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RED BANK: BREWERY PLAN UP IN THE AIR

The building, formerly home to Fameabilia store, has been vacant since October, 2008. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

The fate of a microbrewery proposed for a long-vacant storefront in downtown Red Bank appeared cloudy Thursday night.

The hangup? The two floors of apartments the landlord wants to add to the one-story building.

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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? TUSCAN OPULENCE

Tortelloni and house-made sausage from Buona Sera’s lunch menu. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

On a warmer-than-expected spring day, the flung-open doors of Buona Sera Italian Ristorante in Red Bank offer a welcoming sight.

At night the restaurant, at the corner of Maple Avenue and Monmouth Street, can be crowded with party-goers and dates trying to impress, but lunchtime is a different, quieter scene.
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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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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? ITALIAN BRILLIANCE

040516lapastaria3Pumpkin-filled ravioli is one of the lunchtime specials at La Pastaria, seen below.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

040516pastariainteriorGo to Red Bank’s La Pastaria on Linden Place in the evening, and you’ll probably be waiting a while, even if you have a reservation.

As a humanitarian gesture, PieHole feeds you this little pearl of wisdom: hit this restaurant for lunch. The afternoon is a more laid-back affair, with attentive service and a menu full of familiar Italian fare that includes some enticing daily specials.

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LINCROFT: ALEO’S MOVEABLE FEAST

121215aleo3The helpful employees at Aleo Italian Specialties get customer orders out quickly. Below, some of the many gourmet takeout options.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

121215aleo4Stepping into Aleo Italian Specialties in the Acme shopping center on Newman Springs Road in Lincroft, PieHole was immediately hit with a feeling of deja vu.

The aroma of cheese and garlic surrounds you, calling to mind Arthur Avenue, the famous Little Italy shopping area in the Bronx. Then there’s the sight of food — everywhere. Hanging salami and cheese; shelves filled with rustic fresh breads from Brooklyn; imported dry pasta; and deli counters teeming with house-made delicacies. Your mouth waters and you forget what you came in for.

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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: 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: 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: CHOWING DOWN AT THE COUNT

Bloody Marys, ribs, wine, doughnuts, bourbon, coffee: Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre had all that and more for hundreds of eaters and drinkers this weekend. Its four-day Appetite festival included a live pasta throwdown between restaurateur Victor Rallo and Mayor Pasquale Menna on Saturday night. Rallo won the cooking contest to see who could make the better dish in 30 minutes, but it was close, requiring a tiebreaking vote. (Photos by Peter Lindner, except for Rallo-Menna.)

WHAT TO DO THIS WEEKEND? SO MUCH CHOICE

rb street fair 041413The Red Bank Street Fair late summer edition returns Sunday. The Count Basie Theatre, below, is home to a weekend-long food extravaganza called ‘Appetite.’ (Click to enlarge)

Friday, September 6:

basie marquee 1 090213MIDDLETOWN: The first and third Friday’s of the month mean Teen Art Club at the Middletown Public Library. This twice-monthly teen-led art session requires few tools: a drawing pad and pencil. Teen Art Club begins at 4 p.m. 55 New Monmouth Road.

RED BANK: The Count Basie 365 Cultural Series presents some cool Friday night jazz  to cool down the summer heat in the pocket park at Shrewsbury Avenue and Drs. James Parker Boulevard. The concert begins at 7 p.m.

SANDY HOOK: Celebrate the end of summer as the Sandy Hook Foundation presents local caterers, live music and auction items at the End of Summer Party. Proceeds benefit the restoration, maintenance, and education projects of the National Park Service. The farewell to summer runs from 6:30 to 11:30 p.m. Sandy Hook North Beach.

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FOODFEST TO SERVE UP A PASTA SMACKDOWN

Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna, seen above at a 2007 primary school function featuring his cooking, faces restaurateur Victor Rallo, below, in a stovetop showdown at the Basie next Saturday.  (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

One’s a municipal chief executive with a “total amateur’s” love of cooking – though he does have a chef’s smock with his name embroidered on the breast.

The other’s a serial restaurateur and wine expert who hosts a TV food show set in lush Italian locales.

The premise: a pasta smackdown cooking event pitting Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna against Victor Rallo, owner of Basil T’s in Red Bank, Undici Taverna Rustica in Rumson – and newsboy-cap wearing star of ‘Eat! Drink! Italy‘ on public TV.

The Saturday-night faceoff, on the stage of the venerable Count Basie Theatre, is one of the highlights of a four-day food smorgasbord – dubbed Appetite – that also features wine tastings, Scotch and bourbon swilling, a bevy of food trucks, screenings of food-themed movies and more.

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