Everything old is new again at Wyckoff?s landmark ?brick house.? Built in 1851 by early Bergen County settlers and maintained as a restaurant since 1951, the restored and expanded building has been completely updated while preserving its Federal Era charm.
Owner Aldo Cascio, who also owns the eponymous Aldo?s in downtown Wyckoff, bought The Brick House in 1997 and operated it as a steakhouse for several years before demolishing nearly all but the brick fa硤e to renovate the structure. The increased interior space now boasts an expansive entrance lobby, which opens onto a banquet room, bar and private dining rooms; the main dining room is reached via an elegant, carpeted hallway. While extensive and detailed creamy white millwork, old-fashioned paintings in gilt frames and gracious furnishings set a traditional scene, the overall look is opulent, yet comfortable. Downstairs, a catacomb-like series of stone-floored hallways lead to a ?wine cellar? private dining room and a cigar bar, which is sealed off from the rest of the building by double doors.
The restaurant?s menu features steakhouse and continental standards plus some of Aldo?s signature Italian specialties and a few contemporary cuisine surprises. A noteworthy detail: In each category (hot appetizers, cold appetizers, soups and salads), all offerings are the same price. For starters, meaty clams casino topped with smoky bacon were a standout, as were appropriately garlicky escargot and a refreshingly creative beet salad ? red and yellow beets, corn and cilantro on a bed of greens with a zesty vinaigrette. Beef carpaccio served over a pile of crisp baby arugula with a lemony dressing was beautifully presented on a blue glass plate.
Steaks and chops were impressive in both portion size and flavor and, unlike those offered at many top-ranked steakhouses, were served with both a salad and choice of potato. A generous cut of T-bone and thick ?porterhouse? lamb chops were cooked to a perfect medium rare as requested; however, the accompanying plastic cups of, respectively, horseradish sauce and mint jelly, detracted from an otherwise upscale presentation. In a fine dining restaurant such as this one, mint jelly should be relegated to the same status as ketchup ? by request only. Newly popular skirt steak was served nicely charred, topped with a tasty relish the menu described as chimichurri, but the vinegary red onion with a few herbs bore little resemblance to the parsley, olive oil and garlic-based sauce that is a staple of Argentinean cuisine. A special of grilled jumbo prawns demonstrated the kitchen?s skill with seafood; the fresh flavor of the perfectly cooked shellfish was enhanced but not overwhelmed by lemon and garlic.
The Brick House?s generous portions generally left us with little room for dessert, but on one visit, we had to surrender to the chocolate lava cake. An excellent rendition of this now-ubiquitous dessert, it provided just the right indulgent ending to a memorable meal. More than 150 years after it was first built, The Brick House will surely be the setting for many more memories.