Restaurant Review: Piero’s (Union Beach, NJ)

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Piero’s is one of those places I have driven past almost every day for many years. I live less than 10 minutes away, but until two weeks ago, had never been there. We went for my mom’s birthday. My parents had been there once before and wanted to come back. The chef/owner used to be one of the co-owners of Tre Amici in Long Branch, which closed several years ago. We enjoyed that restaurant for special occasion dinners, and that it was a rare BYOB in the middle of a pricey area. While Piero’s does have a bar and some different dishes, I noticed some of the mainstays did carry over including daily homemade pasta and the side dish that fostered my love of an oft-maligned vegetable: the pancetta brussels sprouts.

Normally, in a place like this I just go with a beer. However, the drink menu listed an absinthe-lemon frappe. Not many bars/restaurants carry absinthe, much less place it prominently on their cocktail list. It was a mixture of the elusive spirit, limoncello, club soda, and mint. It was excellent, and I enjoyed it so much I wanted to run out and buy a bottle of limoncello just so I could make it at home. My dad also liked his gin martini, while my mom had red wine.

Our appetizer was the Calabrese. This was a plate containing fresh mozzarella, tomato, olives, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, a pepperoncini, and prosciutto. It was a nice, light way to start off the meal and was complimented by a basket of their crusty, homemade bread. 20 minutes and another frappe later, our meals arrived.

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Call me boring, but I almost ordered the penne vodka. Instead, for the sake of this review, I went with something a little more exciting. The chicken and shrimp arrabiatta caught my attention, featuring a spicy vodka sauce over angel hair. It was served with three shrimp and a decent-sized chicken cutlet. While I thought the sauce could have used a bit more seasoning, I enjoyed the meal. I’m not a fan of angel hair, but did not want to replace it. I ended up thinking it was the right move. The richness of the sauce commanded a lighter style pasta. The level of spice was just right. You know me, I like heat through the roof, but when it comes to Italian food, a searing pain is not exactly attractive. This was just hot enough that it worked.

My parents also enjoyed their entrees (gnocchi with shrimp and a special which was similar to a cod oreganata over spinach and with roasted potatoes). And yes, we did try those brussels sprouts and they were just as I remembered. Tender, but still with a good crunch, sitting in a light sauce with a not-so-modest amount of pancetta.

Had I not eaten beef the night before, I would have tried the filet mignon. It seemed similar to one offered at Tre Amici (and was fantastic). I am going to give Piero’s 4 out of 5 stars for now, but I feel like after another visit, I’ll be able to give them a slight upgrade. This was a great dining experience. The employees were exceptionally nice, and our waitress was funny and personable.

Piero’s Restaurant is located at 1411 NJ-36 in Union Beach, New Jersey.

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