Dec 16, 2019

Red Bank Welcomes New Italian Restaurant, Via Avanti

Just six weeks before this writing, Red Bank welcomed a new Italian restaurant and for those of you thinking, “Well that’s bold,” Via Avanti is definitely worth a try. There are many signs that it is a new place. For instance, the menu says Sneek Peek, there is no website, and the blue and honey interior, though cozy, looks like it could use a few more decorating touches. All those are works in progress – what is most important is what’s on the plate and that is excellent. The dishes are mature and confident, thanks to the skills of Chef Mike who came from Citirico’s in Bradley Beach. The staff is equally skilled and attentive, and they answer all questions with friendly enthusiasm. Our server, Julio, was a delight and he easily rolled through a long list of nightly specials, which made selecting our evening’s fare a real challenge. But we are pros and finally settled on our choices which made for one delicious evening.

We began with four appetizers; the fried calamari, rice balls, fried zucchini and a half portion of the orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sausage. The calamari was so tender and a beautiful, light golden color. The fried zucchini was a giant serving of tempura-style zucchini straws, and despite the wetness of the vegetable, the coating’s crispiness held up. I wish I had a tubful to take to the movies. Those rice balls are the size of baseballs, and the creamy risotto rice was so flavorful. They also had a ground beef filling, topped with melted cheese in tomato sauce. You will enjoy them! Finally, we shared the orecchiette and were impressed by its intense authentic flavors. The chef was not shy with the garlic, so if you like a little less, ask first, but the bitterness of the well-cooked broccoli rabe with the sweet sausage, olive oil and garlic was a wonderful marriage.

Now for the entrées. Diner one chose shrimp scampi that came in a tangy and garlicky sauce that really woke up our diner’s tastebuds in a good way. She was so impressed with the tangy sauce that we unsuccessfully tried to get the ingredients from Julio. We know there was garlic, lemon and tomato, but if you like scampi, try this one and see if you can break the code.

Diner two picked a special that may be working itself onto the menu and boy was glad he said, “I’ll try lasagna.” This was a plate-busting portion of this classic that stood almost 3 inches tall, stuffed with ground beef and cheese and topped by a thick, gooey layer of melted mozzarella. How could that be anything but great? He commented that the sauce was straight out of Napoli as he cut through the man-sized serving.

I chose the short ribs, which were also a special and oh my, what a great pick. These are two long, frenched ribs, sitting on a bed of really good mashed potatoes and coated in a rich sauce that was so shiny you could see your reflection. The meat was tremendously tender and it pulled right off the bone with the gentlest of touches. I really hope this one lands on the menu because I would order it again for sure.

There were plenty of delicious-the-next-day leftovers, and they tasted just as great on day two.

The dessert menu is traditional and small, though that may change when the menu does. We picked the classic tartufo, a chocolate-coated ice cream bombe cut into four quarters that were lined up like a beautiful Broadway chorus line. We also selected an almond tiramisu which was really good thanks to its toasted almond and coconut toppings. It was kind of the angel food cake version of this dish and quite to my liking.

Via Avanti has a welcoming family energy, and indeed, there were youngsters and seniors there during our visit. It is still evolving but already had a busy dining room of satisfied customers. The bathroom is large and clean, and the coffee was freshly brewed and tasty, but the cup is as little small, so big coffee drinkers may have to ask for a second cup. There is a large, free parking lot in the back and the front entrance is handicap accessible. BYOB.


Cost – low to moderate

What we liked – The chef’s touch with seasoning and the homey recipes, the friendly staff, especially our server Julio, the generous portions, the parking lot, the large bathroom.

What could be better – We’re looking forward to them settling into their groove and getting a website, menu, etc. A little more décor and some music would be nice.

We give it 4 and a half Js

Via Avanti is located at 37 Newman Springs Rd. in Shrewsbury, (across from Auto Exotica). 732-345-8200 (no website available at the time of this writing) Open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday from 5 to 10 pm. Closed Sundays.