Bell + Gray is a new American restaurant born from the ashes of Carrino Provisions, a high-end Italian marketplace located in what was once a police precinct. Behind both ventures is the Three Kings Restaurant Group, operated by David Massoni, Dale Talde, and John Bush. The trio are renown in the restaurant and service industry, and combined with the HGTV Kitchen Cousins, Anthony Carrino and John Colaneria, redesigned and launched Bell + Gray in a span of five days.
Decor-wise, Bell + Gray isn’t too radical a departure from Carrino Provisions. The space is big and airy with concrete floors, exposed subway tile, and the kind of dim lighting that flatters everyone. Where the refrigeration counters once stood, you’ll now find a long bar counter with a trio of HDTVs hanging from the wall. There are unfinished wood beams above the bar, but otherwise the entire space has a modern-chic vibe going for it. Where there was once a cafe, you’ll now find communal tables/benches. The back area and courtyard, however, have remained unchanged.
Before it was a police precinct, the space served as the first telephone switching station for New Jersey and New York, hence the (Alexander Graham) Bell and (Elisha) Gray name. The space has barely been open for two weeks, yet inside everything seems to be flowing like a well-oiled machined.
Initially, there was some concern that Bell + Gray would become a glorified sports bar. Fortunately, it’s not. Yes, there are three HDTVs displaying sports, but if sports isn’t your thing, they’re easy to ignore. (The backspace is also TV-free for an even more intimate dining experience).
What’s not easy to ignore is the food. Bell + Gray gives traditional comfort foods an Asian-inspired twist that no other downtown restaurant has come close to offering. The menu includes a little bit of everything and prices range wildly. It’s divided into appetizers ($9 to $17), salads ($10 to $13), flatbreads ($12 to $14), pastas ($8 to $20), and entrees ($14 to $24). The menu is very eclectic with entrees like spinach rigatoni ($15), fish and chips ($17), freebird fried chicken ($21), and “adult” mac and cheese ($12). A children’s version of the mac and cheese sells for $8. The food is fantastic, and ultimately that’s what will bring customers back to Bell + Gray.
For starters, the B+G fries ($12) are perfectly crisp served with a generous amount of mushroom gravy and fontina cheese. Make no mistake, these are the most delicious and sophisticated “disco fries” you’ll ever have. The tuna tartar “aloha style” ($17) comes with cubed pieces of marinated tuna and avocado, paired with crunchy seaweed and white rice.
Entrees are equally impressive. The lobster roll dinner ($19) has generous chunks of fresh lobster with a perfectly buttered, toasted roll. Accompanying the lobster roll is a small bowl of lobster soup, which has a spicy Thai coconut-curry kick. The soup includes fresh pieces of potato and corn. The accompanying french fries are the perfect compliment to what’s already a lobster lover’s dream entree. At $19, it’s also a great bargain considering that other restaurants charge the same amount for the lobster roll alone.
The tagliatelle 10-hour bolognese parmesan ($14) may look deceivingly small, but it’s actually a very satisfying meal with generous chunks of ground meat. The pasta also has a nice thickness to it, though at times it did taste a tad dry.
The restaurant doesn’t have any dessert options, not even coffee, which is disappointing considering it used to include a cafe, but our waiter reassured us that a dessert menu was forthcoming. Price-wise, two appetizers, two entrees, and a medium-tier ($40) bottle of wine resulted in a $102 tab (pre-tip), which isn’t the cheapest dinner in town, but in line with some of downtown Jersey City’s newer restaurants.
A quick note about the staff. Our waiter was very friendly, gave us some great suggestions, and when asked how one of the entrees was prepared — was able to answer on the spot providing very specific details without having to consult the kitchen. Despite being a new restaurant, everything flowed very smoothly. Appetizers and entrees were spaced out accordingly and after dinner we didn’t feel rushed or obligated to leave. The noise level was also comfortable, this despite the Mets playoff game showing in the background.
Bell + Gray is an excellent addition to the neighborhood that will only get better in the coming months. If you’re not a fan of the sports bar atmosphere, rest assured there’s only one star at this restaurant — the food.
Bell + Gray | 8 Erie Street | @bellandgray