Mar 12, 2020

Long Branch Eatery, Johnny Piancone’s Serving up Delicious Italian Cuisine for 11 Years

By Lori Draz

There are many people celebrating Saint Joseph’s Day this Thursday, March 19, and for those folks, we went to a classic Italian eatery, Johnny Piancone’s in Long Branch. Johnny Piancone’s has been consistently serving a loyal audience for more than 11 years, though honestly it feels like it’s been there even longer. The restaurant takes full advantage of the architecture of the old building it occupies. One wall is old red brick with dramatic artwork. There is a dining enclave set in the bay window that looks onto Broadway and another secluded dining nook opposite the brick wall. Crowning the room is a large, rustic chandelier which lends a lovely glow to the powder gray walls and brass accents. It’s a place where the whole neighborhood meets to enjoy the relaxed warmth, the vintage Italian menu and the spirit of the downtown area.

Johnny Piancone’s hosts private events in its two party rooms upstairs (separate entrance), and there is a busy and cozy bar with lots of high-top tables and one of the most extensive happy hour menus anywhere. If you like dining at the bar, this is a great way to try lots of dishes.

We sat in the well-lit dining room and enjoyed the complimentary basket of warm bread as we made our selections. The wine list is large and had a couple of nice surprises including a Pinot Grigio by Santa Marina that was really lovely. My bourbon old-fashioned was strong and sweet.

We began with two appetizers. First was the Tuscan Shrimp. These large shrimp come floating on a bed of cannellini beans, in a flavorful sauce of garlic, plum tomatoes and white wine. This was really good. Those beans were so soft without being mushy, and the sauce delivered a strong but mannered flavor performance. There is enough to share, though you may not want to. We also had the Fried Calamari and Baby Shrimp. This is a nice, big plate of rings-only calamari with baby shrimp, coated in the same batter with some julienne fennel. The tender rings were properly cooked. The menu says spicy coating, but was it mild enough for timid taste buds. 

Now for our entrées. Diner one chose No Name Salad which is a mountain of goodness. It’s a beautifully assembled plate of fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers, grilled vegetables and marinated mushrooms and artichokes, tossed into mixed greens with a big serving of grilled chicken on the top and a balsamic gorgonzola dressing on the side. She was impressed with the combination of vegetables, textures and flavors, from the crisp greens and tangy mushrooms to the juicy chicken. Try as she might, she could not finish it all and said it reminded of a delicious antipasto, sans the salami.

Diner two chose the Veal Milanese. He doesn’t eat veal often and was glad he picked this night to have some. The colorful presentation really introduced the arugula, radicchio, fresh tomato, red onion and sharp provolone with the corners of the two veal cutlets peeking out from underneath. The veal was evenly pounded, and the coating covered every bite. He said he would both order the juicy veal again and would suggest it to people who love veal. He also considered it to be a good value for the menu price.

I went with the Pork Osso Bucco. The slow-braised shank, covered in a root vegetable demi glaze, shares the plate with sautéed spinach and risotto. The fork-tender pork had a nice taste, and you could tell the chefs really took their time to make it right. The risotto was a little stiff, but it held up well with the meat, although I would have liked just a little more salty cheese in the rice.

The dessert menu is not overly large, but the portion sizes are, making desserts ones you can share. We had two. Our first choice was the homemade butter pecan ice cream, but you can choose from about four other flavors. It comes in a tall, old-fashioned parfait ice cream glass – a vintage look for this creamy treat. We also had the Nutella cheesecake, which is a tall, large slice of caramel-colored Italian cheesecake, with a Nutella sauce poured over top. It’s not overly sweet and not overly filling, and it had a nice texture throughout. Dessert is your option.

Johnny Piancone’s has a children’s menu. There is free parking in the municipal lot in the rear.

 

Cost – moderate

What we liked – The beautiful and interesting interior; the artwork, lighting and chandelier; the beautiful plating and the generous portions; the visits from the owner; the big municipal parking lot; the super clean ladies rooms; the big selection of food on the happy hour menu; the party rooms; and the cocktails.

What could be better – Perhaps a sign indicating the parking lot.

We give it 4 and three quarter Js

Johnny Piancone’s is located at 591 Broadway in Long Branch (parking in the rear). 732-229-0300. JohnnyPiancones.com. Open Monday through Thursday 2 to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30 am to 10 pm, and Sunday 4 to 9 pm. Daily happy hour Monday through Thursday 2 to 7 pm; Friday noon to 7 pm; Saturday noon to 6 pm, and Sunday 4 to 7 pm.