Boschetto is located at Grove and Walnut in Montclair. (MARY CONNOLLY)

As soon as the flag was hoisted up at the corner of Grove and Walnut, the chatter started about Boschetto. “Is it another Italian place?” and “I hear the chef has Michelin stars on his resume?” Also: “Is there parking?” Turns out Boschetto is an upscale, Italian-inspired fast-casual concept from the minds of Chef Joseph Sergentakis and restauranteurs Robert Spina and Ryan Held. The food is gorgeous and delicious, the space modern and bright. And yes, there’s plenty of parking!

When you hear the term “fast casual” your mind may go to places like Smashburger, Panera or Chipotle – where fresh, fast food is often made to order after you pay at a counter. Then, sometimes they bring it to you, served on disposable plates with plastic utensils and paper napkins. Which is a perfectly fine workday lunchtime experience. Get in – eat – get out – back to work. Boschetto takes the concept up several notches. You place your order and pay and tip at the counter. You are then given a number and can sit at a table in the sleek, cheerful dining room. When the food is ready, a server will bring it to your table on a real plate, with a cloth napkin and proper utensils, just like at a regular restaurant. When a staff member comes to your table, it’s not to take your order but to clear your dishes. It’s not fast food, but it isn’t slow either. It’s fine dining presented in a casual way that is also efficient and very, very tasty.

Zucchini Fritte. (MARY CONNOLLY)

Sergentakis, a New Jersey native, spent time in the Michelin-starred kitchens of late great chef Gray Kunz, at Restaurant Daniel in Manhattan, and as executive chef at high-end restaurants in Hong Kong and Singapore. He is bringing a fine-dining approach to a casual dining concept and trying it out on the eager palates in Montclair.

At Boschetto, you can come for a full meal – appetizer/entrée/dessert – or just order a few small plates to share. It’s a great place to have an easy lunch with a business colleague or with your mom. Or maybe you had a long day at work and want to dine solo and eat something satisfying and easy – step right up! There is no fuss but you will still feel the hospitality coming through. 

The food, elevated Italian-trattoria style cooking, is presented with care so dishes look as beautiful as they taste.

Boschetto Vongole. (MARY CONNOLLY)

Start with a small plate of silky Vitello Tonnato ($18) or zesty Polpo ($18)—grilled octopus with a spicy romesco sauce. Next, a pasta: a creamy and comforting herbal pesto ($17) or a spicy Vogole ($21), clams served over squid ink pasta tossed with nduja sausage. Maybe order a few sides—crispy Zucchine Fritte ($12) served with lemon ricotta for dipping. Or a small bowl of Polenta Limone ($10), with mascarpone and lemon oil folded in (get two of these —you won’t want to share). If you’re really hungry, there are a few substantial entrees to choose from: a pork chop ($32), seafood risotto ($31) or a Bisteca served with salsa verde and lemon ($48). 

Salsiccia Pizza (MARY CONNOLLY)

And don’t miss the pizza: A light, airy crust supports a wide variety of toppings, including the outstanding “Salsiccia” with sausage, béchamel and fennel ($18)

Maybe, after all of that, you might still want dessert? Boschetto’s sweets selection is small but mighty. There are Italian gelatos with vibrant flavors far from basic and a decadent Panzerotti Nocciola ($14), a pocket of fried dough stuffed with banana and Nutella, dusted with powdered sugar, and served with a side of dark chocolate for dipping. Yes, you will want to try this.

Panzerotti Nocciola. (MARY CONNOLLY)

Boschetto offers elevated fare in a stylish, easy-going setting you will want to return to again and again. No reservations, no fuss and loads of flavor.

Mary Connolly is also known as “Marie Fromage”. Follow her in Instagram @MarieFromage

Boschetto: 111 Grove Street, Montclair, NJ 07042; 973-509-1095; BYOB; Open Wednesday – Sunday, Noon – 9pm.

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