Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens are not two of my favorite things. But raining verbal terror on overrated eateries, or sounding a clarion call announcing a great local spot are favorite things indeed. Fortunately, dinner at 28 East Enoteca in Keyport deserves the sound of happy trumpets.
Much like Zoe Bistro in Little Silver (which we still love and frequent) 28 East is purely chef/owner-driven. Chef Abitino is as committed and creative as Junior is at Zoe. He has turned this tiny 30 seat space into a Mediterranean foodie’s delight.
We began the meal with one order of Carciofini, and one of Flaming Figs. The Carciofini, served in a canoe shaped vessel of a dish, offers lightly battered, flash-fried tender artichoke leaves in a rich cream sauce awash with Pancetta bits aplenty. When you finish the artichokes, you will ennoble the ordinary bread on the table with a swim in the remaining sauce until your dish is clean. Though the Flaming Fig dish is listed with the Tapas, it serves more as a superb salad. The pan-seared buttery figs live in a sweet balsamic reduction that coats the greens and offers great contrast to the accompanying goat cheese. The miniature slices of thin raisin toast are another enjoyable touch.
For the mains, we shared a Zuppa di Pesce and a Shrimp Carnevale. The fish stew, though a bit bland for my taste - - your mileage may vary - - was happily overstocked with perfectly done rings of Calamari, Shrimp, Clams and Mussels atop enough pasta for take-home The Shrimp Carnevale, on the other hand, had a very appropriate spicy after-burn. The Jumbo Shrimp, again perfectly done and married to chunks of Chorizo, lived in a rich and creamy Polenta sauce that also begged for bread.
For desert, we shared a home made Lobster Tail. Over-filled with Bavarian Cream, it was as good as we’ve had anywhere. (We ordered a second one to take home for midnight snacking). Our waitress was jovially enthusiastic, and the bus service was quietly efficient. The cuisine is priced fairly and we will return for sure. Given the choice, we’d take a meal at 28 East Enoteca over any number of brown paper packages wrapped up in a string.