I must admit to being a bit apprehensive about trying Bay Avenue Trattoria. My prior experience with Chef Romanowski's previous restaurant, Joe and Maggie's, was not very good. However, with several of my favorite chef's (Drew Araneo and Erik Witherspool) having trained under Chef Romanowski coupled with excellent reviews on this board, I had to give this place a try. To be quite honest, it was getting embarrassing going to the same restaurant (Belford Bistro) week after week. On the other hand, Belford has never disappointed and I was reluctant to try something new and be disappointed. Well, let's get to the good stuff.
I'm happy to report that the food was generally very good. My wife and I were joined by another couple and we ordered as follows: starters – bucatini carbonara with poached egg - special (very creamy and delicious), pan roast of clams with garlic and white wine (fabulous – I could of swimmed in that bowl), garganelli with prosciutto and peas (good but took the silver medal to the bucatini), and beef carpaccio topped with warm sauteed mushrooms (the odd man out of the bunch – the starter wasn't bad but the warm mushrooms seemed to clash with the room temperature beef); entrees – red wine braised beef short ribs with mashed yukon gold potatoes (a single luscious off the bone short rib which melted in my mouth – I wish I could make mine that way), pork osso bucco with fennel sauasge, borcolli rabe and white beans (another fantastic dish – the pork was fork tender and was like butta' while the sausage and beans along with the bitter rabe added a nice flavor and textutal counterpoint to the shank), seared day boat sea scallops with brown butter (very ample portion consisting of 7 scallops – good flavor but disappointed that they didn't have a nice sear – also confused as to why only one side of scallops were seared), and charbroiled cajun spiced tuna with orzo and green beans – special (the tuna was excellent however the orzo was an odd compliment as it lacked flavor – would have choosen a different starch); dessert – chocolate bread pudding with vanilla gelato ( a wonderful and decadent dessert – warm gooey chocolate with cool vanilla ice cream – a winner), Joe's famous tiramisu (an interesting twist as it contained devil's food cake – good but it didn't do anything for me), and affogato – shot of espresso with heath bar gelatto and biscotti crumbs (very nice however it melts pretty quickly and becomes more of a soup).
All in all we were very happy with the food. Now for the negatives. I knew going in that the restaurant's décor was very casual however I was surprised with what I found. As one of our guests had put it, “if your serving $29 entrees, you should have cloth napkins if not a table cloth.” I was also a little surprised at the restaurant's condition. The walls looked a bit worn and needed some repairing/repainting. I was also a little disappointed with the service, while well intentioned, it lacked polish and was a tad rough. I would categorize it as being “diner-esque”. The décor and service aside, I would not hesitate returning to BAT or recommending the restaurant. BAT is restaurant you must accept for its quirks. I will however continue to implore Chef Romanowski to spring for cloth napkins and request that he ditch those paper place mats.
Bay Ave Trattoria
122 Bay Ave, Highlands, NJ 07732
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