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Nov 20, 2007 05:20 PM

Isabella's - Asbury Park

The DW and I had the opportunity to run out this evening for a quick dinner. We decided to drive into AP and see what was open on this slow night. We parked on Cookman and focused on either Plan B or Isabella's. Neither were very busy this evening so we decided to jump at the first one with the most appetizing menu. To be honest neither did it for us so we choose Isabella's as several friends had recommended the restaurant in the past. The room is pretty nondescript. I found it quite odd, that but for an interesting color scheme, there was no design to the space. In fact I do not recall any wall coverings or pictures in the entire room. There were no table coverings either instead each place setting sat atop place mats which contained errant splatters of tomato sauce (not a good sign). Hoping the food was good we decided to proceed with ordering our meal. While I rarely eat pasta (I pretty much eschew the white stuff due to my low carb diet), my DW and I decided to give them a try as they were recommended highly by our server. We started with a split of their beet salad with mixed greens, walnuts and blue cheese. A pretty common offerings at restaurants these days and a fine way to gauge this kitchen. While not bad the salad wasn't anything special. While the beets were not canned, they really had very little beet flavor. The greens were pretty fresh and the vinagrette dressing was okay but we found very little blue cheese and the walnuts (usually candied in such a preparation) were dry flavorless and burnt (probably from roasting them in a pan of some sort). An inauspicious start if you ask me. Again, due to our server's recommendation, my DW ordered the cappelini with crab meat and escarole in an olive garlic sauce while I ordered the linguini with mussels, clams and shrimp in a light marinara sauce which I asked to made spicy. After placing our order I inquired whether the pasta was fresh. I was advised that it was dry (not in itself bad) but brought in. Now, neither of the pasta dishes were bad, in fact my pasta was a nice al dente and the sauce was cooked spicy to my specifications. The problem however with both dishes was the fact that had you not known you had ordered pasta you would have thought by looking at the dishes that both were soup. There was so much watery sauce in the bowl, the pasta was swimming in it. I don't know about you but I prefer my sauce less watery and lightly coating the pasta. I almost had the nerve to ask for a soup spoon with my dish. Although we dutifully ate our meals and left, I seriously doubt we will return. BTW, the cost of the shared salad and two entrees was $62 excluding gratuity. Thanks for reading and be well.

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  1. Why does that happen so often to me too? They don't have 20 seconds to drain it? that is a definite turn off and I would not return either. In fact, I get pasta so often that I will cross them off my list.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Barbarella

      Thanks Barb. Happy to know I'm not alone with that pet peeve. Sadly, if they had drained it from the bowl, the pasta would have no flavor as the sauce was so watery. It was literally a soup with the liquid filling three-quarters of both bowls. I have to admit that I don't see what everyone is talking about with this restaurant. On prior visits to AP this place is usually packed. Am I missing something here?

    2. I've never tried Isabella's and am in no rush to get over there, been to a hundred places like it before. But I am curious which of the new cookman additions you are fond of. I love the apps and cocktails at Market but have never been impressed with any of her entrees. Ole has slipped a little for me but I really want to try Vivas, Ricos old partner, Will's place. I still standby Moonstruck as well what those two did to start in the small storefront Raz cafe to what they have now is a true restaurant success story. Its diffucult to survive let alone succeed in this business.

      Keep posting I enjoy your reviews!

      5 Replies
      1. re: AC Captain

        Thanks AC. I like Taka and Sister Sues. Market is decent if you order correctly. My review is around her somewhere. I'm not a big fan of Old Man Rafferty's, Brickwall or Bistro Ole. Good Luck.

        1. re: AC Captain

          I have tried out Vivas and I would definitely stick with Ole. The food was good, but not as great as Ole's. Also the atmosphere is lacking at Vivas.

          As for Isabella's, I wish I had read this review before trying it out this weekend. Our salad was covered in olive oil and tasted as if it didn't have any acid or other seasonings to at all. I ordered the shrimp which was to be served on a bed of sautéed spinach and covered in proscutto. This was all correct, but what wasn't revealed in the menu was that the spinach is on top of a mountain of mashed potatoes. I quickly learned that shrimp and mashed potatoes is not a combination I would ever repeat. My husband ordered the pork tenderloin wrapped in pancetta. His meal also did not turn out as expected. The cut was not the tenderloin or anything we could actually identify. My husband said it reminded him of a fake rib sandwich (e.g. "McRib Sandwich"). Also, I noticed that it was clearly not wrapped in pancetta (since pancetta has a round shape it is easy to spot), but rather it was wrapped in bacon. To top it off the hostess had a screaming match with the chef in the middle of our dinner and stormed out and our waiter spent most of the evening playing solitaire on the hostess' computer. While I am big supporter of Cookman Ave., I definitely would not return to Isabella's.

          1. re: njhound

            njhound - I had the opposite experience enjoying my recent trip to Vivas more then my prior one at Ole. As far as Isabella's, I seem to recall someone playing on the computer as well (granted the restaurant was pretty empty when we left - although not an excuse).

            1. re: bgut1

              Agree on Vivas as it is what Bistro Ole use to be ...

            2. re: njhound

              I hestitate to post this review of Isabellas because of the previous negative ones, but I was there last evening with a group of eight and had a very good meal. I had the mixed greens with calamari and Shrimp Isabella. Both were very good. The Shrimp came with crisp asparagus and risotto. BUT, we probably won't go back because of the extremely high noise level. Our group had to scream across the table to have a conversation. The place was packed and they seemed to have squeezed a table into every available spae The staff added to the noise by their loud and frantic rushing around.

          2. My husband and I went to Isabella's when it first opened. It was okay. I ordered the same dish, crabmeat, capellini, etc. I do not remember it swimming in broth, though. I absolutely detest that also. I like a broth type sauce when it is supposed to be that way, however, the pasta should not be drowning in it. And I like my pasta al dente.