La Cucina di Nava, a new venture from Shalom Yehudiel, owner and executive chef of The Humble Toast, has opened at 192A West Englewood Avenue in Teaneck, with creative, Italian-inspired dairy cuisine in a contemporary environment. Formerly the home of Rabbica, the newly renovated space has a pizza bar that can seat eight socially distant diners who can watch their pizzas being made, and a redesigned heated outdoor patio with table seating. Logistical obstacles delayed the opening for months, but Yehudiel persevered and now the spicy scents of pastas, pizzas, casseroles and salads are filling the completely remodeled space.
Yehudiel said he looked at the current restaurant scene in Teaneck and thought there was a need for good Italian pastas, salads, fish, entrees and individual boutique, 12-inch pizzas with the freshest ingredients. “Just like at Humble Toast, I am taking pizza and pasta and elevating them with high-quality ingredients known for delicious goodness,” he said. “Italian cooking is about simple ingredients that highlight good, comfort food.” He will have gluten-free options for both pizza and pasta.
Yehudiel is mixing new flavor combinations and enhancing the classics. “The way I do a menu is to build it on paper and then when I start cooking, I make adjustments,” he said.
Yehudiel has an ambitious menu planned, but he’s starting slowly. “We want to make sure we get the basics down and solid. Then we’ll add new items and specials.” To start, mozzarella sticks have been transformed here into mozzarella fritta, oregano-flavored wedges fried with panko bread crumbs. A milchig version of Queen Anne’s fries, a dish that has become famous locally at the Humble Toast, is served three ways here including one with pesto cream, fried capers, herbs and parmesan cheese. The restaurant is serving three pasta dishes: spicy rigatoni, Alfredo’s fettuccini and gnocchi bolognese. Yehudiel puts his own spin on familiar dishes like Caesar salad, French onion soup, lasagna and eggplant parmigiana. Fish dishes will be introduced in the coming weeks.
Pizza crust is a blank canvas for Yehudiel’s imagination. For example, The Rodeo has BBQ faux chicken, smoked gouda or havarti, fresh cilantro, mozzarella and shaved red onions.
Curbside pick-up is available with phone orders: 201-520-4572. Delivery is slated to begin next month. But consummate host that he is, Yehudiel is happiest with in-person dining. “It’s important to me that everyone feels like a guest in my home,” he said. “Aside from food, we have fantastic service so that everyone is happy and enjoying everything.”
Yehudiel’s inspiration comes from the experiences he has had over several years cooking around the country at many fine restaurants before returning to Teaneck. One of his first professional culinary positions was at an Italian bistro in Arizona. He also cooked at Naples, an Italian restaurant in downtown Disneyland in California. And he’s motivated by his overall love of pasta and pizza.
Yehudiel feels comfortable beginning a new venture since he has complete confidence in his well-trained staff at Humble Toast. “All the credit goes to my staff for giving me the ability to grow the brand and restaurant group,” he said.
Follow La Cucina di Nava on Instagram for menu additions and photos, including ones of the adorable baby Nava Yehudiel, for whom the restaurant is named. Watch for online ordering coming soon at https://www.lcdnava.com.
By Bracha Schwartz