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RED BANK: BEER AND MORE AT BIRRAVINO

Customers enjoy pizza, salads, wine and beer on a breezy Sunday evening at Birravino’s new beer garden.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

Basil T’s Brew Pub was ahead of it’s time when it came to brewing beer in-house in New Jersey. Three years ago, Vic Rallo and partners rebranded the Red Bank restaurant and bar, naming it Birravino and giving it an updated industrial look. But they continued to brew their own beer.

The recent addition of an outdoor beer garden, built off to one side of the original structure, allows customers to wet their whistles under star-studded skies while chilling to the cool breezes coming off the Navesink River. PieHole stepped up to the window for one of the 10 local brews on tap before settling into a cherry-red Adirondack-style chair on the patio.
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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? ‘ALL IN’ IN SEA BRIGHT

Shrimp, arugula and capellini pasta at the newly opened GiGi’s New York Style Pizza and Restaurant. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

Admiring the new street lights installed as part of a streetscape makeover on Ocean Avenue in Sea Bright earlier this week, PieHole spied the equally new GiGi’s New York Style Pizza and Restaurant.

Located next door to Melonhead in a space that most recently housed the Black Swine restaurant, which moved to a larger spot a block away, Gigi’s turns out to be owned by familiar faces: chef Kenny Gambella and his wife, Kelly, who also own Sonny’s Sandwich Shop just down the street.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? PAZZO SANDWICHES

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.
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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? HOWLING GOOD PIZZA

012417lupo1A “Grandma” pie fresh from the oven at Lupo Pizzeria. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?A sign cut out in the shape of howling wolf hangs at the corner of the building that’s home to the brand-new Lupo Pizzeria in Fair Haven, named in honor of a great-grandmother whose last name means “wolf” in Italian.

So of course, feeling a bit like Red Riding Hood, PieHole had to try the “Grandma” pie.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? SALADS AND PIZZA

120616urbancoal4Personal-size pizzas from the oven at Urban Coalhouse in the Galleria. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?PieHole stopped in for lunch last week at Urban Coalhouse Pizza and Bar, the former Tommy’s Coal-Fired Pizza in the Galleria of Red Bank, one of four restaurants that owners Andrew Cameron, Chris and Matt Lombardi and Mike Centaro have up and running around New Jersey.

We were happy to find few if any changes to what we enjoyed about Tommy’s, including the fact that the menu still centers around an enormous, coal-fired, 900-degree oven used to producing the signature pizzas and wings.
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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? EUROPA GRILL TAPAS

111916europa3A hot sampler for two from the appetizer/tapas menu at Europa Grill. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?New to the Shrewsbury Village strip mall in Shrewsbury, Europa Grill fills in the storefront left empty by Rosina’s Ristorante. Like its predecessor, it serves Italian food, but that’s where the similarity ends.

Mediterranean-themed frescoes, including an attention-grabbing celestially painted ceiling, brighten the decor. Tables set with linens, comfortable seating, and friendly, helpful service add up to a more formal but lively atmosphere.
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CRAVINGS: SCAMPI PIE NOT A TRIVIAL MATTER

101816rubinoPieHole catches Jen Rubino pre-bite at Jamian’s Food and Drink. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

piehole_cravingsJamian’s Food and Drink gets testy on Tuesday nights as brainiacs and know-it-alls vie for points at a trivia contest that fills the Red Bank bar to capacity.

Jen Rubino, a 43-year-old borough resident and Italian teacher, has been showing up with her team from the beginning of the weekly showdown two years ago. Is it the camaraderie, the challenge — or maybe a craving for her favorite pizza that brings her out every week?
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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? LOBSTER CORN DOGS

101516b2bistro5A Lobster Corn Dog, served on a stick at B2 Bistro and Bar. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?PieHole doesn’t always plan in advance, so on more than one occasion, our desire for a bite and a drink at B2 Bistro and Bar on Shrewsbury Avenue didn’t work out.

The question of whether we had a reservation surprised us on one evening. We told the hostess that we were there for a cocktail and quick bite, but our lack of a reservation meant that even the empty high-top tables were not offered to us. Her blank stare told us we were expected to move on.
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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? BRUNCH, AT GAETANO’S

090316gaetanos6French toast garnished with fresh berries from the brunch menu at Gaetano’s. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?Taking a metaphorical broom to the cobwebs left behind in Tom Capello’s old restaurant, Louis Andrianos, the new owner of Gaetano’s on Wallace Street in Red Bank, leaves PieHole gobsmacked by the refreshing updates he’s instituting.

Gone are the stale Sinatra-era infused soundtrack and the granny-style oilcloth-covered tables, replaced with more contemporary stylings. The menu’s also been altered to include a daily brunch.
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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? BOLI KNOTS AND PASTA

082216mangia6‘Boli knots,’ or bite-sized strombolis, served with a side of marinara sauce at Mangia. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

WFL what's for lunch?Open just two weeks in the Shrewsbury shopping mall that’s home to Trader Joe’s, Mangia Brick Oven Pizza at first appears to be a tiny pizza joint squeezed into a small store front. In this case, looks are deceiving.

After scanning cases filled with several varieties of pizza, our eyes settle on a large, open kitchen with a massive brick oven before taking in the rustic barn wood-style tables and crafty decor. Not immediately apparent is a dining room with a lovely upscale vibe tucked to the right of the kitchen.

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SHREWSBURY: SWIMWEAR, PIZZA & MORE

sbury lilikoi 080916Lilikoi set up shop recently in a Broad Street storefront in the Franklin Commons strip mall. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

retail churn small

This edition of redbankgreen‘s Retail Churn takes a spin around Shrewsbury and finds — no surprise — that this retail-centric borough has no shortage of stores coming and going.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A LITTLE FRANCESE

060116palumbos8Chicken Francese served with a side salad and plenty of bread at Palumbo’s in Little Silver. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON
060116palumbos5Alongside the tracks of the Little Silver train station in a handsome, stone-facade strip mall with plenty of parking, Palumbo’s Pizza is more than its name implies.

Inside the Ayers Lane restaurant, you’ll first hear quiet strains of Italian background music, setting a tranquil, family friendly atmosphere. The staff behind the counter converses in Italian too. PieHole takes this as a sign to join some other customers in the dining room and make lunch a more leisurely affair.
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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? MR. PIZZA’S SLICE & DOG

050416mrpizza7An original-recipe pie fresh from the oven. Carlos Rosas tosses dough for a pizza, below. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

050416mrpizza10Self-styled devotees of Mr. Pizza Slice raised quite an uproar when redbankgreen reported the Red Bank stalwart was under new ownership and — heaven forbid — would be updating both the decor and menu.

The beloved Monmouth Street hole-in-the-wall on has now been refurbished with, among other touches, exposed brick walls that replace cheap paneling, giving the room a cozier feel than the laundromat vibe of its predecessor.

More importantly, new owners Nick Napoletano and Tom Cappello had a fantastic idea when they decided to keep a favorite menu item while bringing in plenty of new ones, including impressive sandwiches and gourmet, New York-style pies.
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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? HEALTHY, EARTHY PIZZA

031516earthpizza2The vegan, one of the many selections on the menu at Earth Pizza, below. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

031615earthpizza1When Paul and Lisa Finkler opened a Pizza Fusion franchise in Red Bank in 2010, they may not have foreseen the niche their restaurant would fill. But the Broad Street restaurant was an immediate draw, and soon customers were asking for more gluten-free and vegan dishes.

Three years ago, tired of the parent company’s rules on menu changes, the Finklers bought out their contract, redubbed the restaurant Earth Pizza and did as asked.
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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A SALVADORAN FEAST

030816fredyjeremy2Pollo Azado  with casamiento at Fredy Jeremy’s, seen below. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

030816fredyjeremyTucked into a nondescript, partly vacant strip mall next door to a car wash on Newman Springs Road in Red Bank, Fredy Jeremy’s is a delightful surprise.

Retaining the pizza and subs offered by the previous tenant, Red Bank resident Fredy Menjivar livens up his six-month-old restaurant with his scrumptious take on traditional  Salvadoran fare.

With plenty of Mexican food options in Red Bank, “there was no place to get Salvadoran food,” says the longtime former deli worker, who yearned to showcase the tastes and flavors of his culture.
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RED BANK: MR. PIZZA SLICE RETURNS

mr pizza 030316HOT-TOPIC_03After a two-month gut-job remodeling, Red Bank’s beloved Mr. Pizza Slice was back in business Thursday morning, according to a Twitter post by Red Bank RiverCenter. The fully renovated Monmouth Street mainstay features longtime owner Steve Napolitani‘s pizza recipe, as well as dishes by new owners Tom Cappello of Gaetano’s and Nick Napoletano of Whipped Bites.

Also expected to be back in business: the restaurant’s long-busted Ms. Pac-Man machine. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? SOBA SALAD IN THE GROVE

010916d'jeet1A pretty, noodle-based salad from the jam-packed D’jeet in The Grove.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

010916d'jeet6The apres-holiday crowd at the Grove in Shrewsbury must have been putting their gift cards to use, because the parking lot was crazy-busy.

It’s nice to treat yourself to a relaxing, sit-down lunch every now and then, especially on the weekend. And apparently, many other people in the area had the same idea shortly after New Year’s, because D’jeet was packed with diners fueling up for an afternoon of serious shopping.

Our hostess handed us a buzzer and suggested we do a little shopping while we wait for the next available table.
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RED BANK: MR. PIZZA SLICE TO KEEP RECIPE

010916pizzaslice1Nick Napoletano shows one of the windows discovered beneath the paneling at Mr. Pizza Slice. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

HOT-TOPIC_03After getting pounded flat and spun in the air by commenters, the new owners of Mr. Pizza Slice in Red Bank have reversed course and decided to keep the old pizza recipe on the menu.

As the cheesy paneling came down inside the Monmouth Street slice-and-soda joint earlier this week, new co-owner Nick Napoletano told PieHole that longtime owner Steve Napolitani‘s pizza recipe would be preserved, along with his “signature” fries and hot dogs.

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RED BANK: MR. PIZZA SOLD; SICILIA CLOSES

mr. pizza slice 010116Two downtown restaurateurs have acquired Mr. Pizza Slice on Monmouth Street. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

retail churn smallA non-nonsense staple from the days before Red Bank became flooded with chic eateries, Mr. Pizza Slice has changed hands for the second time in two years.

This time, the buyers are the owners of two downtown restaurants. They closed the pizzeria last week for what they expect will be a month or so of interior and exterior renovations, one of them told redbankgreen’s Retail Churn Monday.

Also closed last week: Sicilia Cafe, on Broad Street, which was acquired by first-time restaurateurs just six months ago.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? BIG MENU AT TOMMY’S

101715tommystavern3A Hickory-Bacon Burger and an order of oven-roasted wings at Tommy’s Tavern + Tap in Sea Bright. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

101715tommystavern2Trying to enter Tommy’s Tavern + Tap in Sea Bright last Saturday was a challenge.

Pushing an empty stroller out the door, a woman sporting a Gucci diaper bag on her shoulder heard a screech from her toddler. At issue: a cup of lollipops spied on the hostess desk.

Stroller, Mom, Dad and child — now clutching a fistful of pops —  finally made their way out the door, and we entered to see that the place was packed. Tables, bar stools—  all taken, but a raised booth against the far wall that could have fit a party of six was available.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A RETURN TO YESTERDAY

092615brothers3A pizza burger from The Brother’s Restaurant, with its disco-lit dining room below. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON
092615brothers5

We hadn’t been back to Brother’s Restaurant in years. A town institution at the corner of West Front Street and Morford Place in Red Bank, it’s a throwback that’s perhaps taken for granted because it’s always been there.

That is, until it’s not there.

Back in January, the 100-plus-year-old building had a flood from a burst pipe, and leading to extensive repair work that shut the place down for a few months. For many in the Greater Red Bank Green, that was a blow, because this bar and pizzeria is the family restaurant that was the meeting place after a big game or dance recital. It’s nostalgic. So it was time for PieHole to stop by and see what if anything had changes since we last visited.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? CALZONE AT OLIVIA’S

081915olivias3Prima calzone from Olivia’s Trattoria in Little Silver, with alfresco seating, below. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

081915olivias1The phone is buzzing, a waitress is taking orders, and the door opens and closes more times than we can count while we wait for our lunch at Olivia’s Trattoria.

A tiny gem of a restaurant tucked into the corner of the A&P shopping center on Prospect Avenue, it’s the best kept secret in Little Silver, a customer tells us, while another eating an enormous sub asks us not to write about it.

Sorry folks, PieHole is spilling the beans. Owners Giovanni and Dawn Sommers have a good thing going here.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? GAETANO’S MAKES IT EASY

073015gaetanos2A sizable eggplant parmigiana sandwich on foccacia bread served in the open-kitchen dining room at Gaetano’s. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

073015gaetanos1When your day is filled with decisions and you get to that point where all you’re craving is a simple, easy, and effortless lunch, Gaetano’s on Wallace Street in Red Bank is a breath of stress-free fresh air.

Owner Tom Capello’s style of cuisine is what he calls regional Italian, offering familiar dishes and large portions. Oilcloth-covered tables, tile floors, and a kitchen open to the dining room in customary trattoria fashion keep the restaurant casual and comfortable. That homey sense of eating in someones kitchen comes to mind —if that kitchen happened to have an enormous pizza oven dominating the room.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? MEETUP AT DELFINI

071715delfinis3A Buffalo shrimp salad from Delfini, above. The Big Lou sandwich shown, below. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

071715delfinis6Keeping lunch hour social, PieHole joined Red Bank Lunch Meet at Delfini Gourmet Catering, at the corner of West Front Street and Bridge Avenue in Red Bank, on a recent outing.

What’s Lunch Meet? Created by borough resident and redbankgreen webmaster Kenny Katzgrau, it’s a loose assemblage of epicures in which any member can suggest a get-together, whether it be for lunch, happy hour or dinner. It’s all coordinated through the group’s Facebook page.

This meetup was called by another Red Banker, Tom Musumeci. No one attending had eaten at Delfini before, but everyone came away impressed by the fresh ingredients and array of choices.

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SEA BRIGHT: TOMMY’S DOUBLES DOWN

tommy's tavern 062315Tommy and Yvette Bonfiglio, below, expect to open Tommy’s Tavern + Tap on Ocean Avenue within the next month. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

bonfiglio 062315When Tommy Bonfiglio first toured the property that was long the home of Sea Bright’s post office, he was so fixated on an idea that he barely noticed the building at all.

“I only wanted the land,” on which he envisioned putting up an 18-room hotel and restaurant overlooking the Shrewsbury River, Bonfiglio told redbankgreen on Wednesday. Because of that tunnel vision, he never even stepped inside the two-story building fronting on Ocean Avenue, which he expected to tear down because of damage from Hurricane Sandy.

But when he realized he’d have to run a gauntlet of environmental permitting that could take years, he decided to examine the building out front. What he found shocked him.

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