By Bob Sacks |
A slice of Manhattan’s Little Italy has taken root on Main Street in Bradley Beach since Marandola’s opened last June.
This classic Italian restaurant serves large portions of well-made traditional Italian and Mediterranean food and is located just up the street from the much loved Del Ponte’s, an iconic Italian bakery, well known for their large variety of homemade biscotti, tarrali and other baked treats. Thus one gets the feeling that this locale is becoming the cornerstone of a blooming culinary destination for Shore residents and visitors.
It was a nice touch that, as diners perused the menu, chef/owner Mark Marandola, a CIA (Culinary Institute of America) graduate with much experience in Italian cuisine, welcomed them before returning to the kitchen to oversee the preparation of their dinner. Another pleasant feature of this restaurant is outdoor seating, weather permitting.
For starters we chose Seafood Salad ($16), a generous portion of shrimp, scallops, calamari, mussels, slivers of red onion and parsley, bathed in lemon juice and olive oil. I prefer more lemon juice and less olive oil than in this rendition, but the seafood was nevertheless expertly cooked, retaining good firmness without chewiness, and preserving the distinctive individual flavors of each of the ingredients.
The Burrata Salad ($13), an ice-cream-scoop-sized ball of the great mozzarella/cream combination, served with arugula and pesto dressing, was quite good, but would have been even better had it not been served as cold, so as to allow it to soften a bit and permit all the luscious flavors to emerge.
A nightly special of Bronzino sounded appealing, but was so popular that it sold out before our waitperson could place our order. Happily, we chose Snapper Rosemarina ($28) instead; a large filet of moist and meaty fish, lightly coated with white wine sauce and served with roasted potatoes and sautéed mushrooms was an excellent alternative.
A perfectly cooked, seared Pork Chop Giambotta ($27) plated with hot cherry peppers, mushrooms, caramelized onions and new potatoes, won rave reviews from one of my guests and was deemed a favorite dish.
Chicken, Broccoli Rabe and Sausage ($24); plump, moist and tender breast, served with roasted potatoes, refreshingly bitter rabe and rounds of mild sausage, was a fine example of a simple country dish, made with a few excellent ingredients, needing nothing more to be very enjoyable and noteworthy.
We were very pleased with an order of pasta, Spaghetti Arrabiata ($23), a spicy, al dente preparation sauced with garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms, capers, anchovies, black olives and red pepper seeds.
A special of tender, falling-off-the-bone Pork Shank ($32), with a chunky tomato sauce, served over a bed of mashed potatoes, and side of green beans was tasty. If this slow-cooked country dish is offered on the night of your visit, it’s worth a try.
Marandola’s is BYO; we brought a variety of wines to pair with the food. An interesting set of whites led off the meal: 2012 Fevre Fourchames Chablis was still youthfully crisp with undertones of lime and minerals, while a 2009 Faively Les Clos Chablis, fully mature but with many years of life remaining, was lusher, with tropical fruit undertones and plenty of lively acidity; both paired well with the seafood appetizers and the burrata. For reds: 2002 ArPePe Sassella Riser va Rocce Rosse, a Nebbiolo-based wine from a cult producer, was reminiscent of a fine, aged Barbaresco, in its weight, light color and nose of roses. A 1983 Pichon Lalande from a previously opened bottle, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and merlot, right at its sweet spot of maturity, was perfectly balanced in regards to fruit, acid and tannin. Tasted blind, the 100 point (Parker) 2005 Chapoutier Hermitage Le Pavillon, 100 percent syrah, was a big wine, but light on its feet – an excellent pairing for the pork chops and chicken. Lots of black fruit, which buried the tannins, made for a wine which got better and better in the glass as the evening progressed. A pleasant surprise, 2000 Verite La Joie, a California homage to Bordeaux from Pauillac, was spot on; a refined expression of New World cabernet sauvignon. Very good!
If you are not overly full after enjoying those generous appetizer and entree portions, the desserts (all $9) are worth sharing. We were enticed to order Tiramisu, a traditional blend of mascarpone custard, whipped cream, and expresso, as well as Nutella-Chocolate Budino, a cool and creamy pudding, with a dollop of whipped cream, and Fresh Mixed Berries with whipped cream. A good grade of commercial gelato is also available.
If you’re looking for a downtown New York-style neighborhood Italian restaurant which serves large portions of traditional cuisine in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, put Marandola’s in Bradley Beach on your radar.
Bob Sacks, longtime food and wine buff, reviews restaurants in this bimonthly column. Follow him on Instagram @dinnerwithbob.
This article was first published in the June 21-June 28, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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