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Oct 1, 2006 01:39 PM

Gaetano's Red Bank

I went to Gaetano's last night based on some recs on this site. We had a 7:00 reservation for 4 and were not seated until after 8:00. I do realize that running a restaurant reservation book can be a tricky thing, you need to maximize your tables and need to account for possible cancelled reservations, but an hour wait is ridiculous. There were at least 4 other parties that were in the same boat- 7:00 reservation, and still waiting outside at 8:00. Clientele was definitely frustrated, and I overheard numerous complaints. We got a mild apology when seated, and nothing was offered to make amends (cheap bottle of wine, complementary dessert, whatever. It would have been an appropriate gesture in my opinion).

Anyway, on to the food. I do have to say it was pretty good. Crusty bread was brought to the table warm and served with extra virgin olive oil. The grilled calamari appetizer was about 10 baby squid cones, tender as could be, served in a spicy broth with roasted peppers. Fresh mozz and green tomato salad was solid. The eggplant rollatini was sliced thin and was a good combination of cheese and sauce. Particularly good were the artichoke hearts stuffed with breadcrumb and chopped lobster, shrimp, and crab. It was served in a garlic cream sauce that made for good bread dunking.

Entrees were 3 seafood pastas, 2 spicy, one with shrimp and scungilli, the other with a little more variety. Linguine with clams looked good (looked like more than a dozen to me), though i did not taste it. Pasta was cooked al dente which is always a plus. My wife had a baby greens salad, which was good, not outstanding, and the grilled asparagus which was excellent- thin spears with just a bit of crunch served in a balsamic sauce with melted fontina. \

We had biscotti for dessert, which were just ok. They were soft, not the hard crunchy kind good for dipping in your espresso.

I would want to go back for the chow, but that wait situation really made me angry, and I just might cut off my nose to spite my face. Has anyone else had a similar experience with reservations here or was it just an off night?

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  1. Oops - forgot one dish. We also tried the beef braciole, which was pull-apart tender. The meat itself was really tasty, and the wine-reduction sauce was good (though I thought it could have used a little bit more for dipping the meat in the center of the roll). It was served over green pea risotto which was a touch overcooked and somewhat bland. Again, more sauce would have masked the lack of flavor.

    1. I haven't been to Gaetanos in quite awhile. I do remember I liked the beef braciole enought to order it several times. I agree that it needs more sauce. I don't like the pea risotto and always requested that they substitute a side of vegetables.

      My husband loves the cannolis they serve there.

      1. My other half and I finally dined here last Friday night. We had an 8pm reservation and only had to wait about 5 minutes until we were shown inside. Here is my "review" which was originally posted on my blog

        If you’re looking for tasty casual Italian cuisine, then Gaetano’s is for you.

        Before we were seated, we were first shown some of the available specials that were on display. They all looked very good. We were very impressed with the black fettuccine with swordfish and cockle clams, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen black fettuccine on a menu at any restaurant I’ve ever been to.

        The only disappointment for me was the inability to order Sangria by the glass. They only sell wine by the bottle or you can bring your own. I couldn’t justify buying a whole bottle as I’m not that big of a wine drinker nor is my other half.

        Our first appetizer choice, Calamari Calabrese, was not available, so we went with the traditional fried calamari. No biggie. Either way we were set on having squid, so we were just glad to have at least one squid option available to us. The spicy Mediterranean Caponata sauce that comes with the calabrese version sounded really good, though. So I guess we’ll just have to go back and try that another time.

        I chose their signature dish Lamb Osso Buco as my entree. It took a while to prepare, as the server warned me, but I was patient. Good things come to those who wait, right? In this case, yes! The lamb was succulent and tender while the pappardella pasta was right on. Together it was a hearty, satisfying dish and worth the $24.95. It was a lot of food so I needed a box. It will be a great lunch tomorrow.

        He ordered the stuffed flounder special. Stuffed with all the seafood he loves - lobster, shrimp, scallops, and crab meat - it was a hit! He noted the crispy potato “cake” that came with it was also very good.

        It was a lot of food, so we could not even think about dessert. I’m sure they are wonderful, though.

        In summary, we enjoyed our first dining experience at Gaetano’s and will definitely go back some time.

        10 Wallace St, Red Bank, NJ 07701

        10 Replies
        1. re: DJMarilyn

          Thanks for the notes. I haven't been to Gaetanos in quite a while. Perhaps we'll go back.

          1. re: DJMarilyn

            Thanks for the report, Marilyn. We've always like the food there though we haven't been there in quite some time. I've read reports that things have gone somewhat downhill; therefore, I'm glad to hear the food quality has not deteriorated.

            One thing puzzles me. It seems odd that it would take extra-long to have the osso buco. After all, unlike sauteed veal, which needs to be prepared just prior to being served, osso buco is braised and can be prepared hours earlier. In fact, a long braising process tenderizes the veal and helps impart flavor.

            1. re: RGR

              I had the lamb osso buco, I don't know if that makes a difference. In any case, we had a decent enough experience to put it on our list of places to try again.

              1. re: RGR

                RGR, I was wondering the same thing about the osso buco.

                Since it's a braised dish, it needs to be cooked ahead of time, not after it's been ordered. You can't produce something like that from scratch on demand...

                Maybe they had a new batch that wasn't quite ready yet. :D

                1. re: joonjoon

                  And DJMarilyn says it was lamb, which, from my experience, takes even longer to braise to falling-off-the bone soft consistency than veal. To quote the late, great Yul Brynner, "'Tis a puzzlement!"

                  1. re: RGR

                    I'm not sure why they needed more time, it is puzzling. However, it was damn good when I got it. We were in no hurry, so I was cool with it. They provided us with more bread so I had something to snack on while waiting - which wasn't all night, maybe 20-25 minutes tops. I dunno, I wasn't keeping track of time. Again, the end result was delicious.

                    1. re: DJMarilyn

                      In their favor, they did warn you there would be a wait. Since you didn't mind, and the dish turned out to be delish, it was worth waiting for.

                      1. re: RGR

                        Indeed, as was intimated in my report, no real complaints really. We'll go back sometime. :)

              2. re: DJMarilyn

                I'm glad that Marilyn had a good first experience at Gaetano's. Our first experience years ago was just like that, unfortunately we've been trying to replicate that night the past 4 or 5 times we've been there.

                This past Saturday we arrived at a predictably busy 7PM. Menus were given and drink orders were taken. My wife and I got the pitcher of sangria while our daughter had just water. I only mention the water because while it took way too long to get the sangria to the table, the water wasn't delivered until after the appetizers arrived. The sangria was acceptable, not a lot of fruit which I would have preferred, just some citrus slices.

                Appetizers were zucchini flowers, rare tuna salad, and an octopus salad. A non-menu request for clams on the half shell was denied. I'll admit this annoyed me, but I don't think it would have changed much in my mind or palate. The zucchini flowers had potential as the first one I dug into had a nice amount of batter that allowed the freshness of the flower to shine through. The other two on the plate were battered way too heavily and we were left with a gummy mess. The tuna was good, seared rare and served over greens. The baby octopus were, to quote Paulie in "The Pope of Greenwich Village", tough as bleepin shoe leather. Since I couldn't have my clams, I was looking forward to the octopus. These weren't just a little tough these were all the way tough.

                Mains - I had the 22oz. pork chop special. Another downer as the pork was tough, which was maybe not the restaurant's fault. What was certainly their fault was a lack of nice char on the chop. The young lady had the special ravioli as an entree described on their menu as: Filled with sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, arugula, ricotta cheese, and Italian herbs in a roasted garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese sauce. The verdict from all three of us was way too much garlic. This from the young lady who worships at the altar of garlic and begs for aglio e olio on a weekly basis. My wife blames her food issues on me, btw. My wife had the margherita pizza, unfortunately this was botched as well. The bottom of the crust was cooked ok, but the top half of the pizza was not cooked through. It tasted like no salt mozzarella was used, so there was a definite lack of flavor to go with the gummy crust.

                Now this was prime time on a Saturday, the place was buzzing so maybe that's why they missed the mark so badly. However, in my mind there's no excuse. This place has been open for years, we all know what Red Bank is like on a Saturday night; at some point you should be able to get it right. Like I said, our first experience at Gaetano's was wonderful, we kept going back wanting it to be that way again.

                1. re: TomT

                  Thanks for the review, Tom. As I said in my initial post, I've read reports that the food had gone downhill. Your review supports those while Marilyn's experience did not. The only conclusion one can reach is that the quality of the food at Gaetano's is wildly inconsistent. And I agree with you that it being a Saturday night is no excuse.