made it special. Olive oil is a crucial ingredient in so many things, but the best way to consume olive oil is drenching bread in it. This olive oil was so pure that it tasted like the olives were squeezed that very morning. Do you squeeze olives to make olive oil? Crush them? Puree? Whatever. The other garnish for the bread was a kalamata olive tapenade with chickpeas. I could not stop. Addicting, salty, and savory, but slightly hard to eat. First, I tried spooning it on to the bread, but the chickpeas just rolled right off. Then, everyone made fun of me while I pinched at the chickpeas with my bread like I was a lobster. Finally, I ditched the bread and just ate the chickpeas with a fork…

Next, we all shared pizza as an appetizer. That was the moment I knew I was in love with Undici. Made in a hot wood fired oven, this Neapolitan pizza has a slightly chewy crust and is so full of flavor. I have never been to Italy, but I would imagine that the pizza there would taste somewhat like this. It just felt authentic.

One negative about Undici– the service. Sure the restaurant was pretty full and our table was more than ten people, so I could understand why there would be a substantial wait. Our food, however took almost two hours to arrive at the table. I think two hours is a bit more than substantial! We were tempted to bring back Becky’s tradition from when she went to Friendly’s as a kid in which she and her brother banged their silverware on the table shouting “WE WANT FOOD!”. But we didn’t, I promise. Because this is a classy restaurant and not Friendly’s. Not because we are civilized, mature young adults, of course.

It sounds cliche, but it was worth the wait. I ordered the Orecchiette with broccoli rabe, oven roasted tomato, garlic, and olive oil, and it was absolutely divine. Orecchiette is Italian for ear, and this pasta is (sort of) shaped like little ears. I would describe it more as a little cup, and it was the ideal pasta shape for this dish because it scooped up the whole cloves of roasted garlic tucked inside. I have also been all over broccoli rabe, the slightly bitter, broccoli-looking vegetable, lately, and it was beyond amazing in this pasta. The pasta was homemade, and it is clear that the best quality ingredients along with a lot of tender love and care went into this dish, as well as all of Undici’s food.

We finished the meal off with a large vanilla Costco cake with chocolate frosting inside and a smiling sun and flowers. Sickeningly sweet perfection. That is the true ideal way to finish off a surprise party. Oh well. So long class. And any shred of pretending we’re healthy– not that it ever really existed.

It was such an amazingly fun night with some of the best people I know! And the amazing food helped too, of course! I hope you had a fantastic birthday, Becky!!!

P.S. My phone died when I got to the restaurant, so photo credits to the lovely Daphne!

Enjoy! :) Love, The Perky Foodie

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