Want to bring family and friends to a true Hoboken establishment, or find a romantic place for a date? Leo’s Grandevous – the Italian restaurant that’s been around since 1939 – fits the bill in both cases. It serves up both elegant entrees for the discriminating diner and a list of 22 bar pies for a more casual consumer. They’ve got a full menu of meat, fish, pasta, drinks, and dessert. And then there’s the Sinatra jukebox.
Leo DiTerlizzi, who passed away in 2001, founded the eatery with his wife, Tessie. Today, it’s owned by DiTerlizzi’s grand nephew, Sergio DeNichilo, and grandson, Nicholas DePalma. DeNichilo is also a chef who comes up with the delicious dishes. Those dishes range from “shrimp Sinatra” for $17.95 to a carmelized onion, baby spinach, and goat cheese bar pie for $7.50.
They are known for special entrees, mussels, 22 types of bar pies, wine specials, and Sinatra jukebox.
Leo’s is known for a few things – the Prince Edward Island mussels, prepared in several different sauces; Italian dishes, nightly wine specials, and the jukebox. According to DeNichilo, a book called Jukebox America named Leo’s jukebox one of the top 50 jukeboxes in the country.
It was Leo DiTerlizzi’s idea to feature Sinatra songs in the restaurant. “This was a neighborhood kind of gin joint,” DeNichilo explained on a recent Saturday. “This was a rough town back then. Sinatra was starting to get famous.”
Celebrities sometimes stop in. DeNichilo said that Joe Pantoliano, who grew up in Hoboken, came by recently. The New Jersey Devils players come in. Joe Theisman, Annabella Sciorra, and Jerry Seinfeld have all partaken of Leo’s plates.
We stopped by early on a Saturday night, with our 1-year-old son in tow. DiNichilo stressed that the restaurant is family-friendly. He even noted that people had grown up eating there and brought their kids in. Our son enjoyed some milk and gave it the thumbs up.
Leo’s has a full list of specials each night. That night, they were serving diced salmon with baby spinach over lobster ravioli; veal rolatini fra diavolo; and several other entrees. Special appetizers included a bruscetta trio, roasted tomato soup, and a buffalo mozzarella pizzete (a crisp pizza shell with fresh mozzarella and sliced tomato on it).
We first enjoyed the mussels, choosing a garlic white wine sauce. They were as good as any we’d had at specialty seafood restaurants.
The buffalo mozzarella pizette was creamy and healthy, and we ate it quickly.
I also ordered something off their regular salad menu (salads range from $7 to $15). I had a baby spinach salad, which came with shredded asiago cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.
I was amazed by the salad. It was about the freshest, crispest spinach I’d ever had. There was not a soft spot on it. The cheese and dressing perfectly complemented it. I polished it all off.
They also serve soups, $4 for a cup or $5 for a bowl.
Bar pies and sandwiches
My husband and I split a bar pie. I got eggplant on my half.
The pie was swimming in melted mozzarella, and I loved the roasted eggplant on it. Other toppings can include meatball, olives, chicken, plum tomato, carmelized onion, various cheese, shrimp, and broccoli rabe. Prices range from $3 to $8.50.
The restaurant also serves sandwiches, mostly meat and parmiagiana combinations. They range from $6.50 to $7.50.
Large menu of meat, fish, and pasta
The second page of the menu is full of meat, fish, and pasta dishes. Some are standard Italian fare, and some are more creative.
My husband tried the veal marsala ($17.95). Leo’s made it special, sweet and smothered in mushrooms. The entrée comes with a choice of pasta or steak fries.
DiNichilo suggested two entrees: chicken Sorrento, and shrimp Sinatra.
I tried both. The chicken Sorrento ($17.95) was layered with eggplant and melted mozzarella. It had pieces of prosciutto on top, and came in a wine sauce (chardonnay and marsala). It was delicious and filling.
Shrimp Sinatra ($17.95) was very original: Sauteed shrimp and artichoke hearts over fettuccini in a chardonnay wine sauce.
Other entrees range from $8.50 for a simple bowl of pasta to $18.95 for a rib eye steak.
Dessert choices included cheesecake, chocolate mousse cake, chocolate peanut butter cake, a raspberry linzer tart, apple pie with chocolate gelato, and tiramisu.
I enjoyed the Linzer tart, but especially loved the creamy cheesecake.
Special Sinatra event Nov. 7
The bar will hold a special wine dinner on Nov. 7, featuring a Sinatra impersonator and five courses. The dinner is $75 per person plus tax, gratuity included. To sign up, go to leosgrandevous.com or call 201-659-9467.
Leo’s also sells its pomodoro and vodka sauces in 32 ounce jars.
Leo’s is located at 200 Grand St. Call 201-659-9467 for more information. They do not take credit cards, but have an ATM on site.