By JIM WILLIS
At Jamian LaViolas eponymous Red Bank bar and restaurant, Jamians, patrons are apt to arrive on beach cruisers or skateboards, and if they come by car, there’s a good chance there’ll be a surfboard or two strapped to the roof.
That neighborhood vibe now extends to Jamians menu, with some produce coming from as nearby as a small garden atop the Monmouth Street restaurant and LaViolas backyard garden in Navesink.
This summer LaViola is harvesting greens like romaine and frisee from the home garden and using them in the kitchen.
We just brought in some lobster, and were making a fresh lobster salad tonight,” he told redbankgreen last Friday. “Will I use some of my fresh greens for that? Yeah, absolutely because it will make it just that much better.
The turning point occurred last year, with the realization that the homegrown stuff was better than what was available elsewhere. LaViola says he made a margarita pizza with some of his own tomatoes, “and we were like, this is great fing pizza. So those margarita pizzas I did last year for like a month or two were all tomatoes and basil that came out of my home garden.
LaViola says hes expanding the role that his garden plays, but its still a small-scale operation.
I cant produce enough to use my produce [exclusively], but I can supplement my produce orders. Say I have a blowout on salads and its Sunday afternoon and my produce guy wont be here until late Monday. I can bring in enough from home to [get us through].
Jamians also makes use of a small garden on the roof of the restaurant, which recently won approval for an expansion.
Up on the roof Ive got mint, rosemary, hot peppers… The mint the bartenders use for mojitos comes off the roof. Its better than the stuff I can buy, he says. Theres no comparison. I dont use any sprays or pesticides. If I see a plant [with damage] I pull it. I just stay on top of it and dont spray with anything.
Not everything from the home garden is destined for the restaurant.
For me, says LaViola, theres nothing better that walking out to the garden in the morning with my kids at this time of year and seeing what popped up today. If Ive got a couple of zucchinis that just popped up, Ill grill them at home and well eat them for dinner. Its not always a product for the restaurant. I just like to incorporate it into the menu when I can.