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Feb 9, 2012 11:58 AM

Great Pizza! [Porta in Asbury Park]

Went to Porta in Asbury Park last night. The restaurant is a large, garage-like structure with bench seats, and rustic tables, all shared.

They offer a selection of appetizers, pastas and desserts, but the prime reason for going here is their Pizza. It's not your usual Jersey Pizza. Unusual toppings on a great crust are offered.

I had a large Bib Lettuce/walnut salad and a Margarite Pizza.They were a good size, about enough for two people with average appetites..

There was a pretty good crowd for a wintry Weds. BTW, there is free parking in Asbury on Weds.

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  1. I have to echo SusieQQ's comments on Porta. I stopped there for lunch (I mean "Brunch") this Saturday afternoon. At Noon, we were the only people in the restaurant however after about 20-30 minutes a few more families streamed in. Although I was a little disappointed that the Brunch menu (not listed on their website) was a little more limited than their typical offerings (i.e. no octopus salad), I was very happy to be able to order their Carbonara Pizza which included guanciale and topped with an egg. I also ordered a white pizza (a margherita pie sans sauce and cheese) for my son who enjoyed it thoroughly. I was however taken a little aback by the fact that our waitress had to check with the pizziola whether they could "do that". Am I the first person to make such a request? That issue aside, the ingredients, the crust and the cooking time/method made for an excellent pizza. With my Carbonara pizza, the combination of guanciale, crust and egg yolk was reminiscent of dipping toast and crispy bacon in to the yolk of a sunny side up egg (delightful). Although the manager was uncomfortable to tell me what the restaurant previously housed, I enjoyed the design and decor which consisted of mostly reclaimed items repurposed into furniture and light fixtures (e.g. ceiling timbers as picnic tables and acetylene tank covers for pendant lighting). All in all, Porta was a very nice restaurant (or gastro pizza pub) that I look forward to returning (especially in the summer when their outdoor "park" is open).

    8 Replies
    1. re: bgut1

      It's good to see this place getting some traction.

      Isn't a Margherita sans sauce and cheese just dough with a few pieces of basil?

      1. re: tommy

        No, Margherita pizza has sauce and cheese. Here is the description from their menu:

        "San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella,
        parmigiano reggiano, extra virgin olive oil, basil "

        1. re: SusieQQ

          Right, I know what a Margherita pizza is. If you take the cheese and sauce away from the Margherita pizza, you're left with just dough and basil, and olive oil.

          1. re: tommy

            OH, I misunderstood.... But, if you take away all the toppings from any pizza, aren't you left with just dough? Anyway I loved it!

            1. re: tommy

              My error. It should have read "sans sauce and basil". So basically I was just looking for dough with cheese.

        2. re: bgut1

          "Although the manager was uncomfortable to tell me what the restaurant previously housed . . . ."

          I drove by there yesterday. I was surprised that that windowless brick building is the place serving the tasty pizza. I was no longer surprised by the manager's interaction with you.

          Edit - I meant to ask, what type of oven do they use? Does anyone know?

          1. re: MGZ


            They use wood fired brick ovens.

            The space previously housed what could best be described as a gay bar and bath house minus the baths.

            1. re: equal_Mark

              Love it ! Thanks for the info, hence the manager's reluctance to answer OP's question.

        3. Loved it. Cool space. Long communal tables. Strung lights. Great vibe. And the food...delicious. Started with the formaggi e salumi which consisted of three cured meats and three cheeses (a soft goat and sheep, and a hard something else), pears, olives, honey and aged balsamic. We tried three pizzas ... margherita, regina margherita (the difference being bufala mozzarella and cherry tomatoes), and carbonara. Echoing bgut, the carbonara was excellent...loved the drippy fried egg. We also had a "double" order of cacio e peppe. This preparation came with arugula on top. The taste of the pasta was very good, but could have been more al dente. The portion size of the "double" was entree size. Really wanted to try the wild boar ragu, but just too much food. Will be returning.

          1. Moderators--any chance you can change this title to Great Pizza - Porta, Asbury Park?

            If not, I'm going to start a new thread, because this place should NOT be as under-mentioned as it is...and not just for the pizza! I don't think Great Pizza is a serviceable thread title for anything, but that's another story...

            ETA: THANK YOU!!! :-) Post to follow.

            1. I honestly can’t remember the last time I ate at a restaurant on two consecutive days (maybe while on vacation), feeling the need to “run back,” and certainly haven’t done it with any local restaurants that I can remember. But Porta is that kind of place. As in, I had dinner there on Friday, and lunch there on Saturday. If I lived within closer range, I’d probably be there three or four times a week!

              I had forwarded early reports about the place to a friend who goes to Asbury and Ocean Grove pretty regularly so she had it on her list, but finally spent a few days down there and went twice in the space of three days. She hasn’t stopped talking about it since, and this is someone who, while I adore as a friend, is VERY particular about what she does and doesn’t like—and pizza is a serious love of hers. She was basically freaking out over the pizza and over the place in general, and now I understand why.

              Dinner on Friday: we arrived early (6:15ish) as we hadn’t had lunch and were starving. Grabbed two seats at the bar, and decided to pace out our evening, sharing as many items as we could before heading to the Stone Pony (1/2 block away). First up, the drink menu. There were at least 4 cocktails I wanted to try, but I went with the “Fred and Ginger,” a lovely blend of muddled lemons, fresh lemon juice, Goslings ginger beer, and Amaro. I was in heaven. Oh, and for $8!

              Now that we had drinks, we ordered the day-boat octopus that has been mentioned on some other Asbury Park posts here on CH ( STUNNING. Note: I’m an octopus fan; if it’s on the menu, chances are, I’m going to order it. This was just beautifully cooked, and the fennel salad that accompanies it was a perfect compliment. I wish I could have that for lunch every day for at least a week…SIGH.

              We then shared the “Bibber” salad: Bibb lettuce, pistachios, beets, asparagus, and a beautiful mint buttermilk vinaigrette. $9, iirc, and GInormous—plenty for two, and totally shareable by three if you’re going to eat a lot more than we did or you have big appetites. And every other salad that I saw being served was equally large.

              On to pizzas. My friend is a Margherita freak (pic 3) and the only cheese she likes is fresh mozz (don’t even get me started), so we rarely share pizzas—which is just fine with me when they’re as good as these! :-) I ordered the Porta, Porta (pic 2)—without realizing that it’s more calzone-like, but NO objections. Stellar dough wrapped around fresh ricotta on one side and spinach w/garlic down the other. Sauce served on the side, (straight up San Marzanos, from what I can tell—just clean, clean, CLEAN). Fantastic. Obviously the dough is key, as is the cooking knowledge. I didn’t know why until I went back to read about the restaurant—the pizzaolA (a woman) was trained by Roberto Caporuscio (he was originally at A Mano in NJ, now of Keste and Don Antonio in NYC). I’ve concluded that he really is a one-man empire! Everyone who trains under him seems to turn out beautiful pizzas, and the folks at Porta are no exception. They’re using Caputo flour, not over-working their dough, and cooking it to perfection.

              We were far too full for desserts, so I never even saw the options, but I know they offer a Nutella pizza (not my thing). I have since looked at the dessert menu online and am KICKING myself for not asking for it even though I was too full. Oh, well—another reason to return!

              Yesterday we decided we had to go back to have lunch before hitting the road. Walked in around 2:30 and while it wasn’t empty, it wasn’t as busy as I thought it might be on a mostly rainy Saturday afternoon. Still, 1/3 of the bar was occupied, and maybe ¼ of the restaurant—mostly with families (and sadly, the requisite kids running around the tables). I was all set to have the octopus for lunch, but it turns out that there’s a BRUNCH menu on the weekends and it’s not on there. BUT. Crazy good offerings here too, imo—things like Lemon-ricotta pancakes w/vanilla bean brown butter, Eggs in Purgatory (eggs poached in fennel-tomato broth, Calabrian chiles, garlic and shallot, fresh parsley), Grilled Stone Fruit with Mint, and a PLT sandwich. P=prosciutto. My friend noted that the bloody mary is made with San Marzanos. Getting the picture? <grin>

              I was ready for lunch so without the octo, I went with the Carbonara pizza (pic 4)--guanciale, parm, and a perfectly runny fried egg in the center. Ham and eggs! Fantastic. I brought half of it home and had it for breakfast this morning and it was delicious even reheated in my oven.

              The place is HUGE (pic 5 is a view from the bar, back to the door)—I never expected that. Others have talked about the communal tables, but there are also two smaller bars in the room (the main bar is huge, and the bartenders are terrific, btw—we did a lot of observing, and although they were slammed, it was like watching bartender ballet)! They are ON. THEIR. GAME. And by 9pm the place was full with a small group waiting inside, but no lines down the block, and only a few deep at the bar. The outside space has bocce courts and additional tables (with umbrellas). I don’t think you can purchase drinks out there, but people who wanted to move from inside to outside had drinks transferred to plastic cups. They also have what I’m told is referred to as the “disco room,” an equally large space w/a DJ. And I’m told that later on Saturday nights they clear some of the tables in the restaurant for dancing as well.

              In (not-so) short, this is MY kind of place. If you’re looking for a quiet, refined dining experience, that’s not Porta. Porta is rustic, welcoming, hopping, casual, and the food is high quality at very reasonable prices. Can’t wait to get back down there!!


              3 Replies
              1. re: Curlz

                Curlz - I am happy that you enjoyed Porta. It's one of my favorites. While the noise and crowds may not be for everyone, their commitment to fresh quality ingredients more than compensates for me. BTW, the next time I order a Carbonara I expect to add an extra egg or two.

                1. re: bgut1

                  And make sure to order it *runny* Had one recently that came out a bit too firm. There wasn't enough eggy goodness to sop up.

              2. PORTA!!! I am in love! Based on the fabulous reviews we took friends there for lunch today. We all were in heaven! With thanks to those who wrote before me, we ordered the octopus salad. I don't eat the stuff, but everyone else said it was the best ever!

                The Bibber salad was good, not great, but fresh, and good. The Porchetta sandwich was fabulous! The calzone was excellent.

                Now for the good news! The Margherita pizza was from my childhood! On a pizza thread someone once beautifully wrote that the best pizza is what you remember eating as a child.

                I grew up on Patsy"s Pizza from East Harlem ( at least 100 years ago!) No pizza has ever compared since those days. I have searched and gained a lot of weight trying out many many places! I even went back to Patsy's a few years ago. It was great, but not quite up to my memories.

                Today I was a child again! My dog George used to beg for Mozzarella and the pizzaiola would feed George all he wanted as I ordered my one slice for 15 cents!

                As I tasted my first slice today I was filled with loving memories. I was home with loving memories of George!

                This is the pizza I remembered! It was that good! I am just concerned about how I am going to order anything else on the menu! I wonder how many days I can last before going back?

                Just a word of advice. The food takes time to prepare. Go hungry, but not that hungry!

                The place is very casual. The food is unbelievable!
                Really makes me appreciate Chowhound! I would never have known about it, nor gone if I had just seen it from the outside. After reading the reviews here, it deserves all the accolades and more!
                Absolutely delcious!