Thursday, August 16, 2012


Red Bank, NJ

Final Grade: B 

            For any of you who have been lucky enough to live within walking distance to a great restaurant, you know how spoiled you can get when the only effort needed to get a great dinner is finding your shoes! If you have yet to have the luxury of walking to a meal, I must say it is something that is easily taken for granted and consequently so difficult to adjust to when taken away. Hence is the case of Monticello, a place my husband and I walked to so many times before it relocated to Red Bank and took its place among a row of bustling eateries. And although I know its current location isn’t too far, I still walk by the old location in South Amboy and think about how much I miss the convenience and more importantly, the food!

            Now I must admit, once we found out where our beloved Monticello was going and then drove by it, my husband and I kind of vowed not to go back. We were, immaturely I know, bitter about them leaving us! “Oh good ol’ Cello’s (as we called it), there you are, come back!” we whined while driving down Broad Street. Well, if you hadn’t already noticed, Red Bank seems to attract more diners than South Amboy and apparently Monticello is staying there. So in the end, we succumbed to our pettiness and went back to enjoy some favorites and try some new plates…

            Luckily, things haven’t changed in the kitchen as the food was just as good as I remember. We started with a special appetizer of the evening: mussels and clams in a tomato broth with crumbled sausage and fresh herbs. The broth was everything a broth should be-flavorful, light and deep enough for dunking! Dunking, along with fighting for both the sausage and seafood, kept us all intrigued and ready for the next selection.  We went with another special of the evening: arugula salad topped with sliced duck. And although it was just a salad, it delivered much more than its namesake. The duck was cooked well while the placement of goat cheese and nuts offered a palate-pleasing texture element to the dish. A tart vinaigrette tied the flavors together and, like the 1st course, kept the forks battling it out for last bite.
Arugula Salad with Sliced Duck 
            As for entrees, the majority of the table went with familiar menu items from pre-move Monticello. I went with the dish that I have missed so much and have yet to find anywhere else.  Shrimp Notre Dame is unlike anything I’ve ever had at an Italian restaurant. The sautéed shrimp with fresh cherry tomatoes and shallots flambéed with brandy makes for a rich, creamy and sweet coating for the spaghettini. The flavors are deep and in a way luxurious, as it tastes like a cream sauce yet is surprisingly light from the tomatoes bursting each time you twirl your fork. The melted mozzarella atop is nothing short of decadent as it melts continuously throughout the meal making the sauce more and more velvety.
Shrimp Notre Dame
Another dish I had been craving was the Papardelle Monticello. This dish, while it had sausage at the previous location, was still so tasty. My husband ordered it with a request for sausage to be added and was quite content with his choice. The dish screams for summer since it combines wide pasta with zucchini, eggplant and fresh basil. The ingredients all marry together beautifully in a fire-roasted tomato sauce that is adorned with fresh mozzarella. C’mon, can you really beat that this time of year?
Papardelle Monticello
Gnocchi Monticello  was a dish we hadn’t had the luck of having years back but I sure wish we did. The potato gnocchi were slathered in a brandy and goat cheese sauce that was like a renovated vodka sauce-if-you-will. The pasta pillows were tossed with shrimp, artichoke hearts, portobello mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, shallots and peas. It may seem like overload in writing but let it be known, the dish is nothing you should shy away from.
Gnocchi Monticello
The last entrée ordered at the table was a special of the night: NY strip with sautéed broccoli rabe. The generously sized steak was seasoned well, cooked to desired temperature, and enjoyed fittingly.  
NY Strip Steak

            Desserts soon arrived and somehow we all managed to devour each one. The fresh fruit paired with gelato and whipped cream was like a trip down memory lane. And although my husband and I only had the gelato once when it was just a walk away, we still remember the quality and deliciousness. A crème brulee was also enjoyed and left at the table with not a speck left!
            Well, as hard as it is to not have our local favorite right outside the door, we are more than happy to share it with others! With good service, stylish and serene ambiance, and appetizing fare, I truly don’t mind hopping in the car. My only suggestion is that you do too.

Monticello is located at 69 Broad Street, Red Bank, NJ. Menus and other information, including catering details, can be found at

Total score 20/25
Final Grade: B
A: 21-25    B: 16-20    C: 11-15   D: 6-10    F: 0-5
Restaurant Rubric

Food Taste
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
Restaurant service
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
Food Presentation
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?!?


1 comment:

  1. I gain weight just reading "The Hungry Teacher" blogs. She has a delightful way with words and makes everything come to life.