By SUSAN ERICSON
What key elements are crucial to keeping a restaurant current for 30 years? If we’re referring to the Front Street Trattoria in Red Bank, it would have to be the consistently prepared fresh ingredients.
With an exposed brick wall on one side and floor-to-ceiling windows framing an ever moving backdrop of foot-traffic outside, the often busy main dining room is unpretentious and cozy. An open kitchen area lines another wall, giving the diner plenty to peer at. Alternatively, there is another more private dining room and a wide open back patio for seating. But the decor isn’t why this restaurant is packed with regulars on any given evening: it’s the food.
The Mediterranean Platter, a dish we have ordered more times than PieHole can count, brought to mind the Orleans song ‘You’re Still the One” on our most recent trip. At $15, it presents as an artistically composed palette of vegetables and cheeses dressed with grape tomatoes, herbs, fresh niblets of corn, Calamata olives, mozzarella, tangy red peppers, grilled artichokes, roasted red pepper slices and sweet roasted beets. In the center of the dish is a ramekin of parmesan and balsamic vinegar finessed ricotta cheese. All of the components are made in house and full of big flavor. Warm-from-the-oven foccacia bread is perfect for spreading and dipping.
Menu choices of personal-size pizzas, sandwiches, pasta, and daily specials are delicious alternatives, but the salads usually win our attention. Especially when the weather starts warming up.
A grilled calamari salad, ($12 for dinner or $10.95 at lunch) includes roasted red pepper strips, tomato, cucumber and tender grilled squid served over mixed baby lettuce. A balsamic and parmesan dressing add gusto to the dish.
Bring a bottle of wine from home or stop at one of the many liquor stores nearby, as this is a BYO. The theme of a humble trattoria extends to the provided wine glasses. Just like these small juice glasses you’d find in Europe, everything about the Front Street Trattoria enhances the authenticity of a dining experience here.
Closed Mondays, the Front Street Trattoria is open from 11:30 a.m. to -9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.