Originally Published: March 14, 2016 by Peter Genovese for NJ.com
After 40 restaurants, 200-plus dishes, and 2,823 miles on my car, it's time to announce the 10 finalists in our N.J.'s best Italian restaurant showdown.
The epic journey began with Bottagra in Hawthorne and ended with Sapore Italiano in West Cape May, and our semifinalists spanned the Italian restaurant spectrum, from hushed, high-end dining rooms to casual, cheery BYOB spots.
The project started early last month, when we asked you to nominate your favorite Italian restaurants. A total of 450 restaurants were nominated; every single one was put on ballots, broken down into four regions. After nearly 50,000 votes, we ended up with our list of 40 semifinalists, 20 voted in by readers, 20 chosen by me.
Starting Tuesday, I will visit two restaurants a day over five days with readers — aboard the Munchmobile. The overall winner will be announced by live stream on Wednesday, March 23.
Those joining me on the Munchmobile will be acting in an advisory capacity; the selection of the winner will be mine alone. Above is the day-by-day schedule of finalist visits.
We're also crowning a Readers' Choice winner, and you can start voting right now. Voting ends 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, March 22. You can vote once per day. The ongoing tally will not be visible online. The readers' choice winner will also be announced Wednesday, March 23.
Here are our ten finalists:
Augustino's Kitchen & Bar, 1104 Washington St., Hoboken
Battello, 502 Washington Blvd., Jersey City
Bottagra Restaurant, 80 Wagaraw Road, Hawthorne
Cafe 2825, 2825 Atlantic Ave., Atlantic City
da Filippo, 132 E. Main St., Somerville
ITA101, 20 S. Main St., Medford
LuNello, 182 Stevens Ave., Cedar Grove
Spano's Ristorante Italiano, 719 Arnold Ave., Point Pleasant Beach
Vidalia Restaurant, 21 Phillips Ave., Lawrenceville
Zeppoli, 618 Collings Ave., Collingswood