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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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? 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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RED BANK: HEAPS OF AUTHENTICITY

060414 trattoria3The Mediterranean Platter, a dependable classic on the Front Street Trattoria menu. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

042115 trattorianWhat key elements are crucial to keeping a restaurant current for 30 years? If we’re referring to the Front Street Trattoria in Red Bank, it would have to be the consistently prepared fresh ingredients.

With an exposed brick wall on one side and floor-to-ceiling windows framing an ever moving backdrop of foot-traffic outside, the often busy main dining room is unpretentious and cozy. An open kitchen area lines another wall, giving the diner plenty to peer at.  Alternatively, there is another more private dining room and a wide open back patio for seating. But the decor isn’t why this restaurant is packed with regulars on any given evening: it’s the food.

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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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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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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? 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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WORKING ON A SECOND DREAM, PLUS PIZZA

vincent-sorrisoSicilia owner Vincent Sorriso with custom tiles that depict the seascape of his native Sicily. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Vincent Sorriso says he and his family are fulfilling dream No. 2.

For nearly a decade, the 30-year-old Sorriso and his parents have operated two of the Saladworks franchises, one in the Monmouth Mall and the other on Broad Street in Red Bank. But he says they’ve always longed to replicate what they had done years before, in their home country of Italy, and run a family-owned restaurant.

Within weeks, Sorriso says they will.

The family bought out the struggling Broad Street Filling Station last month and is renovating the space so the newest venture, Sicilia Cafe, will be ready to go by end of August.

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