RATING: Overall Good, Grandma Pie excellent
Janine: When we first moved to Monmouth County, we were in search of a solid local pizza place for Friday nights. At the end of the week, commuting to/from NY we were just plain exhausted and wanted quick/good pizza. I am not kidding when I tell you we went to at least 10 places. Most mediocre or just plain bad. (Flashbacks to cheap cardboard chain restaurant pizza after a Saturday night of drinking at college came to mind.) Finally we found Attilio’s in Long Branch, walking distance from Seven President’s Beach.
Chris: Janine grew up in the Bronx. She knows her pizza!
Janine: The first time, frankly, we were reluctant and expected another disappointment as we drove into Ursula Plaza. We were pleasantly surprised. An area upfront for take out and eating pizza by the slice (complete with TV showing Italian television), with a side restaurant. Joe from Naples is the owner. So we had high hopes someone from Naples would be able to provide good pizza.
At initial glance, it appears standard neighborhood Italian restaurant menu but the food is much better than standard.
It is family friendly, sometimes with a table of 10+ family members from Grandma to newborns getting together post little league game or recital. We have seen the local church ladies group along side teenagers. Even seen a bunch of fisherman come in late after a day of fishing the jetties that end up sitting next to a bunch of intimidating policeman from the sheriff’s department. Couples from Rumson (we eavesdropped). The Attilio’s accountant in a table by the corner, compiling receipts while eating and talking to Joe. You get the idea. It speaks clearly when many different people, of different ages and backgrounds, are all eating at the same place.
A variety of pizzas are made available including gluten free, wheat and personal size. Attilio’s also has a full Italian menu with pasta, chicken , seafood and veal dishes. We usually get sautéed escarole with garlic for an appetizer followed by a pizza. Other times, we go for the eggplant parm and chicken parm, delicious standouts. Chicken and broccoli is good too. Attilio’s also has dinner specials. We are fans of the artichokes francese appetizer special. Delicious, lemony and not an oily mess that we have experienced at other Italian restaurants.
Chris: All I can say is; “Joe knows how to cook.”
Janine: The marinara sauce is the component of many dishes, it is after all a southern Italian restaurant ….but it is so tasty and dare I use one of the annoying “foodie” terms, “bright”. It is brilliant red and lip smacking good. Marinara sauce can make or break an Italian dish. It is the backbone. When it is good it is great and when it is not, you know it on the first bite. Ditto for Attilio’s francese recipe, yummy.
For us, it is all about the Grandma. The Grandma pizza pie is our favorite. The regular pizza pie is very good but the Grandma pie is excellent. Square pizza with a short, crispy crust. (Not to be confused with Sicilian which is good but more doughy.) Often, when they bring it out people at adjoining tables ask us what it is and mention they will try it the next time they come to Attilio’s.
Chris: My mother used to make this type of pizza when I was a kid (Coincidently, her family hails from Avellino, Italy which is a short drive from Naples). I probably haven’t tasted a Grandma pie in 35 years before finding Attillio’s. Where I grew up (Rockland County, New York), The pizzerias offered regular pies, Sicilian pies, even the dreaded “Nanuet Restaurant Pie”, but no Grandma’s. My first bite of Attilio’s version woke a latent food memory from deep within. It turned out to be a gastronomic stroll down memory lane.
Janine: You’ll be too full from Attilio’s for dessert, we always leave with a doggie bag. Stop by Caputo’s Bakery, also in Ursula Plaza for a cannoli or cookies to take home. Attilio’s is BYO but there is a Vingo liquor store in the plaza too so you can easily run over a get a bottle of Chianti or beer. Plus, they sell splits of wine too. Splits are smaller bottle of wine they sell commonly in Europe so you get 1-1/2 glasses each. We wish they were more popular in the US, last time we were in Italy, everyone was ordering splits at dinner.
Yes, Attilio’s does get crowded in the summer especially at lunch time since it is short distance from Seven President’s Beach. Please do not confuse this Attilio’s with other locations, we have been told they are owned and operated by different people.
We still go almost every Friday night. And since we are now regulars, if we feel like artichokes francese and it is not on the specials menu they make it for us. A mark of a great neighborhood restaurant, taking care of the regular customers all year long.
Chris: We realize no restaurant is perfect. Even a 3-Star Michelin restaurant occasionally has a bad night. Attilio’s is no exception as our orders have been mixed up a few times. These minor mishaps are easily overlooked because the restaurant has proven to be consistent. In general, the quality of the food has been very good and the service prompt and friendly.
Janine: Grazie to Joe and his staff.
Attilio’s Restaurant & Pizza
Note: Attilio’s is BYO
444 Ocean Boulevard North
Long Branch, NJ 07740
in Ursula Plaza