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Stella Marina- Asbury Park

I looked for a recent review of this place and could find nothing newer than 2008. So here is my experience today.

My wife wanted to take me out for to someplace nice with a view, and we decided to give Asbury Park a chance. Once there we decided upon Stella Marina for lunch.

First and foremost, I was extremely disappointed in the preparation of the saltimbocca. I do not know where the chef trained, but classic Roman saltimbocca do not have piles of spinach and tomato on them. They also require fresh sage. The chef needs to invest in a ticket to Rome to find out how to prepare these. What was served was a crapped up American culinary school improvisation on the dish.

Secondly, the restaurant was empty. Yet when I requested that they substitute pasta for the potatoes on the Saltimbocca the chef refused to do this. Quite frankly, I found this arrogant and unsatisfactory. If they had oodles of customers and the restaurant was busy I could understand no substitutions. But under the circumstance they had staff sitting around doing nothing, and I would think that they would try to please those customers they did have. To add injury to the insult, the fingerlings were overcooked mush which I am guessing were not freshly prepared and merely reheated.

My wife had the carbonara, which was a similar miss. They used bucatini which are typical for al amatriciana. Carbonara must be always made with spaghetti. Then they put thyme and snowpeas in the sauce, which should only include egg, bacon (guanciale) , black pepper & sheeps milk peccorino with perhaps a debatable kiss of cream. Again a crapped up American culinary school version of the dish. Edible but memorable only for its shortcomings.

The food was not bad, but the attitude and execution sucked. Maybe I'm crazy, but I think one should expect more for a $ 50 lunch in Monmouth county. I can only imagine what this place must be like in season. I won't go back voluntarily.

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  1. Sorry you had such an unpleasant dining experience. I have never understood why American restaurants insist on trying to "improve" a Roman classic like saltimbocca or carbonara.The results are generally disappointing, as you experienced.

    Sounds like you really understand Italian food, so I want to share this with you. While you were having an indifferent experience at best, I was having a memorable one at the same time in Asbury Park! After reading about it on these boards, some co-workers and I had a chance to stop at Porta for lunch. It was fantastic. They serve mostly pizza and when we asked the waiter how big they were he was very candid "Too big usually for one person, but not enough for two. Have a few apps and split a pie." It was great advice. We had their signature grilled dayboat octopus served with a fennel slaw and a lemony caper sauce, a Tuscan kale salad and the salumi(bresaola, speck and finocchiona) & formaggi plate with a carbonara pizza chaser. It seemed like a lot of food a first, but it was all so good and expertly prepared and served that we ate it all. For $6.00 I had a generous pour of Frascati to wash it down. Only disappointment was the espresso. No special view, but terrific food. Next time you want a fix, head to Porta. www.portapizza.com

    4 Replies
    1. re: bropaul

      Bropaul, you had all of my favorites...glad you agree about Porta--I just love what they're doing! Now you should check out what I think of as a mini-Porta--The Monk Room in Newark! A block from the Pru Ctr and a shorter menu, but they've got all of the crucial dishes!

      1. re: Curlz

        Great minds think alike or whatever the equivalent is for taste in food! It was truly outstanding - and this from someone who lived in Italy - not slavish imitation but true to the inspiration. I've got the Monk Room on my radar now too.

      2. re: bropaul

        Thanks will have to give Porta a try.

        And yes, I know I am picky about Italian food. But after you have had the originals in Italy some of the American versions suffer greatly by comparison.

        1. re: vikingkaj

          The folks behind Porta have made a serious commitment to quality and source terrific product--I think you'll appreciate their vision. Just know that a) it's v casual and b) if you're going on a weekend night, unless you're a 20-something looking for a rave-like atmosphere, get in/out on the earlier side. It's the one thing I don't get, but it works for them, I guess. Just seems like two totally different places when that happens!
          ETA: check out the Porta thread for more details.

      3. Had a similar experience at Stella Marina about three years ago. Haven't been back since.

        5 Replies
        1. re: cke25

          Still, it always seems packed. Of the handful of restaurants on the Asbury Park boardwalk, which one is recommended?

          1. re: Sdenred

            Porta - discussed upthread is one block from the boardwalk. Of the boardwalk venues, I find the Cuban place to the be best of the bunch, but it too has its shortcomings.

            1. re: Sdenred

              I went to the new Kim & Maries' Eat and Drink away right behind the Berkeley hotel and really liked it, but need to go back more times to make a final decision.

              Porta's is absolutely the best, but soon it and all the restaurants in AP will be crowded, crowded!

              1. re: SusieQQ

                We went to Kim Marie's a while back when one of the snow storms was approaching as it was one of the only places open. What we had was good but I found it really hard to read the menus as it was so dark in there.
                Porta is a weekly walk to grab a bite, usually the octopus. Have not made it to their place Goldies yet but have been to Pascal and Sabine which I enjoyed as well. They seem to do things right at all places including the Monk Room and we shall see once they open in Jersey City

              2. re: Sdenred

                Olive Garden is always packed too... Just sayin'!

            2. Location Location Location!! This place has been mediocre since it opened. I gave it a few tries and then just gave up on it. The good thing about living so close to the shore is I see enough of it I don't feel the need to dine at crappy places just to see the ocean. Sadly, much of our state doesn't live close to the shore and they keep places like this open.

              10 Replies
              1. re: jrvedivici

                That's a good point. I'm taking an elderly couple out for lunch on Sunday down the short and was thinking of going to the Asbury Park boardwalk. Are there other ocean view dining options North of Seaside that you would recommend for an outing? It would not have to be upscale, but a big step above cheesteaks and boardwalk fries... :-)

                1. re: Sdenred

                  La Dolce Vita in Belmar, not on the boardwalk, but on Ocean Ave. If you get a table in the front/enclosed porch area you will have a view of the boardwalk and ocean. It has excellent food.

                  www.belmarrestaurant.com

                  1. re: Sdenred

                    Well lunch fare is more forgiving than dinner so I would suggest a ride to Long Branch, Pier Village. (assuming they don't have mobility problems).

                    There on the water front you have 3 options, the ultra "chic" Avenue (pricey but very nice and decent food), Sienna (Over priced Italian but nice place decent food) and McCloons (more a burger - sandwich type lunch place). All of these offer beautiful views of the ocean.

                    A few steps away in the shopping part of Pier Village you have a pizza place, Sawa (japennese hibachi/sushi), Stewarts Root Beer/Hot Dogs, Turning Point (excellent breakfast/lunch place), some Hawian themed place, and a couple of other places I'm not sure are open for lunch. You get a pretty good variety within a condensed area. You can go to turning point and take a stroll across the street and see the ocean etc. (this is why I mentioned mobility, if they can walk ok then Pier Village is a nice place to spend an afternoon)

                    I would suggest this above Asbury Park, where most of the boardwalk is just eateries.....and they are more spread out, and none are superior to what you would find in Pier Village, in my opinion.

                    (there is also Rooney's Crab Shack right up the road from Pier Village, which is a local favorite and very nice, but again fairly pricey, although I've never been there for lunch)

                      1. re: jrvedivici

                        Pier Village is a good alternative, but on a Sunday in nice weather parking might be a problem....and skip McCloone's terrible food.

                        1. re: jrvedivici

                          I've had good experiences at Avenue and would go back again. I do think that initial success has gone to their head in the pricing of the raw bar, however.

                          We live in Red Bank, so Pier Village is a little closer. It was a nice day so we decided to give Asbury a chance.

                          1. re: vikingkaj

                            "I've had good experiences at Avenue and would go back again. I do think that initial success has gone to their head in the pricing of the raw bar, however."

                            That pretty much sum's it up alright. Except I would say their pricing on everything, not just the raw bar, is pretty excessive.

                            I've said it a few times on here, when they are charging $300+ for a bottle of vodka in "Le Club" and there is a line around the block to get into "Le Club", Avenue the restaurant is the second focus of the owners. As long as that nightclub continues to do the business they do, the restaurant will always be second banana.

                            While not in Red Bank, I live very close to Red Bank and both my children attended RBC. (well son still does)

                          2. re: jrvedivici

                            Agree about McClones 6 restaurants, not a good one among them.

                          3. re: Sdenred

                            Keep in mind that in Asbury a sizable chunk of the boardwalk south of Convention Hall and along the old Howard Johnson pavilion is currently torn up and under construction.

                            1. re: equal_Mark

                              Mr. Mark is there anything in Monmouth Cty that you do not know about??

                              What color underwear am I wearing? Bonus question; Are they boxers or briefs?