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Best Italian Food in Monmouth County

Can anyone suggest a good Italian restaurant in Monmouth County that is not too pretentious or expensive? I haven't yet found one I like.

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  1. Try Posillipos in Asbury Park. All pasta is made on the premisies and a nice selection of well prepared Italian dishes.

    1. Hey, lion 97,

      Welcome to Chowhound!

      It would be helpful to know which places you have already been to that you didn't like. Not that there are so many good ones to choose from. lol To the contrary, despite the fact that we are overrun with Italian restaurants, finding one that is first-rate is like looking for the proverbial needle....

      2 Replies
      1. re: RGR

        Thanks, RGR! I've been to the family-style restaurants (and hated them!), as well as Ponte Vecchio, Christie's, Buone Sera, Jimmy's, etc. I just haven't found one that is good-old, homemade, casual Italian. I'd appreciate any suggestions...

        1. re: lion97

          From those you've mentioned, the only one we've been to is Christie's, and I was not impressed.

          Our favorite Monmouth County Italian is SamVera, in Marlboro, which serves a traditional menu + specials. I've always found the food to be solidly prepared and very tasty. Service has always been efficient, and the dining room has attractive decor. Prices are on the higher end of moderate. Note that it's been quite a while since we were last there, so I hope my positive experiences with the food are still valid.

          Interesting to see Bossa_Nova's suggestion of Posillipo's. For me, a blast from the distant past. It's been literally decades since we were there. Back then, the food was excellent, so if they have been able to maintain that level, it's worth checking out. They offer live entertainment -- opera and show tunes -- on Wednesday evenings.


      2. In last Saturday's New Jersey section of the New York Times, La Dolce Vita (in Belmar) got a rating of "Good." See http://tinyurl.com/La-Dolce-Vita

        1. Still going to Brioso's every week. It's our favorite. Food is excellent! It's a BYOB so the bill is always reasonable.
          If you do go, their stuffed artichoke is a winner.

          5 Replies
              1. re: HillJ

                I've heard mixed reviews about Briosos.

                1. re: shesallthat

                  Me too. Last time my family & I were there tho we were really satisfied. Pink's recommendation is a solid one, re: stuffed artichokes.

                  1. re: HillJ

                    Oh yes, I've heard some dreadful reviews of Brioso's right from this board. We all can't agree on everything.

          1. Am I the only one who finds it ironic that Monmouth county is literally swimming in red sauce but we can't agree on who is on top.

            Personally I like Sam Vera, Tuzzios, and Frankie Feds. I used to go to Posillipos often and always liked it so if they are still going strong, more power to them.

            1 Reply
            1. re: seal

              Not at all (ironic that is). If we all agreed food-life would be boring!

              One bad meal does not mean a bad restaurant. Depending on mood/local/$...dh & I would give a restaurant a fair number of chances before never returning. And, some restaurants "do" one dish really well but leave us flat overall..we'll still return for that one "to die for" dish.
              Happy eating!

            2. I have to agree with RGR, she recomended Sam Vera for an anniversary with a 3 year old and 1 year old for an early dinner. Great ambiance and solid food. It was BYOB when I went but I think that has changed.

              I have to disagree on Brioso. As a former Staten Islander, (Please don’t hold that against me, I swear I am one of you now) I was excited to learn that they were in Marlboro as the original is on New Dorp Lane in S.I. We went one night with another couple who was anxious to show us good Italian food in our Backyard. I was very disappointed. Thought it was just OK. We went around 8:30 and they had an Antipasto Bar and it was decimated. There was barley anything left. It was messy and unappetizing to look at. I think that just set the tone for my meal. Maybe I should give it another chance.

              Also, Pauline's on route 34 near the Old Bridge/Matawan Border is very good. Specifically the home made fresh whole wheat fettuccini and Black ink pasta. Not at all pretentious but a little expensive for a BYOB. Even better if you get to experience Pauline, a quintessential Italian Grandmother.

              10 Replies
              1. re: angelo04

                I won't hold it against you, angelo04..Sam Vera is good but not my favorite. My true fav isn't in monmouth county but in union county.
                Keep those rec's coming!

                1. re: angelo04

                  I find the local Italian food to be so mediocre and uninspiring that lately I choose not to eat "Italian" when going out for dinner. However, If I was so inclined, I would try Tuzzio's as Seal suggests, Jimmy's, and Piccola Italia.

                  1. re: bgut1

                    I have been meaning to try Piccola too. I agree with both you, Italian food is just mediocre in NJ, except for my kitchen! Maybe I should open it up and start charging!

                    1. re: angelo04

                      Not planning to go back to Sam Vera. They are done in my book. For years I've been going there and we always thought it was ok to good, nothing great. But we liked the owner and the service and kept giving it another chance. Went back in May and we're finally convinced...no more. The stuffed calamari special was inedible. Sadly, all four of us agreed that it's just not worth it anymore.
                      So unless they get a new chef, we're not returning.

                    2. re: bgut1

                      Have to agree with you on this. I guess that is why I travel to Staten Island when I want good Italian food.

                    3. re: angelo04

                      We use to go to Brioso in Marlboro in the 90's when we lived in East Brunswick and it was great. It more less fell off our RADAR screen since we moved to Wall. In the past few years we visited Brisos on New Dorp lane a few times and it was great. We have been thinking about going over to Marlboro recently. But, based on your report I guess we will re think this.

                      Also, we went to Paulines many times in the 80's and 90's and it was great as well. What amazes me is how much we think alike on many of these Italian restaurants. We just vistited Panarea on Page Ave. two weeks ago.
                      Have you been there? If not you must try it...

                      1. re: JerzeyShore

                        Have not been to Panarea but thanks for the Rec. I still have family there, our last family dinner out over there was at Marina Cafe, against my will and rightly so, it was dreadful and way over priced. I'll suggest that next time we are over there. IMHO, there are 4 places worth going to. Carol's Cafe, Angelina's (who also has a new place in Totenville, La Strada, (Whom the owner lives in Monmouth/Middlesex county area, intorduced us to Paulines and says it is the only Italian place he eats at in our area) and La Candela.

                        While there is less quality selection on this side of the bridge, I do like the fact that so many are BYOB.

                        1. re: angelo04

                          Do you have any details for Angelina's in Totenville? Also where is La Candela in Jersey?

                          1. re: JerzeyShore

                            Jerzey - Sorry for not repsonding sooner. Can't find anything on Angelina's other than this article and her website doesn't mention the new place. I think it is in that part of tottenville that is also accesbile by boat. http://www.silive.com/entertainment/d...

                            La Candela - Is on Amboy Road in Great Kills

                            1. re: angelo04

                              Angelo, thanks much for your follow-up.

                    4. I personally like Fratello's in downtown Sea Girt. The food is very good,and very inventive. Great specials every night.

                      1. Agree with many others comments in that it is becoming near impossible to get good Italian at restaurants anymore, its a shame.

                        I used to really like Tuzzio's in Long Branch and Perrone's in East Brunswick but both have gone a bit downhill. Tuzzio's isnt nearly what it used to be, rather hit Tony's next door for a pizza.

                        Gaetano's Ive come to like in Red Bank but the last couple visits were not great and the service was completely horrible. Very immature wait staff and the manager is a miserable overseer of the group. Oh well, will try again Im sure.

                        1. Anybody ever try Mr. C's? I think it's at or near a beach club, not 100% sure what town, maybe Allenhurst?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: angelo04

                            Mr. C's is in Allenhurst in the old Allenhurst Beach Club, on the beach. Great view from the bar and I'd highly recommend at least a drink if not dinner from that location. Food can be good, depending on what you order, but the service can be sloppy and the dining room is a little loud and crowded.... depends on what makes you comfortable. Overall, we like it enough to go back once in a while, but not in a big rush, either.

                            HOWEVER, I'm not so sure I'd include Mr. C's in any discussion of Italian restaurants in Mon. County, good or bad, though there are several Italian-style dishes on the menu.

                          2. I think the problem with Italian restaurants nowadays is their need to cut costs. And thus the need to cut quality. Realistically, how much is the average diner willing to pay for a pasta dish? Can the restaurant afford to have available several kinds of fresh homemade pasta every day? Do they even own a pasta maker? And what about all the sauce varieties made daily? Where will they get high quality tomatoes off season and at what cost? Do they resort to canned tomatoes? Have they stopped making their own sausage? Butcher their own beef?
                            So, I dont entirely blame restaurants for the condition they are in. It's a combination of economics, laziness, change in tastes and eating habits, growth of Olive Garden and our own apathy.
                            However, I would add Anjelica's, Mike & Nellie's and Tavolo to the list of better-ish Italian in Monmouth County.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: tom porc

                              IMHO, you don't always need fresh pasta and fresh peak of the season tomatoes. There is never an excuse for not using quality ingredients. My sauce made from canned san marzzano tomatoes will beat the pants off of 90% of these alleged Italian Restaurants. I agree with you on the laziness factor and personally put more of the blame there.

                              What's funny to me is with all of these mediocre places, you would think there would be more quality places just due to competition but here I blame the non-chowhounders who are willing to accept mediocrity.

                              1. re: tom porc

                                What is good at Mike & Nellie's? I drive by often, but have never eaten there.

                                  1. re: Barbarella

                                    IMHO: nothing is good, service is lousy, don't bother

                                    1. re: Barbarella

                                      Our favorites at Mike and Nellie's are the francese dishes. They have chicken, veal and flounder varieties. When my buddy from Florida visits he always makes it a point to stop in and order the chicken francese. It's also a BYOB and the prices are reasonable.

                                  2. Hi
                                    I am new to this site...so sorry for my late reply to you. I agree w/ RGR--Sam VEra is very good..good service, nice atmosphere,good quality food and the prices, while not cheap, they are not over the top. San Remo in Redbank is pretty good too, though its been awhile since we have been there... Not impressed at all w/Undici in Rumson --just don't know what all the fuss is about. goodluck

                                    12 Replies
                                    1. re: queenlinda

                                      Try Citrico's on Main Street in Bradley Beach...This little gem serves delicious italian food ...i don't know if they still offer it, but they have a great Price Fixe Taste of Italy Dinner on one of the weeknite's- Great Veal dishes, lamb and seafood

                                      It's very authentic and greeat service and atmosphere- Only gripe is that they charge xtra for side pasta with entrees- but that is easily overlooked considering the great meals I have had there

                                      1. re: paulispumonti

                                        For rustic Italian, Ive enjoyed Anna Italian Kitchen in Middletown. Care is taken in using fresh, and fine quality ingredients. As for Sam Vera, I was disappointed. Ordered the fish specail and it was literally inedible. Way too many bones. I yearn back for the old days of Reginas on 35 in Middletown, and one of my old favorites was Alphonso's in Point Pleasant

                                        1. re: foodislove1958

                                          Alphonso's in Point Pleasant brings back some fond memories. When we lived down the shore Alphonso's was our "go to" restaurant every week or so.
                                          Really dating myself as we started going there in 1975. Great rustic homemade Italian, very friendly atmosphere.
                                          Only problem was the long wait if you went prime time.

                                          1. re: tom246

                                            Alphonso's brings back some great memories-I recall it being in a big old house, and the veal parm has never been equaled.....My parents would take me there as a kid, and then we would head over to Carl's Auction to bid on junk!!!!

                                            Other old favorite Italian restaurants included Bella Vista in Long Branch, also in an old mansion....Richies system's in Asbury Park ( stupid name but great food) ...and the Attilio's in the strip mall on Highway 35 in Ocean where Wegman's is now. Attilio's was so deceiving...a strip mall pizza parlor in the front, but in the back was a dining room serving incredible italian dishes- best Scarpiello ever

                                            1. re: paulispumonti

                                              Heheh Ditto on the Veal at Alphonso's...My absolute favorite was their Lobster Fra diablo. Believe it or not..Carmines at the Trop in AC has decent Veal Parm!

                                              1. re: paulispumonti

                                                i live in belmar, never heard of richies system... has it gone under, or is it a secret hideaway? can't find it in yellow pages.. can you give us more info?

                                                I would say that for old school, red sauce Italian-American fare in the AP area, try Jimmy's on Asbury Avenue or Vic's on Main Street in Bradley Beach

                                                1. re: aklein

                                                  Richies's closed years ago....it was late 1970's early 1980's on Main Street in Asbury......I used to love Jimmy's when it opened, but I feel the food has gone down a notch....while the prices have gone through the ceiling

                                                  The best Pizza was at the long closed Asbury Pizza on Main street...I believe it was around 4th Ave and main....also had a little dining room and these little red jeeps for delivery...believe it closed early/mid 80's

                                                  1. re: aklein

                                                    You are the only one to mention Vic's. We like it. Sometimes we get the pasta, but lately we've been ordering the pie with whole eheat crust.

                                                    Even though we live in Freehold Twp, we drive over to Vic's often instead of eating at Frankie Feds [went there once, not bad but nothing great either]. Federici's in the Boro is better than Frankie Fed's IMHO but for some reason we don't go there too often anymore. Will have to give them another try again one of these days.

                                                    Everytime we drive by Jimmy's, we always say "gotta give them a try" but from what I'm reading here......maybe not :-(

                                                    1. re: bakersma

                                                      yeah, not too keen on jimmys but thought it was worth a mention... i love Fed's in the Boro, been going for 25 yrs (Vic's for my entire 45 yrs)... never liked Frankie's and the Fed's in howell on Rt. 9 seems to just be missing something, maybe the ambience?

                                                1. re: Papa Bing

                                                  If we're talking about Reginas on Rt. 36, the Marletta's got out of the business...it has to be about 5 years now. Mr and Mrs. retired. Definitely a gem, I only got to know the place since about 1999. One thing though, they deifinitely weren't shy with their prices, especially for the location and pizza parlor atmosphere!

                                              2. re: paulispumonti

                                                I second Citrico's. After hearing about it for a couple of years, I finally joined some family members there during the holiday break. Everything was delicious and the service was wonderful. I had a special, sea bass Marechiara. I obsessed over re-creating the sauce for the following week. I hope to get back soon.


                                            2. In MC I think Ponte Vecchio is easily the strongest with the most consistent food. Brioso is a 2nd for me. I also like Pino's and though I've been a bunch of times, I'm never running to go back. A lot of people like La Piazza, but I'd sooner go to the first 3 any time over Piazza. I definitely do not think Sam Vera is in the same league as any of the above restaurants. The service there is good and consistent, the atmosphere is nice but the food is extremely inconsistent. At times the food is top notch and then you go back to order the same thing only to be disappointed. My family goes there a lot for convenience, especially in large groups, and it's one of those 'you win some, you lose some' restaurants. I think it also depends on how important a liquor license is to you. Of those, only SamVera and Pino's has one.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: VJLA

                                                VJLA, Where is Ponte Vecchio located? As far as Brioso we have been there many times but not in recent years. How is it in this day and age? My wife and I have also been to Brioso's other location in the New Dorp section of Staten Island and it too was great.

                                                1. re: JerzeyShore

                                                  Jerzey, here is a link to a recent thread on my visit to Ponte Vecchio. The website has details on location. Very close to Brioso's.

                                                  1. re: tom246

                                                    Thanks Tom. Ponte Vecchio looks looks good. Nice web site as well.

                                                2. re: VJLA


                                                  I completely disagree with your assessment of the food at SamVera's. We have always had *consistently* excellent food there. In fact, though we had not been there in quite a long time, we just came back from having dinner there, and I'm pleased to say that everything we had was perfectly prepared and "delizioso."

                                                  1. re: RGR

                                                    I've seen your posts on CH for sometime and usually agree with you; but on SamVera's I've got to totally disagree. I've gone there several times since they opened and at 1st it was good to have a local place w/a bar, but food was always mediocre. Last time was it for me, food quality/preparation (especially my salmon) was terrible, service was poor (we were sitting upstairs) and when I asked that they replace my entree it was done relunctantly. So no next chance for me........

                                                    1. re: eatinman


                                                      I'm sorry to hear about your less than positive experiences at SamVera. Obviously, we have been extremely pleased with all our meals there; otherwise, I would never consider recommending it.

                                                      I agree that there is never any excuse for poor service, but that has never been an issue for us there. Could be that's because we tend to go mid-week when it's not very busy. On Tuesday, at 5:30 p.m., we were the only ones in the dining room for about half our meal, and the staff was practically falling all over themselves to take care of us.

                                                      With regard to the food, again, our experiences have been totally opposite from yours. We tend to concentrate on just a few traditional, relatively simple dishes. The ingredients have always been very fresh, and the kitchen has always done a solid job preparing them.

                                                      All that said, it seems to me you've been more than fair in giving SamVera a chance by trying it several times. Frankly, I wouldn't have been so magnanimous if my first experience hadn't been a good one. At this point, I can truly understand your decision to stop going there again.