Crisini’s Brick Oven Pizza Parlor & Restaurant
Final Grade: B
What Ocean County, or any county in NJ, doesn’t need is a new Italian restaurant: true or false? Most would argue true, the brave would take the former. However if you travel to Crisini’s in Toms River any time soon, you should take the side of false and sit down for dinner.
Located in a new shopping center in the Silverton section of this vast town, this dining destination will surpass your expectations. The atmosphere is warm and comforting. It definitely has a rustic appeal, especially with the exposed brick walls and concrete floor. The dining room is larger than most; booths on the outer rims with round and square “tops” filling in the middle space. Hard to find elbow room will not be an issue here as the management has done an impressive job spreading out the seating.
The first thing that struck us as a good sign that we decided to go “Italian” that night was the menu. Not that it was innovative or trend-setting; it was just the fact that the chef took familiar flavors and served them in an untraditional way. The appetizer list read items such as Broccoli Rabe over Polenta with sausage ($12), Long Hot Peppers with olive oil and potatoes ($9), and Fritella Vera- Old Fashioned Spinach pancakes ($8). The pastas include choices such as Rigatoni Napolentana Campania- diced eggplant sautéed with olive oil, garlic, plum tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella & basil ($17) and Rigatoni alla Crissini- pasta tossed with shrimp and sautéed in olive oil topped with cherry tomatoes in a white wine sauce with arugula ($19). Some entrees that required a double take were the Chicken Lola- grilled chicken served over escarole and beans ($19) and the Veal Rabe- veal scallopini sautéed in olive oil, garlic, and butter served over broccoli rabe in a clear broth with a hint of lemon ($21). There were others that were commendable, but those were the best examples that show how different your trip to this place may be.
More importantly though is the taste. We started with the polenta and long hot pepper appetizers mentioned above. They both came out synchronized and steaming hot, good start in my mind. The garlicy broccoli rabe was dispersed generously enough to make for excellent “fork-fulls”. What complimented the sliced sausage was the buttery and creamy polenta. Sadly, the sausage itself was mediocre, it clearly benefited from its counterparts. Long hot peppers were next on our plate. We were quite impressed from the heat this dish attacked us with. Firm potatoes sopped up the seasoned olive oil while acting as a much needed cooling agent. For dinner, we ordered a special of the evening, Chicken Cardinale ($19) - chicken topped with ham, roasted eggplant & red peppers, and fresh mozzarella on a bed of pasta in a tomato cream sauce. Chicken Lola, and Veal and Shrimp- veal and shrimp with artichokes, shitake mushrooms, and chopped fresh tomatoes, in a white wine, garlic lemon butter sauce ($21). The chicken special was enjoyable. The pasta was cooked well and the cream sauce was creamy enough to be called so. Chicken Lola was even more enjoyable though. Full of slow-simmered flavor, it was got better with each bite. Chicken and Veal was a mixed dish. The broth was zesty and fresh, the veal tender and abundant, shitakes and artichokes sautéed to their potential; the shrimp, however, was tough and hard to get past.
Our wait staff was helpful and attentive. They gave us apt time to discuss options before choosing and brought items when needed. Unfortunately, they didn’t bring out our bread until appetizers were presented and only brought out water when asked to.
Something also very interesting and commendable about Crisini’s is their wine lockers. There are lockers in the back of the dining room that you can have to store your vino. If you donate at least $100.00 to an Ocean County organization and bring in your receipt, you can have your own locker. The locker will sport your name while you get to keep the key.
So as the continuous population of Italian eateries grow, us patrons will have to take some risks to find the winners. Trust me, there’s a winner here at Crisini’s. This restaurant is located at 1898 Hinds Road, Toms River, NJ 08753.
Total score 17/25
Final Grade: B
A: 21-25 B: 16-20 C: 11-15 D: 6-10 F: 0-5
Bland, boring, overcooked, underdone
Very little flavor, not much aroma
Flavors apparent, basic ability to please palates
Flavor worth discussing, chef’s use of ingredients impressive
Great flavor, taste lingers and leaves diner wanting more
Inattentive staff, no regard for wait time
Staff average in helpfulness, timing alright, either more/less needed
Staff knowledgeable and attentive to needs without asking, timing very well executed
Remarkable and noteworthy, service so good you forget it is ever an issue elsewhere
Cover it up please
Sloppy and the eater can tell little thought went into it
Descent presentation: looks alright, not worth a picture but enough to make you hungry
Admirable, it is apparent the chef plated with a consideration for presentation
Presentational talents are here. Looks beautiful and too good to dig in
Prices match quality
Prices are too high for quality
Prices are still too high but not outrageously
Some items are priced accordingly but not all
Most items are priced accordingly
All items are matched accordingly
Would I go back?
Not a chance ever
Looking forward to it
What time should I arrive?!?