Brooklyn Bistro opened about a year ago on Rt. 9 in Toms River after its owners took over a small space previously occupied by a kebab joint. They renovated the little building and took it from a fast food dive to a welcoming Italian café, and my husband and I have been dying to try it. We finally got the chance to stop in the other day, and we weren’t disappointed.
The Bistro is owned by an Italian family of 4 who are all originally from Brooklyn, but each moved down to Ocean County at various times over the last 7 years. While there I spoke with one of the friendly owners, Maria, and she mentioned they are committed to serving up home cooked dishes and making as much as possible homemade, including their fresh mozzarella cheese, roasted red peppers, sausage and pastas. The brother of the family also bakes all the desserts in-house, including their trademark gourmet cheesecakes.
Brooklyn Bistro offers a very reasonably priced lunch menu of personal pizzas, Italian sandwiches and pastas, but we were after the dinner menu. After being served bread with balsamic and garlic olive oil and mesclun green salads, we selected the sweet & spicy Calamari Balsamico for an appetizer. The calamari was perfectly seasoned and crispy, and tossed with spicy cherry peppers, red onions, and a sweet balsamic vinegar reduction. It was fantastic.
For my entrée I went with Mafalda Milanese (pictured above), a pasta recipe that belongs to the mother of the family. It includes toasted breadcrumbs, pine nuts, raisins and marinara sauce over thin, lasagna-type curly noodles. Quite unique!
My husband’s dish stole the show, however. He ordered Slow Braised Beef Osso Buco, which was cooked in a thick tomato and carrot stew-like sauce and served over risotto. They cook the risotto to order (even asking you to be patient for an extra 20 minutes to prepare it), so it’s creamy and perfectly cooked. He mmm’d the entire way through this big bowl of comfort food and hasn’t stopped talking about it for days.
We hadn’t planned on ordering dessert, but when we heard “avocado cheesecake” was on special for the evening, we had to give it a try. The cheesecake was super creamy, smooth and light with the perfect amount of sweetness, pleasing my cheesecake-loving dining companion. I think next time I’d order the turtle or strawberry flavor rather than avocado (it was a very mild flavor), but it was certainly worth trying once.
The Brooklyn Bistro is all about home cooking. The food has a certain rustic feel as if it was made by your nonni, and the restaurant is unassuming and staffed by very friendly and attentive servers. They even offer all diners a chance to win their monthly $25 gift card drawing, so here’s crossing my fingers for a win. This is a great little place for Italian comfort food. We’ll definitely be back!
1616 Lakewood Road (Rt 9)
Toms River, NJ 08755
732 244 2122
Melissa Baratta: Melissa has been cooking and exploring the restaurant scene since the age of 12 when she first discovered the Food Network. Originally from Vermont, she is passionate about healthy and sustainable living, and loves to experience new flavors from around the world. She is a pescatarian with a love of fresh seafood, but is married to a full blown omnivore, so her recipes range from unique salads, homemade pastas and grain dishes to grilled fish and curried chicken. She lives in Ocean County with her husband and young son, and when she’s not working at her Manhattan-based PR agency, she can be found cooking, gardening, and checking out local eateries. Melissa blogs about food and healthy living atwww.SomeSugarAdded.com.