After many of enjoyable visits to Spano’s Ristorante Italiano in Point Pleasant Beach, we finally had the pleasure of meeting both Joe and Lori Spano. I must say that they were exactly as we expected – warm and genuinely friendly people who made us feel like family. I knew Lori and her outgoing personality from social media and she was no different in person.
Our friend Stacey, who we know from the River House in Brielle, has been working the front at Spano’s as hostess, on Saturdays, during the winter. We thought we would drop in to pay her a visit and enjoy what is consistently excellent and creative Italian cuisine.
Spano’s is a quintessential family business, started by Joe in 2001 and his father, Frank “Pop” Spano after closing the first location in Jackson. Joe’s father Frank “Pop” Spano was a familiar and popular figure to all the regulars as he cordially worked the floor. Lori Spano is the general manager who keeps a close watch on the numbers and son Frankie works the back end with his father. Even their Australian Shepherd, Ted, a local social media star, does his part by taking the collapsed boxes to the recycling bin. Much of the staff, has been with them from the beginning.
The red neon sign in the window was modeled after the iconic sign for Louis Italian American Restaurant in the Godfather where Michael Corleone carried out some important “business.” When asked when he would open, Joe told someone “when that sign goes on, we are open.” That sign lit up sixteen years ago and that night he served 47 customers. He has been performing to a packed house ever since.
What’s New and What’s Coming to Spano’s
Recently their son Frankie has been sharing the helm in the kitchen following years of tutelage by his father. Frankie takes the job very seriously, even traveling to Italy to enhance his knowledge and skills. His creativity has added another dimension to the cuisine.
Lori revealed some exciting changes that would soon be taking place at Spano’s. I would love to share them but it would violate my sworn Italian non-disclosure agreement. In other words I may know but I may not, but I ain’t sayin’ nuthin’. But don’t worry, it won’t effect any of your favorite Spano’s cuisine. The changes are enhancements to the experience. As soon as these ameliorations come to to pass I will post an update.
Update: The word is out. Spano’s has added a new pasta extruder and ravioli machine. Joe will be turning out fresh pappardelle, cheese and lobster ravioli as well as daily specials. Also on the way is a a flywheel slicer from Italy which will take its place in the front window, to turn out the finest Charcuterie in the area. My plans are ready and the date is set. I cannot wait. Is their an Italian word for Charcuterie?
Now for the food, let’s talk about that.
We tried a few items for the first time on the last couple visits to Spano’s. Some of the appetizers included:
The arancini(rice balls) are the best I have ever tasted. Imagine the best cheesiest provolone risotto you ever had, formed into a small ball and fried with a crispy coating and served with Joe’s award winning marina.
The spicy sausage meatballs are intense with the flavor and texture of a mixture of ground Italian sausage I am not sure what else, and served with the same sauce arrabbiata as the shrimp Molly. I asked Lori if the recipe was a secret and she said, no, it is sausage rolled into a meatball. That really nailed it down. It was a special that night but I hope to see it on the menu one day.
Our dinners included my favorite Italian comfort dish which is linguine with white clams. It is made perfectly here with a mixture of whole top necks in the shell as well as fresh chopped clams. Andrew Zimmern featured the dish on his show Delicious Destinations recently on the Travel Channel. The Jersey Shore episode is still airing through March.
One of our friends ordered the Buratta con Cavatelli (pictured) which gushed the luscious liquid which blended with the red sauce all over the tender cavatelli. She was still talking about it two days later.
My wife had her favorite Sole Oreganata which is a plate size piece of flounder (likely fluke AKA summer flounder) which is perfectly flakey and moist and provides enough for the next days lunch, as do most of the entrees here.
I could go on and on about the food at Spano’s but the best thing to do is look at the extensive menu and order what you like. You will never be disappointed. The daily specials reflect the creativity of Joe and Frankie and are always good choices. My summer favorite is the fried soft shelled crabs with francese sauce on the side.
Spano’s does not take reservations for parties of less than seven, so try to arrive early, especially on weekends. You are encouraged to bring your own wine. Parking is available on Arnold Ave. if you are lucky or in the large municipal lot directly across the street.
What is Happening at the River House in Brielle?
Sources have confirmed that a change of ownership is likely and pending finalization at the popular River House at Brielle. One credible source tells us their are no plans to radically change the place. The deck will still remain open to the public, but some upgrades to the decor are planned according to a reliable source. As information becomes available we will keep you informed. The deck is scheduled to open as usual in April.