The sign on the facade simply says “Esposito’s – Pizza and Pasta” which does not really describe the creativity that takes place in the kitchen of what I would describe as an Italian Trattoria. Not just any trattoria but one that produces excellent Italian food, creatively prepared from the best ingredients. As a trattoria that also has won local, regional, national and international awards for their famous sesame crust pizza. The pizza selections alone exemplify the creativity that takes place in the kitchen. How a well-known Jersey Shore website could recently shun this place in its 25 best shore pizza article is incomprehensible to me. I have tried several of the selections and they were all among the best I have had anywhere.
Aside from award winning pizza, Esposito’s of Manasquan is a place that delivers high quality Italian foods both classic and imaginative. The menu offers a wide range of choices from heroes and focaccia
sandwiches to pasta, seafood, chicken and veal. The focus is often on local fresh ingredients like Jersey tomatoes and freshly caught fish. It is important to check the specials when dining here as there are often treasures to be found. One such treasure was the burrata cheese served, with red and yellow streaked heirloom tomatoes, on our visit Saturday night.
Let’s talk about that visit. We arrived around 6 PM and were seated at what was the last outside table on the large wrap around patio. The hostess and the servers here are friendly, cheerful and very accommodating, typical of the young people I meet in Manasquan businesses frequently. The ambiance is casual and relaxed. There was even a golden doodle at the table next to us. You may not have a view of the water and m you may have a NJ Transit train interrupt your conversation briefly but, so what? Have fun, because that is what this place is all about – good food and fun. Strangers at the next table can easily become your friends in this laid back atmosphere.
We began our experience by enjoying complimentary soft and warm bread sticks accompanied by a dip of their famous meat based sauce. We then ordered two appetizers that we shared. As I mentioned, one
was the burrata with heirloom tomatoes that was served with a crostini, basil and olive oil. The other was the Sicilian calamari which was fried crisp and tossed with a relish of peppers, onions, olives and a touch of grated Parmesan cheese. Both of these appetizers were remarkable and memorable. The burrata was rich and creamy in the middle with the tomatoes being lusciously sweet and the perfect accompaniment. We fought each other to soak up the oil. The calamari was like nothing I have ever had before. It was the perfect meld of crunch, heat, piquancy and saltiness. Few places I have been to locally can turn out calamari that is crisp without being tough. Esposito’s nailed it.
Our main courses arrived while we were still debating over which appetizer was the best. I ordered one of my favorite comfort foods which were the mussels in a spicy marinara over linguini. My wife tried the
chicken parmigiana with vodka sauce designed for those who want a blend of two classics and have a big appetite. Both dished were excellent. Esposito’s of Manasquan makes a great vodka sauce and they even offer it on a pizza which is a popular item. One of the two large pieces of chicken and most of the bed of cappellini came home with us. The linguini and mussels did not stand a chance of making that trip, however. I never came up for air until it was all gone except to ask for a bowl for the shells.
As my wife visually scouted the tables, she told me about two mammoth meatballs on one diner’s plate behind me and a mountain of classic fried calamari on another. Whatever Italian dish you are in the mood for they will have it here and it will be nothing less than ample and perfectly prepared. They also have no issue with filling special requests like a change of pasta or switching from the meat based sauce in any dish.
I have not had the pleasure of trying the original location which is in Matawan but I can only imagine it as being equally as good. If I had any wishes at all for this location, one would be for the music to be a little louder. It was barely noticeable, at least in the front, where we were seated. That is not really an issue at all, just a request. The other would be to have their menu on line so I could have linked it. There are photos of the specials on their Facebook page. Hopefully their regular menu will be there soon.
Esposito’s of Manasquan is a BYOB and they do not inflate the price of the dishes to make up for it. We had two freshly prepared salads, two apps and two mains for a total of only $60.00. You can’t beat that anywhere for this quality food. Esposito’s is now on our rotation of regular places to eat. When the weather turns cold, the visitors have left and the patio is closed, we will be there on the inside enjoying a great Italian meal. Thanks and see you soon.
Esposito’s of Manasquan is located at 233 East Main St. near the Manasquan train station and around the corner from CVS. There is ample parking in the lot in front and to the left of the restaurant. You may bring your own beer or wine. Seating is available outside, weather permitting, and inside in the casual dining room. They are opened for lunch and dinner. They do not take reservations. They do deliver, even to the beach!