By SUSAN ERICSON
After a fun weekend, the blow of facing another Monday is sometimes enough to bring the strongest person down. Enter Pazzo on West Front Street in Red Bank, though, and Monday night gets a little easier to bear.
“Pazzo,” in Italian, means crazy, but it’s nothing short of brilliant that this restaurant has given customers a reason to look forward to that first workday of the week with a deal of half-price pizza and pasta dishes. Any pie or pasta dish listed on the menu is fair game for this Monday night offer.
Call for a reservation on a Monday night? Yes, it’s your best bet for procuring a table, because you will otherwise wind up waiting by the hostess’ desk for your number to be called. We forgot to call, but braved the crowd anyway. Leaving our name and phone number, we decided to wait for our table in the bar, where we were lucky to get two seats together.
A little darker than the main dining room, but more comfortable and livelier than the enclosed sidewalk dining area, we ordered beverages while looking over the menu. Since we were told the wait would be about 30 minutes, ordering dinner at the bar suddenly seemed like a good idea.
Our order of the Classico pizza and Gamberoni Fra Diablo was preceded by a dish of olives and red peppers swimming in a fruity olive oil and a basket of just-out-of-the-oven bread and butter – a classy touch for a bargain meal. It seemed that everyone in the busy restaurant had an order of pizza or pasta on the table.
The text from the hostess desk came 15 minutes after we sat down at the bar, but we were so comfortably ensconced in conversation with our bartender, Erica, that we sent back a text that we would stay where we were.
The simple Classico pizza arrived first, with a set up of two plates, cloth napkins and silverware. The price of $12 for this bar-sized pie was reasonable, but for half that price it was a good deal. The chewy, crisp crust played loud rock music with the sharp, edgy provolone and sweetly acidic roasted San Marzano tomatoes. We would happily pay full price for this pie, but were so glad that we didn’t have to.
An enormous bowlful of al dente linguine, a barely spiced tomato sauce and six jumbo grilled sweet shrimp were set between us on the bar. The menu price of $24 was about right for this delicious dish, but again, a steal at half that sum.
The only issue we had with the shrimp dish was a lack of heat. If you like your fra diablo hot, and it should be hot, ask for some crushed peppers when you order. Better still, tell your waiter that you would like the kitchen to make it hot. Any good chef will know how to add the appropriate amount of heat to a dish. Chances are, this one was made to please uninitiated palates. You can always add heat, but for those who expect tame, it would be impossible to remove the spice.
Pazzo is a busy restaurant every night of the week. It’s a date night place on the weekend, but we have run into local families in the dining room as well. The attached free parking garage is a bonus in Red Bank.