Grilled chicken pesto panini, served with a side salad. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)
By SUSAN ERICSON
Keeping track of how many years it’s been in Red Bank is easy at Pazzo MMX. Architecturally defined by its red brick facade and bound between an office building and a parking garage on West Front Street, the start date is in the name, which translates from Italian to “crazy 2010.”
PieHole stopped in at lunchtime this week to find a bustling dining room and the aroma of garlic wafting from the open kitchen, where you can keep an eye on every dish delivered.
Broccoli rabe and sausage on ciabatta bread also comes with a side of tossed salad. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)
Happy-hour specials pack the bar most nights, and half-price pizza and pasta specials on Monday may mean you’ll wait for a table, but we were surprised to find a brisk crowd mid-week in the afternoon as well. Manager Erin McCue tells us that most of the customers are regulars, many coming in from the attached office building.
First-course, or antipasti, options are for the most part bar-nibble fodder, such as fried calamari, baked clams, mussels in wine sauce, chicken wings, and an antipasto platter.
Specialty pizzas and light entrees such as chicken parmigiana, alder-plank salmon, linguine a la vongole and a made-in-house pappardelle with bolognese looking appealing. We watched as the over-size bowls and platters came out of the kitchen.
A dozen sandwich options, all served with a salad of frisee lettuce and grape tomatoes, intrigued us with both the number of choices and interesting ingredients.
The sausage and broccoli rabe sandwich ($12) served on a pillow-soft ciabatta roll, includes bite-sized pieces of sweet Italian sausage pepped up with emerald green leafage. Slices of garlic and creamy melted mozzarella added big flavor to every pungent bite, but the promised red pepper flakes were missing. We’ll happily order this again and ask for a dish of pepper flakes on the side.
The grilled chicken pesto panini ($12) arrived striped with tongues of sweet red pepper, a thick slab of mozzarella, and a too-well-done chicken breast served on a perfectly pressed panini roll. A slather of beautiful jade green pesto punched up the flavor.
Park in the adjacent garage and use the courtyard entrance for easy accessibility. The front of the restaurant has a tented dining area, giving it an outdoorsy atmosphere.
Pazzo MMX opens for lunch at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday and at noon on Sunday.