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.