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Enzo's Caffe Italia Toms River New Jersey

Njchicaa May 14, 2012 05:19 PM

I've been a huge fan of the "foccacia pie" (pizza) that this place makes as my family often brings it to parties and holidays as an appetizer. It is like a thin sicilian/pan crust topped with chunky tomatoes, and olive oil. Sooooo good!

That being said, we wound up at this place last Monday to celebrate a family member's birthday. We had a reservation and were quickly seated at a 6-person table. My mother asked to sit at another table but they said that was only for 8 people. (no one sat/ate at the 8-person table during the 2 hours we were there)

The menu was very simple red sauce Italian: antipastos, fried calarmari, a few different salads, pasta in various sauces, chicken/veal in piccata, francese, cacciatore, marsala, and a few seafood dishes, namely shrimp fra diavolo.

Our table ordered an appetizer special, crab-topped fresh mozzarella, and the Enzo's salad which is always on the menu. They seemed happy with the salad, but the crab/mozzarella was just a thick piece of fresh mozz with a spoonful of plain crabmeat with no dressing or seasoning on top. It wasn't good and I would have asked the waiter to take it off of the bill if I was in charge but I didn't want to ruin the mood of the dinner with a complaint. We were also served a basket of bread and several slices of their amazing foccacia pizza with appetizers. Needless to say, we all eagerly dove into it.

The dinners around the table were pork osso bucco, shrimp fra diavolo, chicken al massimo, and veal francese. The men who had the pork osso bucco loved it because the meat was so tender and flavorful... but ignored the pasta on the side because it was hard and superfluous to the dish. My sister enjoyed her shrimp fra diavolo while my husband was very unhappy with his: not enough seafood and not enough developed flavors to be worth the $25 price tag on a dish of linguine, 3 shrimp, 3 New Zealand clams, and 3 mussels. My veal francese was fine and the same as anything that I could get in any other red sauce Italian joint in the area.

Some in our group ordered desserts: a fruit/mascarpone dish, a lemon tart, and tartufo. My father was disappointed with the fruit/mascarpone dessert and ate only a few bites out of it. My sister liked the lemon tart but ate only the filling because she was so full. And my mother ate a few bites of the tartufo, probably thinking that I would join her as I LOVE tartufo but I was just too full after my dinner and foccacia pizza slices.

Service was attentive and friendly during our dinner. They brought bottle openers, water glasses, fresh napkins, etc. as they were requested. I have no complaints about how we were treated or served at Caffe Italia.

That being said, the food, in my opinion, was average at best. All I ask when I go out to dinner is that the food be better than what I can prepare at home. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case here except maybe the pork osso bucco as I've never attempted that kind of thing before. As soon as my husband and I got in the car to go home, he said "well, I never want to go THERE again" because he said that I could have made it all better at home.

That dinner for 6 probably cost my parents $400 (including tip) and it just wasn't worth it. We've had much better meals at Il Giardinello for birthdays over the year for similar prices and they were totally wonderful.

I wouldn't recommend Caffe Italia to anyone in the Toms River area looking for a good Italian meal. It isn't bad but it isn't anything special for the price.

  1. jrvedivici Feb 15, 2013 06:32 AM

    Last night was my parents 44th anniversary and this was their choice for dinner. (Giardinello's was already booked when they tried for a reservation). Once we got there I remember having dined there in the past a couple of times...since the name alone didn't bring these memories back I was sure there was nothing special about my experiences in the past.

    We were greeted and immediately brought to our table. We were a party of 6 the table was adequate and the servers immediately offered to open our wine, pour it and water the table. Specials were read and along with the regular menu items offered an ample selection of your standard Italian fare. (Bonus points for leaving and attentively refilling a pitcher of water on the table)

    No apps for the table but they serve a plain pizza dough bread as well as a tomato paste/sauce topped bread. Very similar if not a Sicilian pizza sliced into small squares. There are very good and honestly serve as delightful pre-salad snack.

    House salad nothing special...mixed greens in a light non offensive vinaigrette style dressing.

    Entree's: Orange Roughy in a cream sauce, Ravioli in Marinara, Gnocci with chicken and vegetables, Shrimp Fra' Diablo, 2 pork osso bucco, Penne mixed seafood vodka sauce.

    Orange Roughy got high praise. Ravioli got praise, Gnocci got praise, Fra Diablo (my wife so I sampled) was good, not great but good, Seafood Vodka was also good.

    I was 1 of the pork osso bucco. While it wasn't offensive or bad it was a very poor rendition of any osso bucco. It wasn't braised properly as the matter of fact the skin was crispy in some areas....it was served almost dry with a marsala type sauce. It was "dry roasted" would be the best I can explain it then had the sauce drizzled over it for serving. The meat was tender and flavorful....but not falling off the bone as a proper osso bucco (pork or veal) should. Again, I won't say it was "bad" but it was NOT a true osso bucco.

    The other person who ordered the osso bucco said he loved it but I think he has no idea what a proper osso bucco is.

    There were a variety of deserts ordered which included; homemade cannoli, mini peanut butter mouse cake, mini cheese cake, molten lava cake. The cannoli's were the best and the filing was obviously home made and very tasty. The peanut butter mouse cake was ok/good but the molten lava was dark chocolate which is a little bitter and I don't care for. Didn't try the cheese cake.

    Now (hopefully this will make you feel better NJchica....the bill was only $200. for our dinner....so I don't think your parents dropped $400. if that makes you feel any better!! lol) So from a value perspective it wasn't bad.

    Would I go back.......yes God willing in another 5 years for my parents 49th anniversary when we can't get reservations at Giardinello's. lol Other than that...probably not.

    Service was very good......I will say that.

    Oh....sorry there was also a special salad and bowl of pasta fagiole as an entree which was rather a poor rendition of pasta fagiole. Almost forgot about the reasonable eater! lol

    1. j
      Jerseygirl111 May 14, 2012 11:57 PM

      I hate it when a reliable restaurant has to be dropped from the rotation. We currently have only Il Giardinello for splurge dinners and nothing left in the moderate range to frequent around here. We've tried Rt 9, (Caffreys, Shady Rest), Hooper Ave Corridor (Chilis, Tuscan House) and Rt 37 (Tiffanys, The Office), all just mediocre.

      Thanks for the review! Very detailed!

      6 Replies
      1. re: Jerseygirl111
        Njchicaa May 15, 2012 09:15 AM

        We are regulars at the Office but that's more for lunch. We have a few drinks, a sandwich or some sushi, and play trivia for awhile. The only time we go there for dinner is an occasional Tuesday night for the prime rib special. Or I should say I get the prime rib and my husband gets a burger or sandwich. If we want something fancier, it's Giardinello all the way.

        1. re: Njchicaa
          BeerWeezil May 15, 2012 01:25 PM

          By "spurge" and "fancy" at Il Giardinello, you mean the prices not the quality of the food or the service, right?

          1. re: BeerWeezil
            Tapas52 May 15, 2012 02:21 PM

            In Tr we enjoy a little spot called Shianos located in the back parking lot of the Miracle pub good Italian food simple and tasty....I haven't tried Brooklyn Bistro on rt 9 yet?



            1. re: BeerWeezil
              Jerseygirl111 May 15, 2012 08:12 PM

              @Beerweezil. Yes. Lol. And close to home!

              But don't knock the food there, they make the best Rigatoni & Vodka I have ever eaten. Also their fried calamari is perfectly prepared. It is perfect American-Italian comfort food!


          2. re: Jerseygirl111
            Quine May 15, 2012 04:09 PM

            Jerseygirl111, Pan Asia on Rt. P just north of Caffery's (such a bad slide downhill!) same side in the Appleby's plaza is pretty nice. (Forked River)

            1. re: Quine
              Jerseygirl111 May 15, 2012 08:17 PM

              Thanks Quine! I will have to try it!

              I forgot, I have also tried the Portuguese restaurant on Manchester, Portuguese Grill? The seafood was overcooked in my Mariscada. Once and done.


          3. Tapas52 May 14, 2012 07:23 PM

            Any restaurants along the rt 37 in TR corridor haven't been up to par lately...cooking at home is becoming the best choice lately.... it's sad when you have to pay so much and be disappointed..

            1. c
              ChazE215 May 14, 2012 06:46 PM

              Thanks for that in depth review. I am in TR and havent been there in a few years. I always forget about going to Cafe Italia and after this review I have not missed anything.

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