Over the last few months, I have learned that New Jersey is not short on diners. What we need are more tables. We diners are eagerly waiting to get back inside. We started off by visiting a restaurant that didn’t take reservations and upon arriving were told we would have to wait 45 minutes, so we moved to a second restaurant that also only accepts walk-ups. After looking for parking for 15 minutes, we were told out wait would be an hour and a half. We were a little too hungry to wait until 9:30 pm for dinner, so we decided to make a return visit to a restaurant we had visited just six weeks after it opened – Via Avanti in Shrewsbury. We were impressed with their traditional Italian menu on our first visit and thought we’d see how things had progressed. Once again, we were pleased and really happy to find a place to bring our raring appetites.
We began with two appetizers; the Cold Antipasto Platter and the Caprese Salad. Both were colorful and showcased the quality ingredients used at Via Avanti. The antipasto offered a traditional combination of cheese, ham, salami, olives, red peppers and eggplant, beautifully arranged and ready for sharing. Our group of four enjoyed each savory ingredient, with enough on hand for everyone to get a taste of all the goodies. The Caprese Salad was a perfect choice for a summer evening. The early harvest tomato was nice and ripe, separated by thick slices of soft mozzarella.
Now for the entrées. Diner one kicked off the evening by ordering a special, the Stuffed Salmon. This beautiful dish showcased the large salmon filet which was stuffed with a heaping portion of crab meat filling. It rested on a bed of sautéed spinach and a white wine butter sauce. She said the baked salmon was well-seasoned, fork flaky and that the whole dish came together with a light but prominent flavor.
Diner two picked a parmigiana, Veal Parmigiana that is. It came with a big bowl of penne pasta. The portion filled the entire plate. The veal was pounded to about a quarter inch, lightly fried in a golden batter and covered with marinara sauce and an overcoat of melted mozzarella. Diner two admitted that he had this traditional dish before, and its juicy and comforting preparation was why he ordered it again. In my book, any dish you order regularly means it’s pretty darn good, and he loved his.
Diner three was in a pasta mood and choose the rich and robust Tortelloni Michelangelo. It is a big steaming bowl of cheese filled tortelloni with prosciutto, onions and tender peas in a creamy alfredo sauce. It was a beautiful dish that looked like it could have come from your nonna’s kitchen. She remarked that the pasta was tender without being too soft and the creamy, silky sauce was satisfying, flavorful and filling.
I chose the Chicken Scarparello which is chicken breast with roasted garlic, pepperoncini peppers, sliced sausage, in a white wine lemon sauce. The menu says spicy, and the dish did have a kick to it, thanks to the hot peppers. The heat was subtle but punchy. The sauce was excellent and pulled the elements of the dish together nicely. Thanks to the generous portions, we all left with a carry-out bag for lunch the next afternoon.
The dessert menu is fairly traditional and includes Cannoli and a classic Tartufo. There’s also a Chocolate Mousse Cake and a Tiramisu, which is what we ordered. I heard there is also a toasted almond version of the tiramisu which was not available at our visit, but that is a don’t-miss. I’m not a big tiramisu person, but I have to say this was a dandy; so soft and creamy without being too soggy. The flavors were well balanced and not too sweet. A nice traditional ending to an Italian meal. The chocolate mousse cake was rich and with a thick, almost black, shiny chocolate ganache shell the covered the light and fluffy chocolate mousse inside. It’s a big piece of cake and definitely one you can share. Chocolate lovers are sure to enjoy this one.
Via Avanti has a large parking lot and a large back patio, which allows for a good amount of outdoor tables. They will take reservations as well. The front entrance is handicap accessible. BYOB.
Cost – low to moderate
What we liked – The good, old-fashioned recipes, the generous portions, the friendly staff, the parking lot, the large bathroom.
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. Regular hours are Monday through Thursday from 5 to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday from 5 to 10 pm. Closed Sundays. During the quarantine, it is open for seated meals Thursday, Friday and Saturday but are open for pick-up and special dining on the other days.