Made the fatal error of trying this place on Saturday night. While still early in the rush (5:45 !), the staff, from hostess to bussers, was visibly overwhelmed.
Seated at a corner table with a lovely view of dusk on the ocean as well as a middle-aged woman passed out in a drunken stupor on the boardwalk (us, politely to waiter after 20 minutes of observing said woman: "do you know if that woman's alright?" - well-intentioned waiter "She's probably drunk.").
Ordered selection of antipasti, fat cerignola olives, proscuitto, soppressata, grana padano, and bresaola. Also ordered the mozzarella in carrozza. Both arrived after 40 minutes. (friendly Inquiry to still well-intentioned server after 25 mins: "how's our first courses?" - flummoxed waiter: "Saturday night is busy for us. Many orders come into the kitchen.")
Appetizers arrive. Maddeningly ordinary. Salumi are sliced well in advance of being plated for patrons. This is clear in the way the rounds of bresaola have curled at the edges while sitting in the heat of the kitchen. Grana padano hunks are supermarket grade and have big regions of inedible rind. Moreover, 4 dollars for 5 olives would make even the most touristy of Little Italy places blush. Mozzarella in carrozza was goopy, oversauced and lukewarm.
Entrees: Margherita Pizzete -- decent crust, but not a margherita. It had tomato rounds rather than milled san marzanos. Penne Zingara (raved about in the NY Times review) is a mish mash of tomatoes and olives with noodles suspended in a good inch of soupy sauce at the bottom of the bowl. Chicken scarpiello - hunks of banquet quality chicken breast aggressively dredged in flour (resulting in a gummy, flavorless exterior on the chicken) unceremoniously plopped on some all-purpose brocolli rabe that was no doubt being employed as the foundation for countless other entrees leaving the kitchen. Adorned with a nondescript watery sauce and hunks of (very cold) sausage, this dish was sent back.
"Would you like something else?"
"Just the check please."
Central Jersey 'hounds: have a drink at Sirena's nice bar, order a pizzete, and leave with your expectations modestly met.
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