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Jimmy's "Old School" Italian Restaurant Asbury Park, NJ (my long winded review)

Ok since my thread about my all time favorite restaurant in Monmouth County, NJ (Raven and the Peach) is getting bashed I’m going to start one on my all time favorite old school Italian restaurant and see how this does. By old school Italian I mean this…..this place has been here since 1982 and they literally have spaghetti and meatballs on the menu. For the nearly 20 years I have been going here the menu has not changed (except for reasonable increase in prices) and I’m pretty sure I’m drinking out of the same water glasses the entire time as well. They have linen table clothes and a formal dining room which includes tables and boofs (That’s old school Italian for booth’s……….”Hey you want a table or a boof?”) however I find it hard to call this place fine dining.

The place is nothing fancy and I don’t think since I’ve been going there have been any real upgrades to the restaurant. The main décor on the walls are pictures of the original owner (Jimmy) with people from President Reagan to Frank Sinatra and many celebrities in between. When you walk in the long old formica bar, with same bartender for 15+ years, reminds you of a scene from Goodfella’s or the Godfather. The only thing missing for the past 7+ years is the cigarette smoke billowing in the air.

The menu has a wide variety of items from previously mentioned spaghetti and meat balls to a few lobster dishes and even pizza. The menu has something for everyone, include a dam good steak. For every single one of my visits though I have only ordered the same dish…..and this remains the same this past Saturday and that would be Chicken Scarp. The dish has no plate presence at all….just chunks of chicken and sausage in a balsamic and white wine reduction. However once you get past the ordinary appearance of the presentation and take a taste the combination of the flavors makes me salivate as I type this review.

This most recent trip was with another couple we started with fried calaramri, bacon wrapped scallops and a trio of stuffed clams 2 oreginato, 2 crabmeat, 2 casino. All of the appetizers were delicious I would put their fried calamari up with the best of them. Light, tender and not greasy with a nice combination of rings to legs. Served with both regular and spicy marinara sauce this is a never fail to please appetizer. The bacon wrapped scallops where excellent as well with almost ping pong sized scallops which were cooked to perfection not over done….wrapped in bacon. No sauce just a very nice pairing of the two items. The clams were also very tasty all 3 varieties.

Jimmy’s entrée’s are served with a house salad family style. The house dressing is a heavy Cesar style dressing that if you are offended by heavy anchovies flavor you are best staying away from. I always get it on the side since it is family style you never know how people are going to respond to it. I personally like it however many people find it to heavy. Salad is always ample and sufficient in it’s simplicity. Mixed greens topped with fresh chopped olives, mushrooms, red onion and roasted red peppers.

For entrée’s we had 1.) Stuffed Sole with crabmeat stuffing (fresh crabmeat stuffing) 1.) Lobster and shrimp in a vodka sauce served over penne 1.) Shrimp fra Diablo over linquini and last but not least 1.) Chicken Scarp.

All entrée’s were very well enjoyed by the table. The pasta is always a nice al dente’ and the ingredients are always fresh…..no microwaving or pre made sauces. Entrée’s come with a side of penne marinara or sautéed escarole. Both are always excellent. Not to make It seem like this is just going to be a raving review I will say this about our latest visit. We arrived around 8:30 and while the place was near capacity they were able to seat us immediately without a reservation. Although we were immediately sat and greeted we received our bread and drinks etc. however it took near an hour to get our appetizers which was tough with it being so late and we were very hungry.

Once dinner was completed it was close to 11pm and we were one of the last tables in the restaurant. We were offered coffee which we declined however one of our guests asked if they had crème brulee the waitress acknowledged that they didn’t and then brought us our check. (They have a desert tray….which she never brought to us or desert menu’s or any mention of any other desert). We got the message that she wanted to get finished for the night and we paid the bill and left although were did have more dining and spending left in us.

This I will say is a very rare exception to the normally adequate service. Again this is not fine dining so I can’t say the service is ever “top notch” but certainly this is not indicative of a normal experience there. Most of the wait staff like the bartender are older and have been there 10+ years I would say.

http://jimmysitalianrestaurant.com/

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  1. I've always dug that place. A couple of us have been pointing folks in Jimmy's direction over the years. Time was, it was the flat out best spot in AP for a good dinner.

    1. Love Jimmy's but haven't been there for years. Too many new places. So, I've got to go back. BTW I like sitting in a booth.

      1. An excellent review.....and apparently, you and I have the same tastes... Jimmy's does not get it's due credit on this site in particular.....it's not *inventive or creative* enough for those who also want more pleasant surroundings ....and can't bear the thought of tipping the Valet Service. The complaints I hear most are * it's past its prime or it's not as good as it used to be *......but in my opinion, that's fine and that means there will be less of a wait for me to get a table. I surmise, you have to be at least 40+ years old to appreciate Jimmy's today.

        In one aspect, I do have you beat ....I've actually been going there since it opened....and can confidently say I've never had a poor meal there. I've entertained a lot of business clients and associates over the years at Jimmy's....and whenever we get together for a round a golf at the Shore....to this day, the dinner is always held at Jimmy's, as per their request. I've also taken my restaurant friends there and they also express the same desires and sentiments

        For the first 10 years, it was strictly the Chicken Scarp, Steaks, Lobster Pork Chops, Rack of lamb and Veal Chops for entree, sides of Broccoli Rabe. The apps were always the Antipastos and Eggplant Rollitini for the table, The Calamari and Scungilli too, with Long Hot Peppers when available. When we were younger, we would also order pasta in between courses. Sorry to say, those days are over now....and are sorely missed.

        For the last 20 years, I only order the Stuffed Sole Oreganato for myself, no sharing. It's the absolute best rendition of the dish I have ever had anywhere....even better than from the chefs I worked with over the years, Seafood and Italian restaurants all over the States where I have tried....and even in my own home. When they say you can make anything just as good at home....I would argue differently for this one dish. I cannot come close.

        Jimmy's is a great restaurant and the mere fact it has lasted over 30 years is testament to that. The greatness of the restaurant is it's dedication to Quality and Value. It welcomes all from the former guests you have mentioned .....to the families who come in simply for pizza.

        A while back, both MGZ and I recommended Jimmy's to a visitor from Austin, Texas. Here were his thoughts on Jimmy's, his sentiments much like yours.

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6434...

        Finally, with regards to service, and with due respect to the older staff members ....I have always found them to be pleasant and efficient.....but the absolute best employee there is the Valet car attendant. I average about two visits a year there and every time I go there he remembers me and gives me a warm welcome upon arrival. ... I don't know how he does it, but I never get a ticket to identify my car....but when I finish dinner and exit, my car is always waiting for me right at the door.....no waiting ever.

        There's only one other restaurant I go to that compares to this service. It's really a special gift and a great end to a great meal and experience.

        Forget any possible naysayers.....they have no idea what they are talking about

        4 Replies
        1. re: fourunder

          Wow.....I got a thumb's up MGZ and Fourunder? I feel like Sally Fields when she finally won her oscar "You like me....you really really like me!?!?!?!"

          Fourunder you are correct with the Valet parker....he has been there forever and although I go much more frequently than you do he does remember you and your car. Even last time when our friends drove once he saw me he just smiled and said "Enjoy your evening" and no playing card (They use poker playing cards as their valet tickets).

          Some people get turned off by the mandatory Valet Parking but they have to remember they aren't in the best part of town you don't really want to be leaving your car on the street or side streets there.

          1. re: jrvedivici

            How does Jimmy's compare to Vic's ?

            1. re: Tapas52

              IMHO Vic's is equivalent to most of the MOM and POP Italian restaurants that we have here at the shore.

              Jimmy's food is a cut above those with such foods as lobster, sole...etc.

          2. re: fourunder

            It was fun to read that old thread and feel that kid's gratitude. Fundamentally, that's what this site accomplishes most.

          3. What a great review. I haven't been in years but your meal has me craving one. Your Jimmy love also reminds me of the love affair my hubby & I have for Spirito's in Elizabeth. The two places could be kissin cousins from another Mother. From the small glasses to the dark room to the ancient booths...to the garlic tossed salad, bar pie, chicken parm and ravioli...prices (about) the same, the neighborhood parking the same pita...but it's love I tell ya..love for what they get right.

            23 Replies
            1. re: HillJ

              I like the Ravioli at Spirito's....but you really cannot compare Spirito's to Jimmy's for anything else other than the pizza . I have never had the pizza at Jimmy's, but have at Spirito's...which Is good, but not exceptional. The pizza at A Santillo's in Elizabeth is exceptional. The quality of the food at Jimmy's is superior compared to Spirito's.

              One thing Jimmy's cannot compare to Spirito's is.....a trip down the block for a great Italian Ice at DiCosmo's.

              1. re: fourunder

                sorry four, your reply confused the heck out of me.

                1. re: HillJ

                  I have that effect on people.....Sorry to say, Spirito's is dirty(dust buildup on the wall ledges and ceiling).....Jimmy's is not. Jimmy's also serves high quality meats and fish.....Spirito's does not......with that said, I do go to Spirtio's for the Ravioli, eggplant and veal....but it's not in the same class as Jimmy's......Jimmy's has butter for your bread, Olive Oil too.

                  : 0 )

                  1. re: fourunder

                    Ah you nitpicker you! I actually in my mind thought the line,
                    kissin cousins from another Mother, would cover the differences. I get the same fuzzy feeling when I eat at either joint but I wasn't comparing menus.

                    But, I like the no butter thing, and that the waitress doesn't write your order down, and the dark dinge and the 40 years of memories. Thank you very much, four ! :)

                    1. re: HillJ

                      For the record....I do enjoy Spirito's for what it is and the details I mentioned do not keep me from dining there.

                      Also, I pretty much will stop at any place for something to eat if it is recommended....or at the very least if I hear good things about it. It must be carryover from my youth and working for my father's friend who owned a trucking company. I was only a helper, but the truck drivers knew the most amazing places to get grub in the most unlikely places.....I'm more analytical than critical.....I'll eat just about anything.

                      1. re: fourunder

                        Oh yeah, truckers know their grub! Lucky you!

                        1. re: HillJ

                          Hill J,

                          have you ever been to Laico's in Jersey City.....or DePalma Brothers in North Bergen? More decades old places ....something like 40+ and 80 respectively

                          1. re: fourunder

                            four, isn't it DiPalma...plus antiques? Anyway, yes to DPB for the meatballs I like theirs...but no to Laico's. Tell me more...

                            1. re: HillJ

                              DiPalma Brothers, Yes to the antiques. I like their Special appetizers....and they have a great Seafood salad.

                              http://offthebroiler.wordpress.com/20...

                              While Jimmy's and Spirito's are both planted in residential neighborhoods...they do have other commercial businesses on almost every corner near them....Laico's is planted in a true residential neighborhood street in the middle of the block on Terhune Street in a converted house. The old driveway can park a small number of cars.

                              http://www.destinationjerseycity.com/...

                              http://www.laicosjc.com/

                              The restaurant resembles close to Jimmy's in function...in almost ever aspect but with lower pricing. The have a family salad and two types of bread....one made in house(garlic). The have good pasta, Brick Oven Pizza, traditional Italian American and excellent Specials....featuring Pounded Veal, Pork Chops.Tenderloin, Fish and other Seafoods. The first time I went there, a very large Veal chop was only $15.50 and I was instantly hooked. If you like Linguini with White Clams...it comes with a dozen Fresh Little Necks. One of the house specials. i.e. is, as in their signature item is * Paglia e Fieno with Shrimp and Scallops in a Vodka Cream ( straw and hay pasta )*...It originally used to be served with Lobster....then Langostino...but apparently the food cost have become too high and they have now substituted with scallops.

                              Overall, the prices are very reasonable and it's one of my favorite Rustic Old School restaurants.

                              Just to give you an idea of what type of loyalty they have....90s, I was caught by surprise by a Blizzard that was not foreseen by any weather outlet.....my GF and i were coming back from NYC and could not move in traffic due to the road condition. From the Holland Tunnel to Laico's, it took a couple of hours to get ther and probably a foot of snow had fallen in the short amount of time. I got reasonably close to the restaurant and we hoofed it from a couple of blocks away.....We observed that there were no footprints leading to the entrance of the restaurant, which we thought was a good thing. We entered and much to our dismay, the restaurant was packed in the middle of the afternoon. We asked for a table and were told it would be over an hour wait.....That's some dedicated customers to have.

                              There's also Rita & Joe's in Jersey City as well, but it was sold in the past year or two ....so I cannot tell you if it's still the same or if it has changed with different ownership.

                              1. re: fourunder

                                Looks like a Mom Pop run is due us this winter. I placed all of your rec's on the list! Thanks so much, four. Now I have to get on my bike each morning in preparation for the meals I'll be enjoying the next few months.

                                1. re: fourunder

                                  Rita & Joe's is still a good stop. I was there in the last year and the Braciole was great, one piece and enough to take home too. Just Sonny's on Sterling ave in JC (not to far from Laico's) has closed, however the entire staff is now at Bella Sorella in Bayonne at 51st and Broadway. Great "old school".
                                  Also downtown in JC are two more - Abbondanza on Grand has just reopened after being flooded out (going there tomorrow) and Presto (off Grand near Prep). Again both old school especially Presto. The best part is they are BYOB!!

                                  1. re: BobbyEats

                                    I'm glad to hear Rita & Joe's is still good. They always made the Seafood Salad fresh and made to order for me. I don't like it premade with any acid....so they would always accommodate my request to make it with whatever they had on hand that was fresh....Large Shrimp, Calamari, Scungilli, Mussels and Clams....dressed only in Olive Oil and Lemon halves on the side.

                                    The one dish that still gets me to this day is a Special Cowboy Rib Eye Steak stuffed with Sausage....ordered by a business customer. To this day, I'm still jealous of that dish and not having ordered it myself.

                                    I had always heard Sonny's was good...especially from the Wise Guys I knew from Bayonne....sorry to say...but I never made it there.

                        2. re: HillJ

                          Bread + Butter is like Peanut Butter + Jelly some things are just meant to go together. While I don't find the olive oil option to be offensive I generally throw a ton of cheese, pepper seed and black pepper and make a sludge-ish topping with it.

                          For whatever reason I'm just a butter guy!

                            1. re: HillJ

                              BTW, at Spirito's butter is never an option but any amount of dried parm cheese is and already on the table when you arrive. I've never used olive oil on the basic Italian bread they serve but I'm more of a dip the bread in the "gravy" kinda gal anywho.

                              1. re: HillJ

                                Oh HillJ growing up on Sunday's when my grandmother who lived with us would start the gravy in the morning and let it slow simmer till the after noon when my uncles and cousins would come over for dinner........all day I would be dipping bread chunks into the gravy! One of the simple pleasures in life.

                                1. re: jrvedivici

                                  Here, here! Although my experience didn't include my own Grandmother on red gravy (they had their own special dishes), so many of my friends came from wonderful Italian homes. You could smell the gravy before you entered the house. I learned early to always bring bread with me, made friends of these women for life.

                    2. re: fourunder

                      I agree with you completely fourunder. Jimmy's food is far superior to Spirito's. Spirito's has a nostalgic charm and their pizza and cheese ravioli are simply delicious. Walking down the block for an Italian Ice at DiCosmo's is a real treat if you're in the neighborhood.

                      All three are great and we're fortunate to live in NJ so we can enjoy them all!

                      1. re: basil4me

                        Can you possibly imagine opening a restaurant, or food business today and expecting to have a run of at least 8 decades... especially in Elizabeth.

                        Spirito's.....established in 1932

                        DiCosmo's...... established in 1915

                        http://dicosmos.com/?page_id=2

                        Al Santillo's.....established in 1918

                        http://www.santillopizza.com/

                        1. re: fourunder

                          Now you're talking my language, four. Time tested.

                          1. re: HillJ

                            I love rustic food.....especially when it comes from a business that has withstood the test of time.....20 is minimum, but they tend to change with fads, trends and pressure......30+ grabs my attention and you know exactly what to expect from their family recipes.

                          2. re: fourunder

                            That's some amazing history there! I have never been to any of those locations as Union County is about the furthest I will venture north to eat. If I'm going to go past Union County I just go straight into NY at that point. (I'm from Monmouth County)

                            Since your mentioning Elizabeth Fourunder do you know the Seaport Diner on Dowd Ave located across the street from the Skyline Diner or Lookers? Prior to it being the Seaport Diner it was The Meadows Diner from the late 50's to the early 80's when it became the Seaport. The Meadow's Diner was my families diner and I was literally conceived and born at that location my father lived in a trailer for awhile behind the diner. My first job as a toddler was scrapping gum off the floor! lol

                            1. re: jrvedivici

                              Sorry to say I did not know your family's business....nor have I recalled seeing the Seaport.....however, i have been known to enjoy a beer at Lookers while waiting for family and friends arriving at the airport.

                    3. I LOVE LONG WINDED REVIEWS '-D
                      "One of the simple pleasures in life."
                      how true is that!!!!!
                      my sauce/gravy is simmering away and the sourdough garlic bread with herbs is rising for later dipping.
                      just finished what I thought may be dessert or my Drs. office staffs' treats but not sure. I'm sure something was left out of the show I watched and/or prep instructions-jury's out.

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7837...

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: iL Divo

                        Had to put my two cents in about Jimmy"s. haven"t heard anyone mention Chicken Giacomo which was the original owners first name. It's the richest most delicious chicken dish in Monmouth county. It's pan fried Chicken stuffed w prosciutto and mozzarella finished in an Alfredo like sauce. Your cardiologist won't recommend it but I do. The pasta Divenczo and pasta di giovani are absolutely terrific . One is loaded w garlic in a fresh no nonsense red sauce and the other has Gaeta olives capers garlic in that same red sauce base. Simple yet delicious . Jimmy's special steak and the pizza are top shelf. I am a guy with a tapeworm undiagnosed that can eat a ton of food. You will not go wrong here. The Sopranos would make this there place . Ever wonder why there's no windows here fuggedaboutit!!! I like to get the pizza as an appetizer if it's a table of 4 or more. I like the way they cut it . This pizza is up there with some of the best I've had around here.

                        1. re: livingloving

                          It would be hard to forget an Italian joint run by a guy named Chicken!

                      2. Thanks for your post on Jimmy's jrvedivici. I read this blog often and always enjoy and mostly agree with your posts and your insightful input.

                        I've only been to Jimmy's once (this past June - on a first date) and enjoyed my tuna dish along with the appetizers we ordered that evening (including the fried calamari.) I really enjoyed the flatbread, olives and salami we ate while waiting for our table at the bar. All those salty Italian small bites made the wine taste even better! We will definately make plans to go back there very, very soon!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: basil4me

                          Hey thanks for the kind words Basil, I'm happy I have been able to provide you with some insight.

                          Although it seems it might be you who is providing me with some Jimmy's insight. Normally when I go I have a reservation or it's during the week when seating is immediately available so I don't spend much time waiting at the bar. However I have taken notice to several meat and olive trays being on the bar during my visits. I just assumed they were appetizer platters that people ordered while waiting. Your saying those are there for you to enjoy while waiting and not something people have ordered specifically? That's the way I took your comments.......if so I might have to have a drink at the bar next time regardless if my table is ready!

                          1. re: jrvedivici

                            Yes - have a drink and enjoy some of those appetizers!

                        2. Went back last night 18 of us not one complaint to be had!