Vic Rallo is at it again. In between shooting the second season of his hit television show Eat! Drink! Italy! which is now broadcasting on Create TV (check your local listings for show times and channels), training for an Iron Man competition, and managing his restaurants including Undici in Rumson, he decided to renovate the local’s favorite, Basil T’s, into an updated industrial and communal Italian restaurant.
“In 30 years, it hadn’t been changed,” stated Rallo while sitting at a high-top table at his newly opened Birravino, combination of the Italian words for beer (birra) and wine (vino). “We would only shut down for three days a year and when we realized we needed some major renovations done that would shut us down for 10 days, we decided to give the restaurant a makeover.”
The result is a complete facelift of the more traditional Basil T’s. Diners are urged to talk to others at rustic communal tables with metal chairs. The waiters in dark denim jeans, a light denim button down, and a striped apron embody a sense of classic Italian cool. It’s a similar experience to walking down the streets of Rome and thinking, Do they wake up and exude that cool factor? It has to be an Italian thing.
Birravino was conceptualized over the past 10 years while Rallo traveled to Italy 20 times, exploring the food, wine and culture of the country. The restaurant is his interpretation of what he has learned during his travels, both personally and for Eat! Drink! Italy!
Everything on the menu is less than $24. If you’re on a budget, you can afford to eat here and if you’re not, then you can afford to try a variety of dishes and live like you were dining on the Mediterranean.
So out of the many choices offered, what does Rallo recommend? Everything of course, but for starters, I recommend that you try out some of Rallo’s all-star dishes. For your salad and antipasti courses, enjoy the Big Vic Salad with romaine, salami, provolone and red pepper and the Prosciutto e Uovo, which features prosciutto di Parma over an easy egg with Grana Padana and a Jersey tomato. Then move on to your main courses with the Funghi Pizze featuring Taleggio cheese, mushrooms, and truffle oil, and go big or go home when you order the Salsiccia Grigliata, a grilled Italian hot and sweet sausage with potato, onion, and frying peppers.
My guest and I started off with the calamari appetizer, which featured sautéed, not fried, calamari in a tomato broth, hot peppers, and a grilled piece of panini bread, perfect for sopping up the spicy broth. Then we moved on to the classic Pollo alla Parmigiana that came with Rallo’s homemade noodles, cooked al dante of course, and the Salsiccia e Peperoni Pizze featuring Italian sausage and roasted peppers. The pieces of sausage were the sizes of small meatballs and were perfectly arranged on dough that was crisp on the outside, airy on the inside, just how I like it. We took home our leftovers and ate the rest for dinner. Oh and to top it off, we ordered the Tiramisu. Always save room for dessert (and the wine).
Speaking of the wine. For those of you who follow Rallo know how much he adores the adult grape juice, especially if you’ve ever been to his yearly “Wines, Cheeses and Pastas of Italy” event during Jersey Shore Restaurant Week.
For Birravino, Rallo tasted over 1,200 wines, narrowing down the list to a select 100 Italian bottles, all under $50. With a name like Birravino, the selection has to be good! I enjoyed the Branciforti Nero d’Avola 2013 Sicily red. It was a medium bodied red wine that complemented my meal perfectly, especially at $8 a glass! For beer drinkers, Birravino brews three different beers, each named after an Italian volcano (Etna, Vulture, and Vesuvio), two guest beers on tap and 40 additional bottles.
So if you’re looking for an updated yet classic Italian restaurant, Birravino is the place to dine. Visit them for happy hour Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and enjoy half-priced house beer, vino de casa, pizza and antipasti. You seriously can’t beat that deal!
183 Riverside Avenue
Prices mentioned are subject to change.
Melissa Beveridge is a freelance journalist and editor, focusing on great food, healthy living, and wellness. Her passion for eating and living well embodies her writing. A lover of all things Jersey, she is also an avid traveler, always looking to discover those hidden culinary gems everywhere she goes. Her musings can be found on her blog mbeewell.wordpress.com.