May 31, 2022

Dining with Draz: Il Colosseo

By Lori Draz

We love your recommendations. While it’s true that some work out better than others, this one was a winner. Thank you to reader Ellen for suggesting Il Colosseo in the Union Square Mall in Red Bank.

This little gem is about a year old and is developing a loyal following. The neatly casual décor is soothing Earth-toned with comfortably spaced tables. Next to the really well-made food, the stars of the show are the servers. Our server, Pablo, was right out of a movie and bursting with so much cheer, he practically sang the specials too us. His charming accent and frequent visits to our table ramped up our excitement too. Pablo was assisted by two other young men who kept a close eye our table wear, water glasses and happiness.   

There were so many tempting appetizers that it was hard to choose. There was one special we couldn’t miss; the Zucchini Flowers stuffed with ricotta and mascarpone cheese with pine nuts and tricolore salad, dressed with a roasted red pepper sauce. It was exquisite, but it is a seasonal selection, so don’t be upset if you miss it. Our other two picks were on the regular menu. The Mozzarella in Carrozza is so satisfying. The crispy crunch of the fried bread surrounding a half inch thick layer of gooey, melted mozzarella just makes you want to stop and savor. Our third struck a familiar chord with our diner who reminisced that his mother also made Carciofi Fritti. These are three pan-fried baby artichokes served with ricotta and pesto. It’s a heartwarming offering not on many menus and worth the try.

Those remarkable servers made the course even more special as they tableside plated individual portions of the apps – a fanciful start to a great meal.  

Now for the entrées. Diner one was full from the apps, so she opted for the rustic Siciliana Salad, which is an assortment of al dente green beans, sliced potatoes and red onion with red wine vinegar and EVOO. She paired the farmer’s favorite salad with an order of the Colosseo Meatballs from the appetizer menu. These are three large pan-fried, soft and savory meatballs with marinara and ricotta. She complimented herself on putting these two Sunday kitchen selections together, commenting that the appetizers portions are so large and tasty that you might just want to try pairing a couple of their many offerings yourself.   

Diner two went with a traditional Veal Milanese, and he loved it. These are two veal medallions, pounded thin, breaded and lightly friend and topped with Capricciosa salad. It filled the plate with flavor, and he said the veal was cooked just right – juicy and full of flavor. It’s a simple dish done well, which sometimes can be the hardest to achieve.

I did it my way and ordered the Pasta al la Frank Sinatra. It is rich assortment of black olives, mussels, manilla clams, shrimps in a marinara sauce, served with your choice of pasta. I picked fettucine, and it was perfectly done. Each treasure from the sea was tender, and the saltiness of the black olives with the sweetest of the marinara would have even made Ole Blue Eyes say, “Encore!”

We ordered three desserts, and each was fabulous. The rarest find on the list were the Profiteroles that arrived looking like a log from the enchanted forest. These are three tender pastry puffs filled with cream and enrobed in a luscious chocolate coating – not too sweet and a perfect split for a three-guest meal. Our second was the Cannoli. The crispy shells are baked in their Brooklyn location, and it was worth the trip. This golden shell with the smooth and silky cannoli filling ate beautifully. The third was the homemade Pistachio Tartufo. It was just what you hope for in that dessert, and the raspberry filling inside added just the right tang. It comes cut in four pieces, and I snatched the fourth piece without even asking. We couldn’t decide on a favorite, but dessert will not disappoint, so enjoy.  

Il Colosseo is elegant enough for a special evening and homey enough for a mid-week meal. There’s plenty of parking and its handicap accessible. The bathroom was impeccably clean and the coffee (I had the Americano) was freshly brewed and boldly flavored. 

Cost – moderate to high

What we liked- The authentic dishes and the artful plating, the plates and tableware, the big portions, the big parking lot and that charming, fun and smiling wait staff who earned an A+ for enthusiasm. We give it 5 Js.  

Il Colosseo is located at 500 Route 35, in the Union Square Mall in Red Bank. 732-383-5373. They’re open Monday through Thursday and Sunday from 12:30 to 9 pm; Friday and Saturday from 12:30 to 10 pm.