Neapoli Red Bank
Aug 10, 2018

Neapoli in Red Bank

By Lori Draz

Neapoli Red Bank

We decided to leave waterfront dining to the visiting shore tourists and went to check out Neapoli, which has taken over the space that was occupied for years by Gaetano’s. It’s a quick turn off Broad Street, close to the Red Bank action but not right in the middle of it.

Neapoli is a big space, with raw pine walls and lots of tables and banquettes. Glass wall panels were open to enjoy the summer air on our visit, and I’m sure it gets lively on the weekends. They take great pride in their brick pizza oven which bakes their own breads, and they also make their own pastas, infused olive oils, vinaigrettes and pasta sauces. The owner, Lou, is a very visible presence and seems genuinely concerned that patrons enjoy his dishes. He was there on the night of our early-week visit, and there when I stopped by for lunch later in the week – and he answered the phone when I called today. That’s an uncommon and very comforting thing in restaurants, and we wish him much success.

Neapoli Red Bank
Our group began with two appetizers, and we put their famous pizza oven to the test with two selections. Calamari with hot peppers and tomatoes was pleasant, although the sauce made the calamari a little soft. If you like crispy calamari, you may want to see if the sauce can be served on the side. We also had Fried Zucchini Chips with tzatziki dill sauce. These were quite crispy. The tzatziki sauce had a strong dill flavor and was an unexpected partner to the somewhat shy zucchini. Not a bad combination, but the sauce was a little overpowering.

Two pizzas delivered on their brick-oven promise of being hot and crispy – right on the edge of almost too crispy. We picked a Margherita, and an Arugula pie topped with fresh mozzarella, ricotta and arugula. Perhaps we should have chosen pies with a more striking flavor contrast, like the Fig and Goat Cheese, or the Wallace with mushrooms, goat cheese and caramelized onions. Still, sharing pizza and a glass of wine with a friend makes for a lovely light meal or starter.

Now for the entrees. Diner One selected Chicken Milanese, served over a salad with a medley of green, yellow and red cherry tomatoes. It was very colorful and all the components were very fresh. Diner Two stayed in the salad category, topping her Greek salad with grilled shrimp. Again, the components were just picked and very fresh.

Diner Three had Cavatelli with broccoli and mushrooms, sweet sausage, and pancetta. His entree came in a pesto sauce, and they were not skimpy with the pesto. Neapoli’s version of al dente is pretty firm, so ask to have yours a little more cooked if you want it tender. The intense flavors made for a good lunch the next day.

Neapoli Red Bank

I had Lamb Osso Buco, which is the whole shank braised in tomato demi-glace, served over parpadella pasta. Here again the pasta could have stood another 45 seconds in the water, but the lamb was really tender and the sauce robust. It probably would be a better autumn selection, but who can resist a well-prepared shank when you have the chance to enjoy one?

For dessert, we chose the Mile High Peanut Butter Explosion. This is, in fact, a slice of a very tall cake. It has a fudge brownie base, then layers of chocolate cake and peanut butter mousse, topped with brownie chunks and peanut butter chips and drizzled in fudge. How bad could that be? Not bad at all! You should be a peanut butter person to order this because the mousse is very dense and has enough peanut butter punch to make Mr. Peanut smile.

We also had a Mini Belgian Waffle Sundae. These are two hockey-puck sized, fresh-off-the-griddle waffles, served with vanilla ice cream and berries. In theory, this should work; in reality, it wasn’t quite there. The waffles were a bit dense and doughy for our taste and lacked a nice, crispy edge. Still, the dish had a sweet, county fair charm. Neapoli offers some more Italian desserts, like Cannoli, Zabaglione, Tiramisu, and Cannoli Ravioli filled with cannoli cream.

Neapoli has a lot of choices on both the lunch and dinner menu. They also offer special nights: Monday is two for $20 pizza; on Tuesday, they offer half-price pasta; and Wednesdays are $10 burger night. Additionally, special events and cooking classes are scheduled on an ongoing basis, so you might want to ask about that too.

Neapoli is following in the Gaetano’s tradition of having an active catering business. The large space offers two options for parties: The Big Room seats up to 100, and for smaller groups, the private Wine Room seats up to 40. BYOB.

Cost: Low to moderate.

What we liked: The décor, the location with its adjacent ample parking, and the specials.

What could be better: A little more attentive service.

We give it 4 J’s.

Neapoli is located 10 Wallace St. in Red Bank, 732-741-1321. Open Monday and Tuesday from 4:30 to 9 pm, Wednesday and Thursday from 11 am to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday from 11 am to 10 pm, and Sunday from 11 am to 9 pm. Visit neapolinj.com.