RosaLuca’s Italian Bistro, Asbury, NJ – A Review

by artfuldiner on August 26, 2016

in Artful Diner Review, New Jersey, Review, Wining and Dining

RosaLuca’s Italian Bistro

1114 Route 173

Asbury, New Jersey

(908) 238-0018

Rosalucas - Exterior Although it hardly seems possible, a full decade has passed since I penned my original review of RosaLuca’s. Based upon a recent visit, however, very little seems to have changed…

Rosalucas - Luca's Table … As you ascend the hill on Route 173, the lovingly restored farmhouse still beckons warmly; the interior remains simple but homey, adorned with black and white family photographs and crisp white napery; and the diminutive bar continues to be the perfect spot to sample of the restaurant’s well-made martinis. The only addition to the interior… Luca’s Table (pictured), where guests may enjoy a pleasant preprandial libation or dine with a small group of friends.

In 2006, as I recall, patrons (and a few restaurant reviewers) were in the process of bitching & moaning about an elevation in prices. A scant three years before, as one disgruntled reviewer noted, most entrées were priced under $20.00; but that was certainly not the case at the time of my review. Other than the pasta dishes, the only main course finishing (barely) under the $20.00 mark was a rendition of oven-roasted boneless chicken ($19.95). Entrées ranged from the high twenties to the mid-thirties.

But as I noted at that time, I was not for a moment suggesting that dining here was not worth the expenditure. Food of this caliber is not an inexpensive proposition. Chef/proprietor Carmine Castaldo’s innovative Italian presentations continue to utilize only the freshest possible ingredients – with herbs grown onsite and vegetables produced on a ten-acre plot just down the road – and are lovingly prepared, nicely presented, and amply proportioned.

Looking back at it now, all that brouhaha seems like nothing more than a tempest in the proverbial teapot. In the interim decade, prices have risen – as prices tend to do – but certainly not outlandishly so. Given the quality of the cuisine, the rise in tariffs, indeed, seems quite modest. My only quibble remains the same as it did in my initial review: A number of prices on the wine list seem out of line. I mean, charging $48.00 for Antinori’s “Santa Cristina” Sangiovese, which goes retail for about ten bucks a bottle, strikes me as a bit over-the-top… Draw your own conclusions…

To start things off, many of the familiar apps are still around: extraordinarily tender rings of cornmeal crusted calamari counterpointed by a spicy tomato aioli, for example; pristinely plump Prince Edward Island mussels in a tomato white wine broth; littleneck clams oreganato; and polenta dumplings companioned by sweet Italian sausage, tomato ragù, and crumbled goat cheese.

Rosalucas - Grilled Garden EggplantMy absolute favorite, though, which had just made its debut during my initial visit ten years ago, remains the slices of grilled garden eggplant topped with generous dollops of parmesan soufflé. And while this is an incredibly rich prelude, its luscious consistency is perfectly counterbalanced by a drizzle of earthy, aromatic basil oil.

Rosalucas - Zucchini FlowersAnd, when it is available, another not-to-be-missed starter is the superlative tempura fried zucchini flowers. Their golden brown texture is just right – neither overly crunchy nor soggy; and a light dusting of Pecorino Romano cheese infuses enough flavor to the slightly bland batter to keep your taste buds interested.

Main courses carry on with style. Choices include pan-roasted Scottish salmon with an oven roasted portabella mushroom “stack”; grilled prime hand-cut filet mignon teamed with fresh haricots verts, olive oil whipped potatoes, caramelized red onions, and an exciting red wine jus; and pappardelle Bolognese with Manchego cheese. However, when it is offered, don’t miss the opportunity to sample Mr Castaldo’s fabulous homemade lasagna. It is layered with chunks of sweet Italian sausage, summer squash, and mozzarella. Set in a pool of heady marinara, it is then topped with a decadent four-cheese sauce.

Rosalucas - Pork Braciole & RigatoniSampled during my most recent visit was an incomparable pork braciole. The pork is slow-braised to a succulent fall-off-the-bone consistency and stuffed with pancetta, Romano cheese, and parsley. It is then pillowed on a bed of rigatoni tossed with zesty tomato basil ragù. The ultimate in Italian comfort fare.

Rosalucas - Veal ScallopiniAlso highly recommended is the veal scallopini. The tender scallops are pan seared and topped with thin slices of egg-battered eggplant, prosciutto, and fontina cheese. The natural veal jus is a winner and gives the dish a delicious added dimension. Unfortunately, the accompanying mountain of spinach risotto is a bit on the bland side. One thing is certain, however; if this is your entrée of choice, you certainly won’t leave hungry.

Rosalucas - Cheesecake w Fresh BerriesDesserts, courtesy of Mrs. Castaldo, don’t miss a beat. Possibilities include house-made cannoli, warm strawberry crumble, dark chocolate pot de crème, and a decadent warm white chocolate/almond bread pudding swimming in a rich caramel sauce garnished with vanilla ice cream. Also highly recommended, and most recently sampled, is the super creamy sour cream cheesecake garnished with fresh berries (pictured).

Opened in 1999, RosaLuca’s continues to dish out a warm welcome, excellent service, and generous portions of impeccable prepared Italian cuisine. And, as I noted at the conclusion of my initial review, my one regret is that my schedule prevents me from dining here more often.

Bon Appétit!


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