Dining with Draz: Jimmy’s Italian Restaurant
By Lori Draz
Bottle of red, bottle of white. Billy Joel may be from Long Island, but he could have just as easily written his classic sitting in the corner of Jimmy’s Italian Restaurant in Asbury Park. This vintage Italian restaurant opened in 1982 to rave reviews and has been popular ever since. Inspired by great New York eateries, Diane Marrucca and her late husband, Jimmy, wanted to run a small establishment where each dish is made with the best ingredients available. Their motto, “Where good friends meet,” is true, and it’s not rare to see a happy celebration, a business deal and even the occasional celebrity slip in for a quiet meal. Jimmy’s doesn’t bang its drum. It has the kind of confidence that takes years to build.
The interior is calm, low-key and comfortable. The wait staff is friendly without paying too many visits. The pacing gives you time to enjoy each bite, and you surely will do that. This menu is classic, dependable and delicious. Each dish arrives piping hot, abundant, and rich in flavor and aroma.
We began our meal with Mozzarella, Roasted Peppers and Tomato on a king-sized bed of arugula. They say it’s for two, but it could serve three or four with no arguing. We also ordered the Ziti Bolognese and split it three ways, and there was still enough left over. The pasta was cooked to perfection, and that slow-simmered Bolognese sauce hit all the right notes. Yum! If we had stopped there, we would have enjoyed a fine meal and left fully satisfied, but we are committed diners and eagerly moved onto our entrées, all of which are served with your choice of vegetable and whipped potato, ziti and tomato sauce or sautéed escarole. The salad course is served family style.
Diner one selected Sole a la Puntanesca served Livornese style. The heady aroma of the anchovies, olives, capers and onions arrives before the dish hits the table. The large portion of snow white sole is bathed in a bright cherry red sauce that says, “Stop and enjoy.” The tang of the olives and capers, the sweetness of the tender onion and salty richness of the anchovies are in perfect harmony. Even non-fish fans will melt over this one.
Diner two indulged his craving for veal. He chose his Franchese style and simply loved it. The tender veal cut with a fork, and the golden sauce, uncluttered with tomatoes or onions, was a perfect complement without overpowering the breaded veal slices. It’s a dish rooted in Italian immigrant culture, and Jimmy’s is a delight.
I had the Boneless Breast of Chicken, stuffed with prosciutto and mozzarella, with sautéed with artichoke hearts and mushrooms. I was in heaven. There is a buttery, nutty flavor from the salty ham and creamy cheese that lingered on your tongue with each bite. I would order it again and swoon again over its well-rounded flavor.
Jimmy’s has a dessert connection to a spectacular baker who makes a limited number of cakes for the restaurant and some lucky friends. These cakes are a delight to see and savor. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them wind up one day on QVC. That night, we had the light and fluffy pistachio cake – a lemon-lime soda colored, four-layered phenomenon. On the other end of the spectrum was the dense, rich carrot cake which packs close to an inch of cheesecake filling between the spicy slices of cake. The cream cheese frosting is just too good, so save room for dessert and enjoy!
A tribute to their 40-year heritage, Jimmy’s runs like a well-oiled machine. Your meal is paced professionally, so you never feel rushed. You’ll feel comfortable bringing your parents, good friends and business associates. Jimmy’s has a big bar, a parking lot with valet parking available and is accessible for all.
Cost – Moderate to high
What we liked- The home-cooked flavors of time-tested recipes, the big portions, the incredible cakes, the comfortable surety that comes with a well-established location, the relaxed interior and the terrific staff.
We give it 5 Js
Jimmy’s Italian Restaurant is located at 1405 Asbury Ave., Asbury Park. 732-774-5051. It is open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 10 pm, Friday from noon to 11 pm, Saturday from 1 to 11 pm and Sunday from 1 to 10 pm. Closed Tuesdays. JimmysItalianRestaurant.com