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SHREWSBURY: GARDENERS EAT THEIR OWN

091414 shrwsbry gdn feast3Community gardeners celebrating their harvest at the garden, located adjacent to Borough Hall. Below, Pam MacNeill and Maureen Collins in the gazebo. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

091414 shrwsbry gdn feastSipping wine amid tables festooned with bouquets of flowers, the Shrewsbury community gardener’s celebrated the end of the growing season with a potluck dinner recently.

In the gazebo, a table laden with casseroles and salads made from this year’s harvest looked like a picture from a home and garden magazine.

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RED BANK: BOONDOCKS SNAPS BACK

boondocks 091114 2Customers tuck into lobster, above. Below, Boondocks owner Kelly Ryan. (Photo by Rachel Weston. Click to enlarge)

By RACHEL WESTON

kelly mcryan 091114

Briskly breaking off  the the legs of a steaming lobster, Brianne Simpson of Rumson appeared in her element as she and her family dined at Boondocks Fishery in Red Bank one night last week.
“This is what people want: casual, outdoor dining,” she told PieHole as the sun went down over an idyllic scene of boats bobbing on the Navesink River. “Doing this is what makes it great to live here.”
Opportunities follow suit  are dwindling, however, as the restaurant nears its not only its annual closing, but the end of  “a great season – best ever,” in the words of owner Kelly Ryan.
Which is saying something, considering the waterfront restaurant was pummeled by Hurricane Sandy and needed a big helping hand to reopen. Read More »

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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FAIR HAVEN: FINE DINING, FAIR-STYLE

082214-fhfair steamersSteamers and pitchers of beer dominate the tables at the Fair Haven Fireman’s Fair. Below, volunteers Raquel Falotico and Christina Schrank. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

082214 fh fair aux1It’s time for the first seating in the dining tent at the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair, and the members of the all-volunteer fire department’s Auxiliary are once again organized and ready for the challenge.

It’s 6 p.m., and already there are more people in line for dinner than there are tables and seats. But they patiently wait their turn, some holding plastic cups of beer while chatting with neighbors, many with small children eager to hit the rides. A long line of baby strollers stands parked between the cashier and takeout window.

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RED BANK: CHECKING IN ON BOULANGERIE

081514 boulangerie 2Ayca User of Antoinette Boulangerie with a platter of croissants. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

morsels mediumWhat could be better than café au lait and a fresh-baked croissant? How about a coconut chocolate croissant specially made for the season?

This is just one of the delectable sweets to come out of the kitchen at Antoinette Boulangerie on Monmouth Street in Red Bank. Opened just eight months ago in the middle of a snowstorm, the French pastry shop has garnered serious attention and appreciation from the local public. It is often busy, particularly on the weekends.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH: BISTRO SUSHI

081514 bistro sushiA large platter of specialty sushi rolls from the Bistro take up most of the table top. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

081514 bistro sushi2Where can you find dependably fresh and tasty sushi in Red Bank? The Bistro on Broad Street has been a go-to restaurant for years and the place where we first introduced our kids to raw fish and chop sticks.

PieHole‘s latest visit, though, was no ordinary business lunch; it was, rather,  a celebration of sorts. The daughter I was lunching with is moving on: new apartment and job transfer making our ladies-who-lunch dates a thing of the past. Our decision to have sushi at the Bistro was a calculation in nostalgia.
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SHARED KITCHEN EASES STORM’S AFTERMATH

081814 via 45 walton kittrickLynn McKittrick and Linda Walton utilizing the kitchen of Via45  for their catering business, the Whistling Onion. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

081214 via45 front“What are we going to do? Where do we go from here?” Linda Walton asked her partner, Lynn McKittrick, after their Sea Bright restaurant, the Riverfront Café, was decimated by Hurricane Sandy.

“Together, we ran the business.” Walton said. “Lynn ran the restaurant while I ran a catering business,” the Whistling Onion, which had started in 1991 with McKittrick working out of a private kitchen, catering rooftop parties in New York.

Later, the Riverfront Café served as home to both the restaurant and private catering businesses.

After the storm, “the realization set in that I still had my business, while Lynn had nothing,” Walton said. “The right thing to do was making her a partner in the catering business.”

But where?

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WHATS FOR LUNCH? PANINI AT PATRIZIA’S

080814 patrizias vegThe grilled vegetable panini hero shown above is vegetarian friendly. Below, the burrata. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

patrizia's 073014“It’s like going to your grandmother’s house on Sunday,” manager Santo Saitta said of the food and ambience at the week-old Patrizia’s on Broad Street in Red Bank.

If your grandmother has a dining room in a former bank building with a sky-high vaulted ceiling, a raging hot copper-clad pizza oven and remarkably good food, well then yes, it would be like that.

After a lunch here, you might want to visit nonna more often.

The suggested Burrata All’ Amalfitana appetizer ($13.95) – silky, salty, creamy and lightly seasoned with a smidge of olive oil – was terrific on its own, but the piquant caponata accompaniment made it a sexy, delicious starter.
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SEA BRIGHT: FRESH-PLATED BY YOUNG CHEF

080714 Chuck lesbirelChef Chuck Lesbirel in the dining room of Ama. Below: a seasonal salad of Jersey peaches, Jersey tomatoes and lobster.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

080714 ama lobster2How does a 26-year-old become an executive chef?

For Chuck Lesbirel, now presiding over the kitchen of Ama Ristorante in Sea Bright, it starts with an impressive résumé that goes back to a 14-year-old kid washing dishes at Palate Pleasers in Keyport.

Working in restaurant kitchens, Lesbirel watched and learned the chef business with stints at a kosher restaurant, a few small places, an educational rounding-out at the Culinary Education Center at Brookdale, and then a big jump to sous chef at David Burke Fromagerie in Rumson.

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RED BANK: KICKING-OFF A WEEK OF COCKTAILS

081014 kickoff cocktail 1 Jamie Gray prepares a cocktail at red‘s upstairs lounge bar. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

morsels mediumThere’s a party going on in Red Bank over the course of the next week, and it’s going to be a bit of a booze-filled frenzy.

At the kickoff of Cocktail Week Sunday night, bartenders prepared specialty drinks made with Leaf vodka, just one of several sponsors for the event organized by Red Bank Flavour.

Bartender Jamie Gray of red restaurant on Broad Street squeezed fresh limes for the Thai basil martinis while Matt Monaco was busy muddling mint for the Hendrick’s Gin mojitos served with cucumbers.

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RED BANK: RALLO REPOSITIONING BASIL T’S

basil t 073014The exterior’s already gotten a facelift and one is underway inside at Basil T’s, soon to reopen as Birravino, says owner Vic Rallo Jr., below. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

rallo 3 090713After 27 years in business, Red Bank’s Basil T’s brewpub will close this Saturday to undergo a makeover that will transform it into Birravino.

Basil’s owner Vic Rallo Jr. tells redbankgreen he’s repurposing his Riverview Avenue eatery he founded in 1987 with his brother and late father to mirror a dining style he’s come to appreciate on repeated trips to his ancestral home for his television show, “Eat, Drink, Italy.”

Overhauling a successful restaurant, and taking a flyer on a concept that affects everything from the menu to the awnings? Is Rallo nuts? Apparently, we’re not the first to ask.

“I’ve heard it all,” Rallo said. “My friends are saying, ‘You’re out of your mind.’ Or ‘did you go bankrupt?’ ‘Are you a heroin addict? Getting a divorce?'”

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SEA BRIGHT: A MARTINI RIPE WITH SUMMER

beau keegan 072214Ama mixologist Beau Keegan adds a dash of grenadine to give his white peach martini the look of a peach. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

ama peach martini 072214Kitchens and dining rooms aren’t the only areas of restaurants caught up in the growing interest in locally sourced artisanal food products.

At Ama Ristorante in Sea Bright, the bar has become a place of labor-intensive cocktails prepared with carefully chosen fruits and flavorings, says Beau Keegan, who runs the beverage operation.

“A generation ago, it was all about liqueurs, but there’s been a revolution in the last 10 or 15 years of people making their own purees, syrups, bitters,” he says. Driven by customer interest, “everybody’s kind of pushing each other” to find new, and fresher, ingredients, he says.
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RED BANK: BELATED GOODBYES TO A DINER

taylor sisters 072214Sisters Sarah and Claire Taylor came to the Broadway Diner from Ocean Township with their mom on Tuesday not knowing it had closed. Below, the diner’s famous buttermilk pancakes are now a memory. (Photos by John T. Ward and Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

072214 diner pancakesThe promise of a “Diner Open 24 HRS,” proclaimed in neon, ended in Red Bank Monday morning without an opportunity for fans even to say goodbye.

For 18 years, the Broadway Diner on Monmouth Street was a vital and consistent part of the community, as reflected in the degree to which both staffers and customers felt blindsided by its abrupt closing.

“I am in mourning,” said 18-year-old Colts Neck resident Jess Soden, who came into town with a friend Monday afternoon jonesing for the diner’s waffles, but ended up theatrically curled into a fetal position on its front steps. “They were just so crunchy, yet so fluffy on the inside.”

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FAIR HAVEN: COOK, TASTE, LEARN

071614 taste technique schlossbachMarilyn Schlossbach teaching a class at Taste and Technique Cooking Studio. Below, the Cast Iron Steak Scampi she prepared. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

071416 taste technique steakA dozen guests gathered at the counter of Taste and Technique Cooking Studio on River Road in Fair Haven last week, absorbing the pearls of culinary wisdom of chef and retaurateur Marilyn Schlossbach.

Cooking studio owner Carolyn Rue has managed to bring in some of the most sought-after  local restaurant chefs, making sure that the classes are not only informative and delicious, but often entertaining.

The class, titled ‘Jersey Farm Fresh Table,’ consisted of a full dinner, cooked by Schlossbach.

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SEA BRIGHT: CATCHING THE BIG ONE AT YUMI

070614 yumi sb rollThe fresh and aptly named Sea Bright roll at Yumi (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

morsels smallA horde of moviegoers filled the public beach in Sea Bright with assorted lawn chairs and blankets Sunday night. The occasion: the annual Shore Flicks showing of “Jaws,” which was rained out last year.

Keeping in the theme of the evening, dinner before the movie had to be seafood at Yumi on Ocean Avenue.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? INBETWEEN BREAKFAST

062014inbetweenThe Inbetween aces the hollandaise sauce on the Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

062014inbetween2Sharing a table at Red Bank’s Inbetween Café is par for the course. This little luncheonette is much too busy to stand on ceremony, and even if you do manage to nab a table, unless there are six in your party, a stranger is likely to sit down right next to you.

Such is the happy situation we found ourselves in on our latest visit to this English Plaza institution. The two young strangers sitting at the table with us were familiar, and yet, I couldn’t place them.

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RED BANK: PHO LE ROLLS INTO SUMMER

061914 phole egg rollVietnamese eggrolls deliver desired crunch from Pho Le in Red Bank.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

morsels smallIn a rare moment of culinary indecision, a recent PieHole conversation ran to a “What are you in the mood for?” theme.

The overwhelming desire for something different led us to the Vietnamese restaurant Pho Le on Broad Street in Red Bank.

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RED BANK: PERFECTING PASTA AT GAETANO’S

Gaetano's class 052014Tom Cappello, second from right, above, with sous chef Miner Barquero, right, and students during a recent cooking class. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

052014gaetanos pastaSchool’s in session at Gaetano’s Restaurant on Wallace Street in Red Bank, and owner Tom Cappello is clearly in charge.

Working a dining room with 15 guests and students gathered around a long table, Cappello and sous chef Miner Barquero demonstrate how to prepare a meal from scratch. Fresh pasta is always included in the menu, this month’s choice being fettucine.

Opening up the monthly class, Cappello mixes history and practical kitchen knowledge in a lighthearted way that puts everyone in attendance at ease, asking where everyone was from, and following up with a surprised, “there are a lot of men here tonight.” One man quipped that they heard there would be food there.

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RED BANK: THE HEAT IS ON AT TEMPLE

temple spring roll1Hot, crunchy, spring rolls at Temple Gourmet. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

morsels smallSerious crunch found at dinner this week.

Temple Gourmet Chinese in Red Bank makes terrific spring rolls that are vegetarian friendly.

Dragging the spring roll through a bit of duck sauce and then dipping it into the mustard sauce, my daughter (a vegetarian) and I were surprised by the flavorful but strong mustard.

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