Favia Lite Café on Washington Street is a unique establishment. The restaurant's mission is to provide Hobokenites with delicious and light Italian food. This task may seem like an impossibility to some, but Favia manages to handle the obstacles with poise.
Favia opened its doors in 1991. Jeff Favia was a fitness major in college and was working as a physical education teacher in Jersey City when he decided to open the restaurant as an alternative to heavy traditional Italian cooking. When it first opened, Favia was basically a pizzeria with a selection of desserts. Since then, it has expanded to include a full menu with a wide selection of appetizers, entrees, soups, salads and drinks.
Favia also opened another location on East 60th St. in Manhattan, which offers the same healthy fare with a wider selection of seafood. The NY Daily News even declared Favia's pizza the best pizza in New York, as well as Patsy's. If you know anything about NYC pizza, then you know that is quite a statement.
Favia decides what goes on the menu. There are certain rules that Favia has established to keep the restaurants on the track to provide the best food. All macaroni is al dente. Al dente is an Italian phrase literally meaning "to the tooth." It is used to describe pasta that is cooked until there is slight resistance when bitten into, but not soft or overdone.
The mozzarella is real and made with 2 percent milk fat. The basil, garlic and other ingredients are always fresh. Since Favia deals with such high quantities of food, supplies only last a couple of days and they are constantly being replenished. The quality and freshness of the ingredients definitely comes through in the cooking.
Baking and grilling replaces all frying, although there are certain entrees that give the customer the option of frying. Cream, butter and oil are replaced with wines and vegetable stocks. This allows Favia to create healthy meals bursting with flavor, without the fat and calories.
Favia is inconspicuous, but very nice and comfortable. It is equally suited for a group of friends or a dinner for two. The subdued lighting and private atmosphere are perfect for a dinner date. The music is an excellent accessory to a great Italian meal, and during the weekends you can enjoy music from the piano, situated at the front of the restaurant.
Drink orders were taken as I awaited a personal pie, which I was eagerly looking forward to. I decided on the fresh fruit sangria and it did not disappoint me. It was very sweet and refreshing. I munched on some bread while waiting for the food. In some places, the bread is not worth mentioning; after all, it is there only to keep the customer happy until the food arrives - but a good Italian place should have good bread. Favia's bread was soft and warm on the inside with a crispy crust.
When the pizza (small for $8.95 or large for $10.95) arrived, it was hot and just out of the oven. The crust was crispy, and somehow they managed to balance the amount of cheese and sauce so that there is a perfect amount of each. It was tasty and fresh. My hands and plate were not covered with grease when all was said and done.
What made the experience more superb is that even the pizza at Favia is light. So not only does Favia manage to offer one of the best pizzas around, but it also does it with a fraction of the calories and fat of a regular greasy pizza. I had the original pie, but you can get an assortment of toppings including the traditional offerings or the more unique fare such as zucchini, eggplant and grilled chicken. Favia also offers a pesto pizza, and allows you to choose between a white or wheat crust.
Next I tried the bruschette ($5.25) and I am so glad I did. The tomatoes were fresh and juicy. The basil and onions added just the right amount of flavor for the tomatoes. Other appetizers include garlic bread ($3.25), grilled calamari ($8.25) and stuffed mushrooms ($6.25).
Favia also offers a selection of fat free and vegetarian soups ($3.25 for a cup, $4.25 for a bowl). Side dishes such as steamed spinach ($3.25) and broccoli rabe ($4.75) are also available.
For my entree I ordered a blackened swordfish over salsa special, served with red potatoes and greens ($14.95). I have to admit the salsa drew me in. I figured if I was going to be having more of their fresh tomatoes, I'd be one happy customer. Not only were the tomatoes fresh, but the whole meal was delicious.
The portions were enough for one person. In fact I was not sure that I could finish it, but once I tasted it, I wanted to ask for more. The swordfish was a perfect centerpiece. I could cut it with my fork and it was very peppery. The fish was sitting on the salsa, which was just as delicious and fresh. The potatoes were plain but still very good.
I also had the opportunity to taste the chicken parmesan ($9.95). It was more than acceptable. Once again it was a very generous portion and very flavorful. The sauce was exceptional. Other entrees include a wide range of pasta dishes such as rigatoni pomodori ($7.95), which is plum tomato, basil and garlic over rigatoni; cavatelli/broccoli ($9.95); and mussels marinara ($9.95). Non-pasta entrees include eggplant parmesan ($8.95), chicken saltimbocca served with broccoli and red potatoes ($10.50), and grilled salmon with sautéed spinach and roasted zucchini ($13.95).
Desserts are not on the menu, but the friendly and competent wait staff can recite the night's offerings if you have a sweet tooth. Most of the desserts are light too, but Favia does offer traditional desserts like cheesecake. I tried the strawberry shortcake, which I would recommend to anyone. Again, for Favia's food to be any fresher it would have to still be in the garden. This dessert was the perfect way to end my meal, and the portion was big enough for a couple to share if they wanted to. The brownie sundae was also delicious.
Favia Lite Cafe is located at 208 Washington St. in Hoboken. It is open for lunch and dinner during the week and on weekends. For more information call (201) 217-1999 or visit them on the web at www.favialite.com. q