Pizza and warm weather go together like….peanut butter and jelly? Or something like that. I recently had the opportunity to check out the much acclaimed Porta in Asbury Park. The wonderful food, great ambiance and free-flowing wine were only the beginning of what turned out to be an incredible evening.
Just two blocks off the beach, Porta is an authentic Neapolitan pizza restaurant. Its name comes from a phrase transposed by a would-be monk. A misplaced punctuation mark in the phrase “Porta patens esto. Nulli claudatur honesto” changed “May the door always be open. May it never be closed to any honest person” to a completely different meaning. The story symbolizes how the details make all the difference and it’s something the Smith restaurant group definitely focuses on.
After an incredibly beautiful beach day, my parents, my boyfriend and I wandered over to Porta for an early dinner. We opted for a seat in the outside garden, which was packed with late-spring revelers dancing to a live band. The menu is very conducive to sharing, so after we were seated at our picnic table and the wine was ordered we set about negotiating which of the plates we would order.
We selected the marinated olives and three trees salad to start. The salad, a blend of radicchio, endive and arugula, was a blend of great flavors mixed with crispy prosciutto, pear and almonds, dressed lightly with shallot-rosemary vinaigrette.
My dad, who is always on a low carb mission, chose a small plate of meatballs, that arrived sizzling in their dish, resting among stewed cannellini beans and roasted tomatoes. I’m not a meatball fan, and unfortunately these did not convert me, but my dad was happy with both the presentation and flavor.
Next, our three pizzas arrived: a traditional Margherita, the 14½” and another pie (no longer on the menu) – gouda, caramelized onions and fresh mozzarella. While the toppings were inventive, what stood out most was the dough. You could taste the freshness of the ingredients. No way this was frozen dough. And it made all of the difference. My dad couldn’t resist the carbs any longer and dug into one of the slices of the 14½”. It was perfect for him and my boyfriend, who like to indulge in extra spice. It ranks up there with some of the spicier pizza I have tried, but they loved it. The other two were finished off in record time.
For dessert we enjoyed another bottle of the Vasari Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and the Nutella pizza. It was my mom’s first time trying Nutella and especially after this dessert pie, I’m sure it won’t be her last. It arrived warm, gooey and dripping with chocolate.
The sun had started to set and the revelers kept pouring in. After two hours indulging at our table, it was time to let another hungry bunch enjoy. It was definitely a memorable meal, and for that matter a memorable night. Later that evening, after we made the drive back to Hoboken, my boyfriend became my fiancé, proposing to me at a special spot where we had our first date.
We are looking forward to Porta’s second location, opening in Jersey City this August so we can continue to enjoy this great casual fare. The communal table and fun, food-loving concept will occupy the former Fenny Pharmacy location, just steps from the Grove Street Path station. There are seats for 500 and that includes communal seating area, large private event space and a beautiful open rooftop, complete with 2 bars and a bocce ball court. Stay tuned for more news on the Jersey City spot and an opening announcement.
911 Kingsley Street
Jersey City (coming soon)
135 Newark Avenue
Karin Nastawa grew up in the great Garden State, leaving only briefly to attend college in Philadelphia, where she developed a love for all things cheesesteaks. She has lived in Hoboken for over nine years, taking in the incredible dining scenes on both sides of the river and has a particular affinity for staking out interesting BYO establishments in Hudson County. She is the founder and owner of VinEatsi, a boutique wine & food digital marketing agency and has also studied wine and spirits extensively, receiving her advanced degree from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET). Along with running VinEatsi, she is an avid cook and food enthusiast and writes about her wine & food adventures in the VinEatsi blog. She dreams of having a chef’s kitchen and a state-of-the-art wine cellar filled with Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and Left Bank Bordeaux… someday.