RED BANK: LEAVE ROOM FOR DESSERT AT VIA45

030515 via 45 insideThe rustic farmhouse chic dining room of Via45 in Red Bank, above, and an enormous serving of eggplant parmigiana, below. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

030515 via 45 eggplantOn the consistently changing face of Broad Street in Red Bank, Via45 stands out as a bastion of culinary authenticity, staying true to its Tuscan-style roots.

Owners Claudette Herring and Lauren Phillips are the unified driving force in the kitchen of this BYO restaurant, dishing up rustic but refined menu options.

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MIDDLETOWN: GIVING FUTURE CHEFS A BOOST

032114 recipe for success correctChefs from more than 30 local restaurants impressed guests at last year’s “Recipe for Success” at the Navesink Country Club in Middletown. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

Chefs representing more than 30 Red Bank-area restaurants will be cooking to impress the gourmet-minded for a good cause again this year.

Now an annual event at the Navesink Country Club in Middletown, the Joseph Romanowski Culinary Education Foundation fundraiser will host restaurants, wine and spirit merchants and hundreds of discerning palates with a taste-tempting exposition on Monday, March 23.

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LITTLE SILVER: CATERERS FIND NEW KITCHEN

021915 walton1Linda Walton in the new Whistling Onion kitchen with some of the foraged artisanal products that she has been creating, below. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

021915 walton5Tucked behind the Little Szechuan Chinese Restaurant on Prospect Avenue in Little Silver is a good-sized, fully stocked kitchen that is now home to the Whistling Onion, a catering business.

As previously reported, Whistling Onion owners Linda Walton and Lynn McKittrick found a temporary fix at Via45 in Red Bank, where they could meet their catering commitments made before to Hurricane Sandy wiped out the Riverfront Cafe , their restaurant on Ocean Avenue in Sea Bright.

Now, they’ve got a kitchen of their own again.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH: A TEA ROOM WITH CHOPS

012915 raven tea room sandwichesA beef tenderloin BLT sandwich in the foreground, and the shrimp salad-filled brioche in background at the Raven Tea Room, below.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

012915 raven tea roomThe phrase “tea room” conjures images of prissy old ladies ordering pots of chamomille and delicate, crust-removed cucumber sandwiches served on fine floral patterned porcelain dishes. The Raven Tea Room in the Fair Haven Commons building is nothing like that.

Sophisticated styling in both the decor and menu have made this lunch-only restaurant – which shares a website and ownership with the Raven and the Peach but has its own space in the Fair Haven Commons – a staple in the community for years. The dark wood tables and comfortable cushioned armchairs surrounded by suede gray painted walls give the place a masculine, club-like feel. Windows looking out on River Road lend an open feeling to the room. But should you wind up with a view of the parking lot, well, just turn your chair toward the open kitchen and watch the chef working his magic.

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LITTLE SILVER: TASTES OF (LITTLE) ITALY

121614 ferruccis2Sandy and Paolo D’Amico behind the counter of Ferrucci’s Gourmet Delicatessen. Below, buffalo milk butter from Parma, Italy.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

121614 ferruccisShopping at Ferrucci’s Gourmet Delicatessen in the Prospect Plaza strip mall in Little Silver is like stepping into a classic Italian grocery store, according to a customer who stopped in to pick up pizza dough brought in from Brooklyn. It’s as good as Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, he said.

Mixed New York boroughs aside, there is something about New York city tap water that makes pizza dough and bread taste better. And the bread at Ferrucci’s is delivered daily from Brooklyn along with the dough. It’s also a consistent daily sellout, says owner Sandy D’Amico.

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SEA BRIGHT: HEARTY FOOD, BY THE BOOK

120414 Alices3The Gaelic omelet at Alice’s Kitchen contains a little bit of this and that, just like those Alice Gaffney, below, remembers from her native Ireland. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

120414 Alices2When Arlo Guthrie penned his famous “Alice’s Restaurant,” he didn’t have Alice Gaffney in mind: she was an ocean away from the scene of the Thanksgiving Day “massacree.” But that line, “you can get anything you want…” pretty much applies to Alice’s Kitchen, Gaffney’s restaurant in Sea Bright.

In addition to enjoying her varied breakfast and lunch offerings at the Ocean Avenue eatery, you can now take a book home with you for free.

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BOOSKERDOO: NO LONGER JUST COFFEE

111914 booskerdoo4Amelia Caverly, below, and at center above with fellow Booskerdoo bakers Carolyn Kroeper, left, and Diana Richter preparing the day’s bread and pastries (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

111914 booskerdoo1For the past 16 months, the sleepy town of Fair Haven has awakened to the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee wafting from Booskerdoo, at the corner of DeNormandie Avenue and River Road. Cars start pulling up as early as 6 a.m. as customers run in to grab a cup of French Roast or Jersey Diner.

Now, they can pick up something sweet and baked on-premises for breakfast or dessert, too.

Having made a transition from teacher to baker, Amelia Caverly – who owns the three-store chain with her husband, James – is there to start the day’s work at 4 a.m., overseeing a small baking crew in the back of the store.
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SOUP’S ON, AND GOOD TO GO

111014 zaitooni 2Laudy Hage of Zaitooni Deli with a quart of her popular lentil soup. Below, the vegan Mediterranean eggplant soup from Healthy Habits Natural Foods. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

111014 soup healthSoup is hot this time of year, as a go-to meal for dinner, a spicy, flavorful lunch, or a soul-warming remedy for what ails you.

It’s also an affordable takeout item to grab when that holiday rush kicks in.

PieHole is here to give you a round-up of restaurants and delis on the Green that have soup simmering and ready to be ladled into containers just for you. Carnivore, vegetarian or vegan, we’ve got you covered.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? PICK A # @ BRENNAN’S

110514 brennans1The smoked-salmon on sesame-seed bagel from Brennan’s. Below, the menu board behind the deli counter. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

Brennan’s Deli in Rumson is all about the numbers.110514 brennans3 The board hanging above the deli counter lists 26 sandwich options – and those are just the regular suggestions; a daily special that can also be found on the website.

Having no time for a leisurely lunch this week, the takeout option brought PieHole to this old West River Road favorite. And while we ordered a number 17, a quick chat with owners Caryn McCann and John Yurish brought some of these numbers into perspective.

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RED BANK: SPICING UP A MONDAY NIGHT

110314 pazzo1The granite bar at Pazzo is as inviting as any table in the restaurant. Below, complimentary dishes of  olives and warm bread and butter served at the bar. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

110314 pazzo3After 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.

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RED BANK: NEVER-ENDING SOUP SEASON

102914 soupmeisterGary Sable wraps up a lunch-to-go order for one of the many customers who wait patiently in line. Below, the 32-ounce Portuguese sausage and kale soup. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

102914 soupmeister2Twenty years ago, Red Bank was a veritable desert for takeout food. For this PieHole correspondent, then plying a different trade, there were maybe two or three delis in town to choose from for lunch.

Enter Gary Sable with his unique idea for a quick lunch: of hot dogs to go. Many of us were delighted to have a new option.

That Hot Dog Place, located off Monmouth Street in a little alley next to the Dublin House, was a convenient two-minute walk away, and appreciated, especially when the weather got colder. The only problem with that we soon tired of hot dogs.

One chilly autumn day, we sniffled our way over to Sable’s nook and told him how much we would prefer a hot cup of soup. It took him all of one day to add chicken noodle and tomato basil bisque to his menu. We have been grateful customers ever since.

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LITTLE SILVER SZECHUAN’S SECRET: COMFORT

101514 little szechMoo Shu Pork, fried rice and condiments crowd a table at Little Szechuan Restaurant. Below, a view of the comfortable booths.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

101514 litte szechBefore so many take-out joints started popping up all around the greater Green, there was Little Szechuan Restaurant on the corner of Prospect Avenue and Church Street in Little Silver.

It was the only place to find sit-down Chinese food back in the day, and that day goes all the way back to 1981. Today, there’s still a good chance that you will run into neighbors you haven’t seen in a while when you visit for lunch or dinner. It is part of the charm and civility of this neighborhood eatery.

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RED BANK: NOT FANCY BUT SO TASTY

101014 international2The platter of Tacos al Pastor, served on a melmac plate, at the International Mexican Food Restaurant. Below, a sampling of the sauces that accompany the tacos. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

101014 international3Walk down Shrewsbury Avenue in Red Bank and you are almost certain to miss a terrific taqueria.

The International Mexican Food restaurant is something of a stealth business. You wouldn’t know what lurks inside at number 92 if someone didn’t tell you. There is a tiny sign above the door that reads, “International,” but that’s it.

Don’t let the bare-bones exterior stop you, though, or the fact that no one inside speaks English; even the takeout menus are in Spanish. This place is busy because the food is fairly unique to the area and seriously good.
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RED BANK: CHILI WITH A LOT OF SOUL

101114 jbjchili24Stuart Jensen and Vinnie Sarullo of Navesink Hook and Ladder with their potful of chili at JBJ Soul Kitchen’s chili cook-off. Below, Union Beach Fire Company’s entry won first place.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

[See clarification below]

By SUSAN ERICSON

101114 chili6Firetrucks and EMS vehicles crowded the area of the JBJ Soul Kitchen in Red Bank this weekend, but the only thing on fire was taste buds.

Kicking off its three-year anniversary, the pay-what-you-can Monmouth Street restaurant hosted a chili cook-off Saturday, inviting local firefighters and EMS squads to serve up their fiery best.

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LUNCH? BURRITO TEXANO, POR FAVOR SEÑOR

100814 peppersThe plate-hogging Burrito Texano and tamarindo agua fresca at Señor Pepper’s. Below, multicolored tablecloths spice up the dining room.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

100814peppersEvery now and again, the same old tuna sandwich isn’t going to cut it for lunch. PieHole wanted something with big flavor and a little heat. Feeling ravenous, we also wanted quick. Experience reminded us that Señor Pepper’s on Bridge Avenue in Red Bank would fill our needs.

On a surprisingly warm October afternoon, the first order of business was a cooling beverage. Skip the soda and bottled iced tea here and go for the agua frescas. A little sweet, these tea-like concoctions are a most refreshing quaff. Wanting something we hadn’t tasted before, we opted for the tamarindo agua fresa. Offered in sizes small for $1.75 and big for $3, this tamarind-flavored cold drink, served in a trendy Mason jar mug, was the perfect thirst-quencher while we munched on complimentary, house-made tortilla chips that came with both red and green salsa.

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SEA BRIGHT: PUTTING OUR PIEHOLE TO USE

sb pie 100214 8The three judges at the Sea Bright Farmers’ Market’s first apple pie bake-off: Eric from Estonia, Susan Ericson and Susie Markson. Below, the winning apple caramel tart. (Photos by John T. Ward and Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

100214 SB farm market pieAn invitation to judge the first annual apple pie bake-off at the Sea Bright Farmers’ market Thursday afternoon was too tasty an opportunity for this PieHole writer to turn down.

With a bakery background – I grew up in a Queens bakery – my opinions on apple pie are pretty specific. A good one needs a flaky crust, a non-mushy apple filling, and most important, fresh apple flavor.

Fall is apple season, of course, and you can find many varieties of apples at farm markets and pick-your-own orchards right now. The best for pie baking are the Granny Smiths and Honey Crisps. They hold up better through the baking process, with a tart and tangy flavor that plays well with the added sugar and spices.

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RED BANK: CHEF RENEWS PASSION AT DISH

091817 ferrando dishAnthony Ferrando discusses his newly rediscovered appreciation for hands-on cooking while preparing ravioli from scratch. Below, the completed ravioli. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

091714 ferrando ravioli lighterLike movie stars who return to their roots by taking a role in a Broadway play or indie film, experienced chefs sometimes also need to revive themselves.

For chef Anthony Ferrando, a partner in the restaurant Dish in Red Bank, that means returning to the kitchen, where many of the routine tasks have been taking up by helpers, to do more inspired cooking. It also means means bringing together raw ingredients to form a recipe.

“I have a great kitchen staff here,” Ferrando said. “My sous chef, John Bonilla, has been with me for nine years, and Antonio Comacho started here as a dishwasher and is now in charge of the grill. They know what to do. They can run this kitchen.”

“There are going to be some great changes here, though,” he added in the next breath.

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RED BANK: BREAKFAST ALL DAY LONG

092014 rbdiner lighter2A breakfast of fried eggs, homefries and sausages from the Red Bank Diner on Broad Street. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

morsels mediumSince the unexpected closing of the Broadway Diner on Monmouth Street two months ago, the question of where you can get breakfast for dinner in Red Bank has been on some ravenous minds.

Although it’s not open 24 hours a day, you can indeed have the customary first meal of the day when others are eating their last at the Red Bank Diner on Broad Street.

“We serve breakfast all day long, including pancakes,” says diner owner Louis Kanellos.

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SEA BRIGHT: DIVE BAR DIVES RIGHT BACK IN

091214 dive2A bright and colorful interior to Dive into in Sea Bright. Below, the vegetarian black bean burger. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

091214 dive3 Dive owners and newlyweds Christina DiIorio and Steven Graniero  start and finish one another’s sentences.

“We called it Dive so people would feel comfortable to come here,” Graniero said. “Diving into Sea Bright, diving into the food, and just diving into the new place,” DiIorio added.

After Hurricane Sandy, Dive – which had been open only two years – was closed for 20 months. In that time, the couple worked on refurbishing the restaurant and got married. “We opened Dive on out honeymoon” in early July, DiIorio said.

They hired Sea Bright locals, Kyle Hopfensperger as executive chef and Daniel Ciameroni as sous chef. Both 29 years old, they have restaurant experience in the area, and either ride their bikes or skateboards to work. They have also been friends since they were two years old.

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GETTING FRIED ON THE GREEN

062714 zucchini barnacle billsBarnacle Bill’s fried zucchini with tangy dipping sauce is a perennial favorite, while deep fried pickle spears (below) from the Globe are a newer menu addition. (Photos By Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

DSCN2037

Eat your vegetables, you were told as a child. They’re good for you. But your mama probably didn’t mean the deep-fried veggies that have been popping up on tavern menus all around the Green.

Belly up to the bar, boys and girls, to try a less healthy but way more fun way to fill your pie hole with roughage. PieHole leads the tour…

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LITTLE SILVER: KEEPIN’ IT LOCAL FOR PARKER

091314 parkerhouse16 091314 parkerhouse7More than 250 attendees braved drippy tents for a “farm to table’ fundraising dinner at the Parker Homestead in Little Silver Saturday night. The menu, crafted by celebrity chef  David Burke, included New Jersey wines and cheeses, Barnegat bay shellfish and bushels of locally grown vegetables.  The $250-per-plate event benefitted the Parker Homestead – 1665 restoration project and the Monmouth County Historical Society. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

091314 parkerhouse2

 

 

CIAO, BASIL’S. IT’S ‘BIRRAVINO’ NOW.

091014 birravino ralloVictor Rallo in the bicycle-decorated atrium of Birravino. Below, one of the long communal, or feste, tables in the dining room.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

091014 birravino5The Old World charm of Basil T’s Brew Pub is gone, along with its popular mug club, where members had personalized mugs hanging at the bar. Remodeled and repositioned as Birravino, however, the Red Bank trattoria is just as welcoming, warm and suds-friendly as its predecessor.

Nursing a broken leg from a running accident, Victor Rallo showed up earlier this week to make sure everything was running smoothly after a makoever that included completely restructuring and redecorating his Riverside Avenue institution in about a month. Before some customers even realized  the restaurant was temporarily off-line, a new name was on the building and the changes were well underway, he said.

The result? “I wanted an industrial, rustic look like you see in the trattorias or osterias of Italy,” he told PieHole,  amid the exposed brick walls, honed wooden tabletops, galvanized metal seats and an open kitchen. “Definitely something more casual” than Basil’s, he said.

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WHATS FOR LUNCH: FISH ‘N CHIPS BY THE SEA

091014 sbfishco1The fried cod platter at the Sea Bright Fish Company. Below, Kim Cognata, one of the owners. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

091014 sbfishco3“Our mission is to be hyperlocal,” Kim Cognata says of the two-month-old Sea Bright Fish Company. Working together with her father, Paul Diomede, and her brothers Paul and Justin, this restaurant, with a view of the Atlantic Ocean is a family affair.

An eat-in or take-out menu offers the expected fish sandwiches, platters and chowders, as well as some unexpected, upscale items.

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RED BANK: PATRIZIA’S AMBROSIAL SIDE

090814 patrizias dessertA sampling of desserts from Patrizia’s. Below: the caramel cone. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

090814 patrizias caramelIn a perfect world, calories would not count and sugary treats would be good for us. But this is not a perfect world, and so we have to be selective about when we allow ourselves to indulge in desserts.

At Patrizia’s on Broad Street in Red Bank, the pizza and pasta are not to be missed. But it would be a good idea to leave a little extra time, and room, for dessert when you visit.

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WHATS FOR LUNCH: SOUP’S ON

090114 cjmcloones1The oversized Reuben lunch platter with  fries, above, and French onion soup, below, from CJ McLoone’s.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

090114 cjmcloones2The calendar flips to September, and just like that, thoughts of bathing suits and salads are gone, replaced by hankerings for sweaters, coats and heartier lunches.

A soup-and-sandwich pairing is a favorite for many who want a little more than just a quick bite, and to this soup lover, it doesn’t matter that it’s still hot outside: September is the start of soup season.

CJ McLoone’s on Shrewsbury Avenue in Tinton Falls offers a soup of the day, oversized burgers, and many typical sandwich options.

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