True North’s Crust Points in Yummy Direction

If you own one of the many Italian, or Italian-sounding, restaurants in Baristaville, something’s got to stand out to get a resident’s attention. At True North Osteria, which opened on Bloomfield Ave two months ago, it’s their pizza crust, grilled to mouthwatering perfection.

The restaurant was opened in October by owners Leah and David Moon, Bloomfield residents who are just past their mid-30s. Leah’s parents were in the food manufacturing business, which formed the basis of their inspiration to open an eatery.

Heading to True North recently with the lovely Debbie Galant, we were greeted outside by a sign saying, “This pizza will change your life!” An invitation (and challenge) that was hard to resist.

True North turns out not to be an Italian restaurant, but offers twists on Italian and other international dishes “reinvented for the Modern American table,” with counter service allowing for quick meals at prices that are hard to balk at; lunch specials run through the week at $10. Ingredients are fresh and locally sourced, the restaurant was bright and inviting, and everything Debbie and I ordered was visually very appealing.

Osteria, explains Leah, who is of Italian-Jewish extraction (David is of Irish descent), refers to an owner-served informal restaurant, which describes True North to a tee.

“We’re both big nautical fans, and the true north is a fixed, absolute point, which for us symbolizes being grounded,” she says.

Debbie and I had the chickpea and fennel soup, which had a robust aroma of fennel and homemade stock, but could have used some other spices to pop a bit more. We also tried the roasted tomato polenta – a little bowl of red and yellow cherry tomatoes served on a bed of slightly runny polenta. This got the thumbs-up from Debbie; but the slightly runny texture wasn’t doing it for me.

The champion of the meal was the Provencal pizza, with caramelized onions, a generous sprinkling of sliced olives and white anchovies – heaven in a pie for two anchovy lovers. The crust was delightfully thin and crispy in the middle, bursting with the aroma of having been seared carefully on a grill, and the edges were moist, and exceedingly tasty. If you have sworn off carbs, this is not the thing to order. Mmm.

Did that pizza change our lives? I don’t know about Debbie, but I’ve been fantasizing about that crust ever since.

Here’s an interview with co-owner Leah, who said that True North is the couple’s first restaurant:

Why open a restaurant, and why in Montclair?

It’s the American dream. We love the industry and wanted our own piece of independence. Montclair is a fantastic town with a lively downtown area and great demographics. It’s got romantic nostalgia for us too; when we used to live in Elizabeth, we’d come here for date nights!

When did you take over the lease and when did you open?

We took over the lease in April, and opened only on October 15. There was a lot of red tape and paperwork, and we were naive and didn’t know what was normal to expect. But our contractors, who said every town is different, thought this (wait) was extreme.

How is True North different from other Italian restaurants?

Well, we don’t consider ourselves an Italian restaurant, for one! Our inspiration comes from the state of NJ and our menu tries to reflect our combined family recipes, reinterpreted for America. Take our bruschetta – instead of balsamic we used citrus, instead of basil, it’s parsley, making it almost a southwestern version.

Tell us about your yummy pizza crust!

Our pizzas are made with our own special recipe and they are grilled, which is a nod to America’s favorite cooking activity! We’ve eaten at every fancy Italian restaurant that we could find, and each was trying to recreate pizzas from Naples and so on. But we’re in NJ and we can make everything our own with what’s available to us here. So our pizzas never go in the oven, we use NJ tomatoes and make our own mozzarella and pretty much everything is made in house, from mayo to the soups.

Have you had culinary training?

Neither of us have had formal training, but we’ve both had lots of restaurant jobs.

Who does all the cooking here?

It’s a collaborative effort. I do much of the prep, David does the line cooking. I do the veg dishes, he does the baked items, and the pies are an equal split.

What’s your favorite thing to cook at home? Do you serve it at the restaurant?

At home, one of our favorites is pasta with pesto, mozzarella and oven-roasted tomatoes. At True North, we converted this to a pizza.

Any winter specials coming up?

We are serving a Winter Green pizza. This is a white pie with our homemad mozzarella, caramelized onion, ricotta, parmesan, arugula and pistachio, on a pumpkin curry sauce. It’s like a winter landscape with green on it, hence the name.

What would you like people to know about True North?

It’s a great place for kids and families, and we make elegant, high-quality, flavorful food in a casual setting.

True North Osteria

345 Bloomfield Ave,

Montclair, NJ 07042

973 744 4960

 

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10 COMMENTS

  1. The restaurant was opened in October by owners Leah and David Moon, Bloomfield residents who are just past their mid-30s.

    So, late 30s, then?

  2. will have to try this pizza

    having moved here from the bay area I actually haven’t had great pizza anywhere in NJ – and I tried a lot of places (haven’t had pizza in NYC yet)

    I miss the funky pizza places in Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco – interesting fresh toppings and where you order beer

  3. Eaten here several times. The food is great; a lot of depth to flavor yet unpretentious. I had the fenenl soup last Friday and it was spot on; balanced flavors yet robust. All the dishes seem to have a rustic elegance that is comforting and satisfying. The price is right too!

  4. We will try True North, but what Bernadette describes as a Provencal Pizza is really a French dish called Pissaladière from, of all places, Provence. It was one of Julia’s favorites, and if you use the heavy, sweet Vidalia onions and caramelize them forever, it makes for a very sweet base. Good luck to the Moons: Montclair needs more good, inexpensive restaurants.

  5. My fiancee and I finally went to True North about 2 weeks ago for his birthday. He was excited to try the life-changing pizza. It was a Tuesday night and there was a decent amount of people in there for a new business. We ordered at the counter and chatted with Leah. For an appetizer, my fiancee got the Beets & Turnips and I got the Brussel Sprouts. Both were amazing. Mine was too salty; I could hardly taste the sprouts themselves. For pizza, he got the True North Pizza with carmelized onions. I ordered the vegan version of The Foundation with vegan mozz and crimini mushrooms. The pizzas were the perfect size for one to eat. They did not skimp on my vegan mozz as they do in other restaurants I have been to. One bite of True North’s pizza and my fiancee announced, “This pizza changed my life!” We laughed but it was true. It was really yummy. One criticism is that I felt like they were a little too heavy on the sea salt. I tasted it baked into the pizza crust and it made me really thirsty, which wasn’t the worst thing since my fiancee is always telling me to drink more water. The whole meal was a bit too salty for me (I like things on the plain side) but as a whole the meal was delicious and I would definately recommend this place to others. I will be a returning customer; I will just have to tell them to go easy on the salt. My fiancee finished up his meal with the Panna Cotta which I could tell by the look on his face that he was in heaven. Thanks True North for making his birthday unforgettable and we think you make a great addition to Montclair!

  6. True North’s pizza really did change my life! The food here is fantastic! We went for the first time last Friday and we had such an amazing meal that we promptly returned the next day for dinner again! Their radish glazed with butter and sugar was exceptional as was the fennel soup (very rustic flavors). The crust (or more like flat bread) on the pizzas are thin and delectable. You can just tell that the food was made with real love. We had to wait a bit for our food but it was well worth it. Please come to True North Osteria!

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