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“Classic Italian, On Point”

Spano's Ristorante Italiano
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: US$20 - US$35
Cuisines: Italian
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Groups, Local cuisine, Special Occasion Dining, Business meetings, Child-friendly, Romantic
Dining options: After-hours, Dinner, Reservations
Description: Spano's Ristorante Italiano is a wonderful little store front restaurant just like you see in Brooklyn, with a quaint interior featuring oversized comfy booths and Italian music to complete the ambiance. The restaurant gets bustling after 6pm, and on weekends there can be quite a wait. The good news is they're open 7 days a week, so you can get the same amazing food on Tuesday without a wait. Speaking of the food, its authentic old world Italian prepared by Chef Joseph Spano. All ingredients are fresh, never frozen...fresh local fish and seafood, the highest quality veal, cut and pounded daily for the Veal dishes, Same with the chicken and eggplant, all prepared fresh daily. Spano's marinara sauce is the original winner of the Boss of the sauce contest sponsored by a local radio station and featuring all of the Shores Italian restaurants, as voted by a panel of judges and the general public. All of our ravioli, cheese filled, lobster, and specialty (like roasted butternut squash, or Osso Bucco) are handmade. They make the dough, they make the filling, and they stuff and cut each ravioli by hand. The portions are oversized, and the prices are very reasonable. They have an extensive menu and use only Certified Angus Beef, many of the dishes can be seen on their Facebook page at spanosristoranteitaliano and they open daily at 4pm. 7 days a week. With homemade desserts like the NY cheesecake, tiramisu, bread pudding and apizza dolce (Italian ricotta cheesecake) and delicious Cappuccino to finish off your meal, you can't go wrong at Spano's!
Reviewed 1 May 2017

Bottom Line:
Well-executed Italian classics served in a comfortable, family space, and a BYOB, to boot. You’ll leave with a full belly and a doggy bag. Three of us for dinner. A Veal Parmigiana (ordered with no cheese…more on that later), a Chilean Sea Bass (with Potato Croquettes…more on that later), and a Shrimp Carbonara (more on that later), a side order of meatballs for the table. All entrees come with salad or soup. $95. Come here and eat.

It’s Mom’s birthday. Mother-in-law, actually. I love my MIL. She’s a wonderful, thoughtful, selfless woman, and to be completely truthful, she provides an interesting lens into the future of who my wife will become in 25 years. I know this is a restaurant review, but stay with me here. Mom is a 79 year old Irish lady, who just successfully rocked a double knee replacement. Historically spry, she has admittedly slowed down a bit since the operation, and in my opinion, could stand to gain about 10 lbs. Mom lives in Brick, it’s 5:30, I figure let’s eat old people style and get the skinny Irish lady out for can’t miss Italian food and fatten her up a bit with Grandma’s cooking. I’ve never been to Spano’s, but Mom loves it. Let’s check it out.

We arrive at Spano’s around 5:45 on a Friday night…and there’s a 20 minute wait for a four top. I look at the crowd inside, and it’s filled with locals; families, couples. People arrive to check the wait time. Some stay. Some don’t . Most know the drill, and accept it. There’s a comfy vestibule with cushioned bench seating for those of us who can handle the timing. Fyi, this place does not accept reservations (except for parties of 7 or more). I kind of like that. You show up and eat. If you don’t show up early enough (or late enough), you’re beat.

We wait our time, and land a spacious booth on the perimeter of the floor. I’m always wary of booths. The table is either too far from the bench, or you’re shoe horning yourself in, one love handle at a time. It’s always one way or another, never in between. No issues here with my 265 girth. There’s bread on the table. Butter and oil, and Parmigiano, in one of those annoying “flip top”, self serve “cheese boats” with the spoon inside. Before the menu reaches my reading glasses, I’m already into the bread; one with butter, one with olive oil, one with olive oil pepper and cheese. Yes, I’m an imperfect first generation Italian-American with self-discipline issues when it comes to free bread, within arm’s reach.

The Meatballs with Ricotta were outstanding. Everyone loves their own mama’s meatballs, but these were no slouch. Tender and perfectly sauced, with a huge mound of the lightest tasty ricotta cheese as an accompaniment. Let’s be honest. Meatballs, Ricotta, sauce, olive oil, a flip-top thingie full of Parmigiano and a loaf of bread. Sounds like a complete dinner to me. I did my best to carry on through the meal.

Okay, expansions from the first paragraph. The primary intent here was to fatten up my Mother-in-Law. So it would make perfect sense that she order the Sea Bass. I think it was the only item on the menu that wasn’t served over pasta. A beautiful pan-seared Sea Bass with crispy “frizzle” spinach. That’s what I eat when I want to lose weight. Whatever. To her credit, she did order the potato croquettes. She didn’t eat them, but she did order them. She tells me she likes potatoes. Huh, figure that. The Irish lady likes potatoes. I hear the 1950’s calling when I see potato croquettes. To their spuddy credit, they were creamy on the inside, crispy on the out.

Continued comments from first paragraph. My wife orders the Veal Parmigiana…without the cheese. Okay, so Veal parmigiana without cheese is actually called Veal Milanese, but Veal Milanese was not on the menu. Veal Milanese is a pounded veal cutlet twice fried for a crispy crust, without making the meat tough. But when you order Veal Parm, sans the cheese, you are not ordering Veal Milanese. So the fact that the veal was a little thick, I consider my wife’s fault. Had you covered that baby in sauce and Mozzarella, like on other plates that left the kitchen, I think it would have been heaven.

I ordered the Paglio and Fieni Gamberi. I don’t know what it translates to, but basically it was Spaghetti Carbonara with shrimp. Spinach pasta and regular thin spaghetti in a cream sauce with prosciutto, pancetta, and shrimp. This is where interpretation kicks in. There’s a reason Italian’s use Pancetta and Prosciutto instead of bacon in Carbonara. The smoke. They know the smoke of bacon will overwhelm the dish, so they use Pancetta. This dish was creamy and heavy, but surprisingly delicious. You honestly could have put a shoe into that sauce and it would have tasted great, but the delicate, plump shrimp seemed awkward swimming on the plate. No human can finish this dish. I took half of it home.

Let’s summarize. My skinny Mother-inLaw orders the only item on the menu without pasta. My wife orders Parmigiana without cheese, and I could have ordered the Carbonara with a shoe and been perfectly happy. The service was attentive. The food was delicious. Lots of happy people chattering about the events of the day. The price was a few bucks too high, but you didn’t feel cheated. All the dishes came with a house salad, Caesar salad, or soup. The salad was served in chilled bowls and clearly just dressed and crisp. Not much to complain about here. My mother-in-law is too skinny? Come here and eat.

Date of visit: April 2017
    • Value
    • Service
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2  Thank mirepoixjoe
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
mopargirrrl, Owner at Spano's Ristorante Italiano, responded to this reviewResponded 6 May 2017

To the lovely MirepoixJoe,
You write like Joe Spano cooks. That was a delightful review, well presented, fun, amusing, very well written. A fantastic short that captures the essence of what Chef Joe Spano strives for at his restaurant. An easy read, that takes a great deal of skill and knowledge to execute, but easy and fun for a passionate writer...or Chef.
Thank you for your review, you made one chef, and one avid linguist equally happy.
Lori Spano
PS - I hope you don't mind, I posted your review on our facebook page

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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74 - 78 of 448 reviews

Reviewed 27 April 2017

I recommend you get a reservation, otherwise, you'll be waiting to get a table. There's a good reason too the wait can sometimes reach up to 2 hours, there's no better Italian food in the garden state. I went with my family with a reservation of four, we were seated right away by the very friendly host, and greeted even quicker by our server, Alan. Since it is BYOB alan kindly opened our wine for us and poured our glasses, and as a starter, we ordered the Motz tower, The hot shrimp molly, and of course the calamari. Just like any good restaurant the apps were out in under 10 minutes and cooked to perfection. The calamari wasn't overly seasoned or too crispy but just right, and I've never had better shrimp in a red sauce. Then we ordered the soup of the day, which i believe was the lobster bisque, which you could actually taste the pieces of lobster. Then for our entrees, we decided to share as a table to really experience as much of the menu as possible. We order the chicken parm which is a personal favorite, it came out perfectly breaded and covered in plenty of motz, but the best part is the red sauce. I swear this restaurant should bottle their marinara they'd make a killing! Next we ordered the chilean sea bass, which for an italian restaurant came out on par with most seafood places ive been. The white wine sauce that comes over the top compliments the fish very well. Id have to say to my surprise the best thing we ordered was the seafood fra diavolo, if youre a seafood lover there is no other option for you to order, everything in this dish was amazing, each bite better than the last. Now we had to take our server's recommendation and order the Spanos fiesta, my favorite food has to be scallops and the way they were used in this dish was unlike anything I've ever tasted before. The dish is my new favorite and my new go to order. Chef Joe and Chef Frank really are doing something special in this small town Italian restaurant, I won't be surprised if the next time I'm back they've been awarded a Michelin star. Keep up the great work!

Date of visit: February 2017
    • Value
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    • Food
1  Thank Ryan G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 30 March 2017

Spano's has been the go-to place for years. I've been coming here since "Pop" would greet you at the door, Mike's daughters would give you excellent service and Joe would serve up some of the best Italian dishes you've ever had. Pop's no longer with us, Mike's daughters have moved on, but Joe is still serving up excellent dishes. Try the mussels with his special sauce! It's a bring your own and it's crowded! It's worth the wait!

Date of visit: March 2017
    • Value
    • Service
    • Food
Thank MacManfromNJ
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 30 March 2017 via mobile

The wait is a little crazy! But, they will open your bottle of wine while you wait. It's BYOB. Service was good, food was excellent and I don't usually eat Italian. It usually doesn't measure up to eating my moms cooking! Don't tell her!

Date of visit: December 2016
Thank chantell83
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 March 2017

I recently hosted my daughter's baby shower at Spano's. The food was delicious and the staff could not be more helpful and accomodating.

Date of visit: March 2017
Thank Lucia G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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