PORTA, Asbury Park : Let me in!!!!!!!
I love being able to try new restaurants as part of my "job"!
I have been watching the city of Asbury Park turn into a food mecca, as well as a cultural and great beach area over the past 10 years, I did a post on the city's gentrification back in 2008.
Art galleries, coffee shops, pubs, antique shops and bakeries are all opening in this once beachfront ghost town.
I can remember going to a Bruce Springsteen benefit concert about 12 years ago at historic Convention Hall. The proceeds were to raise funds for the city of Asbury Park and its then restoration, and feeling so sad when I left, wondering what the fate of this magnificent building and city would be.
The ceilings were peeling, the frescoes torn and walls crumbling, all from years of neglect and corrupt local government running this once popular ocean front destination into a run down, crime ridden hole (the riots in 1970 didn't help matters either).
Over the last few years, folks started moving back into the community (making it a real community again) and though it has taken a while, Asbury Park is on its way back to its old glory days.
Porta is such a place.
Housed in a huge, once abandoned nightclub on a lonely strip of road, this now chic building summons you right in!
Pull over, open the door, come in and sit down.
Porta, means door in Italian, and there are fabulous, colorful wooden doors hanging and mounted all over the place. Industrial fixtures and mess hall community farm tables with amazing fresh food to match.
Let me in. I want to stay forever.
First let me say this place gets PACKED and LOUD after 7 pm, so if you want to chat, you might want to go for lunch instead, when the vibe is a bit older (like me), or sit outside on the patio, where there is a real bocce ball court and the kids can roam and there is a little more peace and quiet.
Now for the food.
Holy crap. This place is ridiculous.
I had heard about the Napoletana pizzas made in 2 wood fired ovens imported from Naples. But I wasn't prepared to love them this much. The toppings and combinations are spectacular. They use all farm to fork, local ingredients, and all mozzarella and ricotta are made in house.
Salads are big enough for 3 people to share. Here we had the "Bibber", made with local Bibb lettuce, roasted asparagus, shaved raw beets, pistachios with a mint buttermilk dressing. Enough for a meal alone.
Next, I tried the squid ink fettuccine, with clams, zucchini coins, mint, garlic and white wine. This beautiful bowl of pasta was only $10. WOW. Enough said.
The wine list is my style, with all Italians, and my favorite fizzy lifting drink, Lambrusco (and I'm NOT talking Riunite) from Emilia Romagna. Wines are affordable and a lot of thought was put into this interesting list.
Are we in Brooklyn? cause it sure feels like it. No, it's Jersey, and we can actually make good food here too.
Amazing pie called the "14 1/2" made with mozzarella, ricotta, spicy sopressata, chilis and San Marzano tomatoes......I'm sweating, it's so good.
We also tried the margherita, fresh, simple and gorgeous.
The fellow sitting next to us, who doesn't eat mushrooms, nuts, vegetables, anchovies, olives, wine, won't try anything different (you get the picture), ordered the meatball pie (what else?) and that was also amazing. (No, I didn't know him, but started bossing him around immediately, making him try new things.....his bad luck for sitting next to me).
No dessert for us, cause we were full, but I will be back, sooner than later.
Too bad everything I love is an hour drive from my house, but this place is worth the ride, even if we aren't spending the day at the beach.
"Well I'm ridin' down Kingsley, figurin' I'll get a drink...." Something in the Night, Bruce Springsteen-1976
911 Kingsley St
Asbury Park, NJ