By SUSAN ERICSON
Stepping into Aleo Italian Specialties in the Acme shopping center on Newman Springs Road in Lincroft, PieHole was immediately hit with a feeling of deja vu.
The aroma of cheese and garlic surrounds you, calling to mind Arthur Avenue, the famous Little Italy shopping area in the Bronx. Then there’s the sight of food — everywhere. Hanging salami and cheese; shelves filled with rustic fresh breads from Brooklyn; imported dry pasta; and deli counters teeming with house-made delicacies. Your mouth waters and you forget what you came in for.
Owned by the Dene family, the market grew out of the Aleo pizzeria still located just a few doors away 15 years ago. Manager Vincent Dene is quick to tell customers not to refrigerate the fresh made-in-house mozzarella. He says to eat it while it’s warm or room temp, and he’s right: it loses its creamy consistency when chilled.
Aleo is known not only for its mozzarella but for house-made sausage. We tried the pork sausage with fennel and found it to be full-flavored and memorable. We’ll go back for that again.
Dene and company also make fresh pasta on Thursdays. The heavenly ravioli pillows stuffed with a creamy ricotta cheese were ethereally elegant and a perfect take-home item for dinner.
“Give her some of the caponata to try, too,” Dene says, referring to the eggplant-based side dish or spread. Here, the eggplant is cooked with a sweet-and-sour sauce sweetened by golden raisins and given crunchy texture with pignoli nuts. Chunks of eggplant lend chewable bite: the sauce isn’t cooked down to a mushy paste. It’s not something we were in the market for, but when we go back we’ll have it on our list. This is a vegetarian dish that could be a new addiction.
Another delicious vegetarian dish is the sweet potato salad. Roasted sweet potato nuggets, fresh orange slices, red onions and arugula are coated in a light vinaigrette.
Finally remembering that we stopped in for a sandwich, we ordered an Italian cold-cut sub with ham, salami, capicola, and provolone. The roll had that rustic made-hours-ago quality and added big flavor to the sandwich.
A full catering menu is available, and in addition to the Italian specialties, Aleo also offers paella parties and barbecue packages.
Aleo Italian Specialties is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.