Local Round-Up: Atlantic Highlands and Highlands

Atlantic Highlands

While we are still waiting for an opening date announcement from The Atlantic House, a bit of news from yesterday has taken the New Jersey food scene by storm: world-renown pizza chef Anthony Mangieri is bringing his NYC-based Una Pizza Napoletana to Atlantic Highlands. They will occupy a storefront on 1st Avenue which was once the home of Julia’s, an Italian restaurant owned by ex-MLB player Jon Valentin. The area has sat vacant since its closure, which seems like 10 years. A brief look into reviews of his first restaurant (which rumor has it is closing so he can focus 100% on his new New Jersey location) finds a generally positive opinion of his authentic, no-frills Neapolitan pizza. While Google reviews have his New York spot barely at a 4 out of 5 stars, reviews in the New York Times over the last couple of years have elevated he and his business to stardom. A fellow member of a food forum I frequent commented on news of the opening that he is “no joke” and “known nationally as one of the best pizza-makers, hands down”.

Image via TripAdvisor

Mangieri is known for making almost every pizza to come out of his kitchen himself, and offering a small menu of set pizzas with the warning of no substitutions allowed. Diners have loved such an attention to detail, but are probably torn on the $19-26 price range for each pizza, the size of which is comparable to a “personal”.

Between Una Pizza Napoletana and Higo, a “pan-Asian” restaurant recently opened by the owners of Copper Canyon, there is a clear upscale shift in Atlantic Highlands dining, which already includes Christine’s and The Wine Bar, among others. As a commuter town with a Sea Streak port and thousands of people passing through every day, expect prices to continue to skyrocket…but don’t expect any of these places to fail. I cannot remember the last time there was such buzz about a town and its new restaurants. It beats Asbury Park’s 2019 season openers by a landslide.

Highlands

It appears that one summer is all we are going to get from Scuba and the Beast, which opened last year. Despite a promising (and apparently) successful start, it does not seem that they will be reopening in 2019. Reviews were mixed from the beginning, and while this brick-and-mortar establishment is gone, their food truck (which gave them their notoriety) will continue to operate.

Also down that way is a new restaurant, Trama’s at One Willow, which has opened in place of Joe’s Bay Pointe Inn. I have yet to try it, and would like to wait the customary one month or more before giving it a review. It is owned by the talented and well-liked chef Pat Trama (of Trama’s Trattoria in Long Branch) and his wife Laura. Their soft opening went without much fanfare a few weeks ago.

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