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Aug 08, 2022

Customers Embrace New BYOB Fine Dining Restaurant

The old MJ’s BYOB Sports Bar in Monmouth Beach has undergone a spectacular transformation. Now named Gaia Bistro and Gaia Pizza, new ownership has converted the pizza half of the restaurant location to a surf-themed pizzeria aimed directly at the local families and school kids, while the restaurant side will cater to a fine dining clientele. Perhaps the most notable aspect of Gaia is the conspicuous lack of freezer space. In fact, Gaia doesn’t have a freezer in the entire building. All food is sourced and prepared fresh daily.

Six weeks of renovation have transformed the 116-seat space into a chic bistro with both inside and al fresco dining. Gaia Bistro customers are immediately enveloped in electric blue indirect lighting and trendy lounge-style music upon entering. The vibe coupled with white tablecloths and candlelight gives one the impression of dining in a trendy Manhattan restaurant. The new menu created by Executive Chef and Owner Michael Tornillo leans heavily toward a Mediterranean flavor profile.   

“I’ve borrowed recipes from some of my favorite spots worldwide,” he said. “I believe that people should be enveloped in a food fantasy that stimulates all senses, so we’ve gone to great lengths to make Gaia a destination unlike any other in the area.”

Chef Michael’s philosophy is that “we eat with our eyes, and eyes register more that we realize.” His comment is directed at the soft but vibrant dining environment he has created from his own vision, coupled with attentive service, beautiful plating and delicious food. Plates like a whole fresh grilled branzino, a 26-ounce Tuscan veal chop, and citrus-marinated seared halibut are not the only succulent dishes on his menu. He has also snuck in some fine French favorites like escargot served in a puff pastry, which many of his invited guests at his soft opening raved about.  

“I’ve never even considered eating escargot, but since Chef Mike put it on his tasting menu, I figured I’d try it.  Wow was I impressed,” exclaimed Denise Battaglio, one of Gaia’s invited guests.

Gaia, pronounced “guy-ah,” is the name of the ancient Greek goddess of the earth, hence the “tree of life” logo Chef Michael has adopted as his trademark. According to him, this will be the flagship location for what he hopes to be a long and happy love affair with the local community of foodies who appreciate eating as much as he loves cooking.

From gourmet pizza on the right side, to fine cuisine on the left, Gaia Pizza and Gaia Bistro have something for everyone. They are located at 36 Beach Rd. in Monmouth Beach and can be found at and Reservations can be made through RESY or by calling 732-222-6800.