Playing the Waiting Game: A Review of La Madona (Matawan, NJ)

There’s waiting and then there’s waiting. We waited at La Madona. The evening went something like this: at 30 minutes: “It’s nice that they don’t rush you out of here.” At 60 minutes: “Wow, this is even longer than fine dining.” At 85 minutes: “Okay, where the hell is the food?” (Or maybe the language was a little saltier than that). The place was packed and yes, there is a line on the menu that says to please wait because all food is prepared fresh, but waiting nearly an hour and a half for two chicken dishes and a shrimp parm is borderline insanity. Four times the waiter or hostess came over to say the food would be out soon. This was done without any prompting from us—they just came over. Did they lose the ticket? Even though every table was taken, people who came in 20 minutes after us got their meals sooner. Whatever the cause, there was no comping of anything we ordered, and not even so much as an offer of a free cup of coffee. They have a saving grace which is their outstanding food, but all of the other backstory really ticked me off.

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I had ordered takeout from La Madona a few months prior, and it was good. Whenever I passed the restaurant, the parking lot was always full. So I assumed the food was great. For an appetizer we had the fried zucchini sticks which were fresh and cut perfectly. They were also crispy with no grease at all and came with a nice marinara dipping sauce. The restaurant also gives you a basket of fresh-baked breadsticks and a dish of olive oil. The night was off to a great start, then came the waiting game. It was about an hour after the appetizer when our meals came out, and almost an hour and a half in total from when we ordered. I had the chicken parmigiana ala vodka which was excellent. The portion was gigantic, consisting of three chicken breasts (one large and two small). It was topped with fresh mozzarella and a creamy vodka sauce. Not many restaurants have such a meal on the menu. The penne pasta it came with was served under the chicken, meaning everything was coated in that luscious sauce. The chicken still managed to be crispy, the breadcrumbs holding their own amidst the cheese and sauce. Simply put, it was amazing.

So, I would become a regular here, right? Well, maybe not. Usually I will overlook almost anything if the food is great, but something about the whole experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth (no pun intended). A more recent visit encountered the same problem. Pushing an hour to get three meals. This time when we actually said something to the waitress, she snapped back, “Well, everything is cooked fresh so the chef gets to it when he gets to it”. Thanks for that. Like no other restaurant cooks from scratch. I suppose I might try it again in the distant future, but for now, probably not. Taking our appetizer off the ticket or offering something like free coffee would have went a long way and wouldn’t have really cost them much. Then again, had we ordered dessert we may have been there until breakfast the next morning. 4 out of 5 stars.

This review was previously posted here. La Madona is located at 334 Main Street in Matawan, New Jersey.

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