Sunday Gravy: 20 Family-Friendly Italian Restaurants in New Jersey

The pasta portions at Bella Italia are enough to eat for two days—you can't get much better than that!
The pasta portions at Bella Italia are enough to eat for two days—you can't get much better than that!
2/20/22 - By Margaret Hargrove

Pizza and spaghetti are perennial kid pleasers, so choosing an Italian restaurant is a good start for a delightful family meal. But let’s face it: Some Italian restaurants just aren’t suited for the younger set. Red sauce stains on white tablecloths, forks on the floor, and high-volume iPads are all a recipe for disaster, both for parents and other diners.

Luckily, these 20 family-friendly Italian restaurants welcome kids to their tables with special kids' menus and comfy accommodations so everyone can enjoy their meal. Sunday suppers are something of an Italian tradition, so why not pick one of these delicious restaurants to dine this weekend with your famiglia? And if you're looking for more dinner spots for your family in New Jersey, check out our Kid-Friendly Restaurant Guide


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Family-Friendly Italian Restaurants in North Jersey

Arturo’s – Maplewood

Snagging a coveted pizza from Arturo’s almost feels like winning the lottery. You have to call early to order ahead, and it’s not unheard of for pizzas to be sold out by noon for the whole day, but the thin, chewy crust is definitely worth the extra effort. There’s a kid's pasta on the menu, and Arturo's wins bonus points for being open for lunch (takeout only for now).

Bella Italia Restaurant & Catering – Orange

Popular as a catering hall for birthday parties and baby showers, Bella Italia also houses a family-friendly restaurant that is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. The sizable menu of pasta, seafood, and meats offers something for everyone, plus there's a kids' menu and rotating specials like homemade lasagna.

ITA Italian Kitchen – Jersey City

ITA’s pasta is made in-house, and you can taste the difference. The kids' special pasta of thin spaghettini is perfectly seasoned with butter and cheese. The ambiance here is reminiscent of a traditional Italian gastropub—but one that has vegan and gluten-free options on the menu.

You can't go wrong with the namesake pepperoni pizza at Johnny Pepperoni.

Johnny Pepperoni – Hoboken

Spaghetti and meatballs are an obvious but oft-overlooked menu item at most Italian restaurants, but you’ll want to make the homey dish your go-to order when dining at John Pepperoni. It’s also available on the kids' menu and there’s a meatball pizza, too. Room for dessert? Its Nutella pizza is worth the splurge.

Mama Dag’s Seafood & Pasta House – West Orange

Old-school, comforting, stick-to-your-ribs Italian food is on the menu at Mama Dag’s. Formerly Patsy’s Seafood & Pasta House, the restaurant recently rebranded and expanded its already popular menu. All kids' meals are $9 and include a selection of three pasta shapes covered in marinara or butter sauce for picky eaters. Its pizza is a crowd-pleaser and features a dozen tasty flavor combinations.

Margherita’s – Hoboken

Exposed brick walls and wooden accents give this popular Hoboken eatery a warm and inviting feel. Known for its pasta and seafood dishes, specialty pizzas, and sandwiches, the addition of weekly specials like lobster ravioli makes it that much harder to choose. Gluten-free options are available and the kids' menu features linguine with butter or red sauce and meatballs. Margherita’s also hosts a lively weekend brunch.

Nicholas Anthony’s Family Kitchen – West Orange

You’ll feel like you’re having dinner in the Anthony’s home kitchen at this cozy eatery. The kids' menu is extensive but the real star of the show is its signature, made-to-order festival zeppole dessert that comes to the table hot and inside a brown paper bag filled with powdered sugar—yum!

"Pasta" is in its name, but the meatballs at Red, White & Pasta are also worth a taste. 

Red, White & Pasta – Englewood

You can expect great family-style Italian food with inventive twists on classic dishes at Red, White & Pasta. The exposed brick gives the restaurant a cozy feel along with comfortable, cushioned booth seating. Kids can select from a variety of pasta dishes or there's even an individual pizza on the kids' menu.

Reservoir Restaurant – South Orange

My earliest childhood memories of going out to dinner with my family took place at Reservoir. Pizza, pasta, parms—it does it all deliciously well. In fact, to this day, my older sister won’t eat eggplant parmigiana anywhere else. Even if your kids say they won’t eat salad, Reservoir’s signature Tony Salad is not to be missed. It's so loaded with meats and cheeses—trust me, kids won’t even mind the lettuce.

Sanducci's Trattoria – River Edge

Classic Italian staples done right make this casual Bergen County eatery a winner. Its kids' menu features mozzarella sticks, baked ziti, lasagna, meatballs, chicken parm, and more. Got kids who will only eat pizza? Sanducci's has you covered, with its brick-oven pizza (gluten-free or cauliflower crust is available upon request).

spaghetti and meatballs at Capuano.
Try the classic spaghetti and meatballs at Capuano. 

Family-Friendly Italian Restaurants in Central New Jersey

Capuano – Flemington

Family-friendly, well-priced meals make this a great place to bring the kids for dinner. Capuano’s offers everything from antipasto, salads, and subs to pizza and a kids' menu with several entrees (chicken, pasta, meatballs, and ravioli).

Dolce Pizzeria & Restaurant – Fords

Dolce excels at both pizza and classic Italian dishes, so you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. In addition to a good-sized kids' menu, Dolce offers a Family Special that feeds 4-6 people. Choose from a selection of chicken (Frances, marsala, or parmigiana) and pasta dishes (marinara or vodka sauce), plus salad and garlic bread all for $50.

Jozanna's – Middlesex

Jozanna’s is headed by Chef Frank Bozzomo, formerly known as "The Singing Chef." Get your kids through the end of the meal by pointing out its significant selection of homemade desserts, including rice pudding, Reese's Peanut Butter cake, and several flavors of sorbet.

Maggiano's serves up delicious Italian food family-style!  

Maggiano's – Bridgewater (also Hackensack)

I know Maggiano's is technically a chain restaurant, but if there's one thing a chain restaurant does well, it's cater to kids. Maggiano's is no exception, and it also caters to parents and families as well. The family-style menu features generous portions of Maggiano's popular dishes ($36 per adult; $18 for kids 5-12). Or order from the a la carte menu and for just $5 more, you get a second pasta entree to take home. That's what I call a win-win!

Sapore Di Italia – Cranford

Pizza fresh from the brick oven is on heavy rotation here in the heart of Cranford, but Sapore's menu is more than just pizza. Kids can order from their own menu, featuring the restaurant's signature homemade pasta.

Italian Restaurants on the Jersey Shore and in South NJ

A Touch of Italy – Egg Harbor Township

Family-owned and operated for 40 years, you'll find classic Italian favorites on the menu, plus wood-fired pizza, and several house specialties. Each kid's entree (choice of spaghetti, ravioli, meatballs, or chicken fingers) includes a scoop of chocolate or vanilla ice cream.

Antonio's Trattoria – Manasquan

The ambiance at Antonio's is rustic and cozy Italian. The sizable menu of pasta, meat, seafood, pizza, and more means there's something for everyone. Be sure to save room for dessert. It'll be hard to choose between the freshly made, Nutella-stuffed doughnut or the s'mores Nutella pizza, so I suggest you order both!

Di Paolo's Ristorante – Penns Grove

Feed a crowd at Di Paolo's which hosts family-style dining every Tuesday and Wednesday for four or more ($35 per adult; $18 for kids ages 5-12). Or come on Sundays for brunch with carving stations, made-to-order omelets, hot and cold food stations, plus a dessert bar ($40 per adult; $20 for kids under 12).

Pagano's UVA Ristorante – Bradley Beach

This Italian restaurant serves a mix of traditional and contemporary dishes that feels both familiar and innovative. The robust kids' menu offers everything from pizza to pasta, ravioli, and linguine Alfredo.

Vic's Italian Restaurant – Bradley Beach

Also located in Bradley Beach, Vic's has been around for 75 years, serving some of the most authentic and delicious Italian food at the Jersey Shore. Get a thin-crust pie for the table, while kids can order from a menu of spaghetti, ravioli, chicken, or veal entrees.

Photos courtesy of the restaurants