Before things get too crowded, we headed out for some exquisite oceanfront dining at Sirena Ristorante in Pier Village, Long Branch. Sirena translates to “mermaid,” and like its mythical inspiration, this mesmerizing enchantress continues its long run of beaconing those looking for something beautiful, delicious, with a touch of romance. Sirena’s Italian dishes, like its sister location, Stella Marina in Asbury Park, showcase quality ingredients and careful preparation. Their driving force, restaurateur Joseph Cetrulo, enjoys a long-standing reputation of offering classic Italian dishes with sophistication.
Gazing out the floor-to-ceiling windows at the Atlantic, we started our evening with two appetizers, both large enough for sharing. Our first was Tortino di Melanzane, which is fried eggplant, mozzarella di bufala with tomato and basil. The bright colors of this gorgeous dish reminded me of the Italian flag. Its taste was just as vibrant. We also had the Portobello, which has a hazelnut crust, topped a tri-color salad with a cognac demi-glaze and grana Padano. Wow! I loved every bite of the juicy mushrooms with a hint of sweetness. It is large enough for lunch and would be a great choice for a vegetarian meal. We rounded it out with a crisp, colorful salad from the nightly specials list, and I hope this combination of field greens, heirloom tomatoes, avocado and grapefruit topped with shredded cheese is available on your visit.
Now for the entrées. Diner one chose the Faro Island Salmon, which is dusted with pignoli and tomato and served with sautéed spinach and whipped potatoes. It’s a simple dish, prepared with great care and done beautifully. The moist salmon really loved the pignoli dusting, giving it a rich flavor, and our diner enjoyed every bite.
Diner two was in a pasta mood, and he was delighted with his selection of the Wild Mushroom Ravioli in a truffle crema. The ravioli are an easy-to-eat size, a little bigger than a square inch, and the filling had a pronounced mushroom flavor and texture. The touch of truffle in the crema pulled the earthy qualities of the dish together, and he said the ravioli, which can be tricky to cook, were done to tender perfection.
I had the Pollo Scarpariello. It was just awesome. The Bell & Evans chicken is cut into small pieces and served on the bone on top of a bed on broccoli rabe, with crispy potatoes on one side and three small round pieces of sweet Italian sausage on the other. The chicken was tender, but the standout for me was the cubed potato chunks which were creamy and had such a beautiful crunch. So good!
For dessert, we chose an Apple Tart, a heavenly combination of caramelized apples, amaretto-toasted pignoli, topped with vanilla gelato and served in a paper-thin phyllo cup that was lighter than air. Our second was the Banana Bread Pudding which is made with ciabatta bread, nocello custard, walnuts, chocolate, bananas, caramel sauce with a scoop of vanilla gelato. For me, this one sounded a little better than it tasted. I like my bread pudding soft and creamy. This one had a more sliceable consistency and was not too sweet. The combination of all the ingredients mixed nicely, but my favorite was the Apple Tart. They also have a Lemon Tart with berries, which I will be trying on my next visit for sure. Another interesting choice was an Italian cookie plate – there’s something you don’t see too often and perfect for sharing too.
Sirena has a happy hour Monday through Friday 2 to 5 pm, Saturday noon to 3 pm and all day Sunday. They accept reservations for indoor dining. Outdoor seating is subject to weather and is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Parking can be tricky, but there are paid garages nearby. Whether you go in daylight for the glorious ocean views or in the evening for the soft lights and fireplace, you are sure to enjoy!
Cost – High
What we liked – The glorious view, delicious food, quality ingredients, unhurried pace of the meal, relaxing airy décor.
Sirena Bar, Bistro & Restaurant is located at 27 Ocean Ave. in Pier Village, Long Branch. 732-222-1119. They’re open Monday through Thursday 11:30 am to 10 pm, Friday 11:30 am to 10:30 pm, Saturday 11:30 am to 11 pm and Sunday noon to 9 pm. SirenaRistorante.com