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May 13, 2009 04:23 AM

Review of Ama, Atlantic Highlands

A new star is discovered in Atlantic Highlands! Went last night on a busy Tuesday night, which in this area is a great sign that a restaurant is busy on a Tuesday. In a warm atmosphere, and with great music, my wife and I enjoyed our first meal at Ama. Starting with GREAT crispy, warm bread from Brooklyn, served with an excellent olive oil, the meal from appetizers to main course, sparkled. We shared an order of fried calamari, which was hand cut and deep fried with a deft hand. Served just with pomodoro tomatos, it was an excellent start. My wife had the shrimp risotto which was really flavorful and teriffic. I had what I thought was a simple chicken milanese. The chicken came out lightly fried with a fantastic salad on top. YUMMO!! We were very impressed. I was told that they were still tinkering with the dessert menu, (which was needed as the tirami su, was not very good). An uneaten plate of it went back to the kitchen and no one inquired why...but these are all growing pains, for a restaurant that in a small town, that is in my opinion destined to become one of the best! Don't miss it!!.

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  1. Just a followup to my review of Ama. We took some friends last night to Ama. Chef Pat suggested he "just make dinner" for the four of us. Starting with the house special cold antipasto platter, Chef sent out course after course of phenominal, cooked with loving care, food. From unreal brushetta, to appetizers, to a pasta flight, to three main courses, and ending with an unreal group of desserts,this was easily one of the most memorable meals we ever experienced in New Jersey. They don't publicize this tasting menu, but you can order it if you call in advance and just ask for it. Let me end with this: There are a lot of restaurants in New Jersey of course, and most are just run of the mill. Get into AMA before they get so crowded you'll have to call long in advance for a reservation. Chef Pat is doing some of the most exciting cooking at the shore now and if you want a great meal in a wonderful atmosphere that's a great place to BYOB, this is the place to go.!

    3 Replies
    1. re: sockster

      sockster- thanks for the review. i can't seem to find a menu or a website for ama. could you please tell me the price range of the dishes?

      1. re: njchowgal

        Sure- Apps 6-12 Mains 18-24 Dessert 5-7

        1. re: njchowgal

          The prices are reasonable. The apps range from $9-$14, the entrees range from $17-$29. The pastas are from $17-22. The short ribs are $26, 14oz rib eye is $29, fish of the day is $24. Hope this helps!

      2. I went to Ama after my wife raved about the shrimp risotta and my kids eating everything in sight. My wife is a fantastic cook and is generally not impressed by most places with a few exceptions. My dinner was very good although I hate to start a whole quality versus quanity debate but I feel that the 18$ orechiate with broccoli rabe is good but it was a small amount as was my chicken milanese. Please don't say to go to Buona Sera UUGH but if the owner is reading put another piece of chicken on or put some more pasta in the bowl. I came away after dropping 120 no drinks feeling a bit slighted I shouldn't be hungry coming from any italian(food cost)IMHO

        1. Lesson #1, when fellow hound Seal recommends a place, one should listen :)
          We had reservations at Ama last night and enjoyed everything. This is not your typical Italian joint.

          The space is quite nice, exposed brick walls, lots of dark wood, high copper ceilings, makes you want to have a nice meal.
          Service through the evening was good, could be a bit more organized. The restaurant was quite busy last night.

          The small menu has a few additions which our server read to us. No chicken parm here, head to your local pizza place for that.
          The bread served here is some of the best ANYWHERE, crusty and delicious. With the EVOO provided this was a meal by itself.

          For appetizers we decided on Misto di Terra "seasonal products of the earth" which had eggplant caponata, marinated mushrooms, asparagus, artichokes, roasted baby beets, peas and pancetta and pickled cippolini onions. Also had the Sopressata, Bruschetta e Parmigiano which was dry aged with chopped tomatos over Brooklyn bread. We shared the apps, the Sopressata with the roasted veggies and bread was a real treat.

          For entrees DW had the Rombo con Peppernata, wild halibut with sweet peppers and melted panchetta. A delicious combination.
          I had a special of grilled red snapper in a light olive oil and lemon combination allowing all the flavor to come through. Came with garlicky spinach and roasted potatoes.
          We were full and passed on dessert. There were a couple of interesting desserts but this is probably not Ama's strongest point.

          Only problem here is while the space is attractive, when full it is very noisy. We had the best table in the house in the front window away from the action and it was still quite noisy.

          Many think that we have too many Italian restaurants in Monmouth County. I feel we need MORE Italian restaurants like this. I only wish we had a place like Ama in western Monmouth County or along Rt 9. Those places can't compare.
          We look forward to coming back and trying some other menu items or as another poster commented having the chef prepare a tasting menu.
          Here are some details:
          Ama Ristorante Tuscana
          42 First Avenue
          Atlantic Highlands, NJ 07716

          7 Replies
          1. re: tom246

            Tom246 not that you need affirmation, but I'm hungry, great review.
            The chowhound dinner should be wonderful for you guys!

            1. re: shabbystorm

              Hi Shabby, yes Ama was good and far different than most Italian around here. Not that typical Italian is a bad thing, we get our fix often but a place like Ama offers an alternative.

              Whats with this "you guys". I was hoping you would be attending the chowhound dinner.

              1. re: tom246

                Uh, oh! I was planning to attend the Chowhound get-together, but now that you've mentioned one of my major restaurant peeves -- insane noise levels -- I may have to reconsider joining "you guys." :-(

                1. re: tom246

                  No Tom246, nothing meant by it, just sounds like a great place.

                  Without sounding weird, hubby is wonderful, but not a social creature, I just would not feel right going on my own. I really would like to meet you, and some of the other "guys and "gals" on chowhound, it would remove some of the communication mystery :)

                  1. re: shabbystorm


                    There have been gatherings where a Hound's spouse could not make it, so the Hound came as a singleton. Those of us who have already met each other "off the board" are an exceedingly welcoming group. So, don't let the fact that you'd be on your own deter you from coming to any and all get-togethers. Hey, if you say you'll be at the Ama gathering, I might overcome my aversion to high noise levels and show up after all. You've added so much to this board, and I'd really love to meet you. :-)

                    1. re: RGR

                      My wife doesn't eat sushi.. but if there's ever a chowhound sushi get together, I'd love to attend as a "singleton".. and I'm sure I'd have my wife's blessings. In fact, I went out by myself last night for sushi..chickened out of Kawa, wanted to try Wasabi House in Matawan, had a great meal.

                    2. re: shabbystorm

                      shabby you do not sound weird. My hubby would not attend a "chow" gathering and to be honest, he would not really like me to go alone. he's old fashioned to say the least.

              2. AMA in Atlantic Highlands was a very disappointing experience. The owner was rude and spoiled our meal by letting us know that we were taking too long with our meal. No apology, just "you girls don't need to come back" Great business presence. Don't worry, we won't.

                1 Reply
                1. re: residentreview

                  I agree with you about the owner's attitude. We are a group of women who like to go out quite often and we like the food at AMA but haven't gone there very much because we can't get past the owner's unhappy attitude. We had a waiter one night that acted like he was doing us an enormous favor by being there. So, we started to deduct a dollar from his tip every time he was rude or smarmy. I think he realized when we kept saying, "minus 1, minus 2" and then became VERY nice. We just returned there after quite a while and we had a new waiter who was excellent. The food is good, but the owner was still not very nice. She does know that we're paying her, not the other way around, right?

                2. Funny- we were there this past Thursday night- had the chef's tasting menu- It's amazing, every time we go to Ama, there are new, different and exciting things on the menu. This time there were luxury items such as caviar and foie gras! We had five courses and one was more delicious than the next. This is a local restaurant, and you have to realize that your not dining (and paying for) incredible white glove service. You're pay for (and receiving) fantastic food. Ama is serving some of the best Italian food around. And if you, resident review, were impatient and overly demanding, then maybe you got what you deserved. I am not here to start controversy. All I'm saying is you go out for a nice meal, RELAX and enjoy. Don't sweat the small's too short!!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: sockster

                    We tried AMA two weeks ago, and sorry to say Sockster, but it was a TOTAL dusappointment. I understand your comments about service, however what we experienced defies any excuse. The two of us called for a last minute reservation on a Friday night, We were accomodate with a 7:00 PM, arriving to a completely empty resaturant. Calamari appetizer was ok, but jere's my complaint: Our server walked over while we were eating our squid and said, "Are you finished with that, because your entrees are coming out now". My entree was the Chicken/salad you described in your original post, what I recieved... one very thin, dry, overcooked piece of chicken, with a salad on top, all for $24 - ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!!!! My DW ordered orechietti with brocoli rabe, barely enough for an appetizer, let alone a main course, oh and btw it was priced in the 20's. Dessert was ok, but I don't think it was made in house. I know I'm not paying for incredible 'white glove service' but I am paying for food. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, in the words of The Who: 'Won't get fooled again'! Ther are far too many better dining options in the area, with better service. Just as an aside though, when we were leaving the restaurant there were about 15 other diners inthe place. I guess the buzz about AMA is wearing off.

                    1. re: LarryLg

                      Hey Larry- Sorry to hear about your experience. We've been there many times since my first review, including extremely busy days like New Years Eve, Valentines Day, Easter Sunday, and each and every meal has really been fantastic. My one and only small complaint about Ama is the service...sometimes it's spotty and has a bit of an atitude, depending on who's taking care of you. But frankly, even with this in mind, it hasn't taken our love for this fantastic restaurant away at all. One question, did you let Laura or Pat know of your issues with the food? They can't fix what they don't know about. Just wondering.