There are many, many reasons to love Mike Isabella, but one of the first and foremost ones is his wonderful, unabashed, almost gleeful devotion to the food and culture he grew up with. That that food and culture originates on the delightfully tacky (but always delicious) Jersey Shore, makes it all that much more fun for us.
So, this week, for both lunch and dinner, he and his team are test driving a very special Jersey Shore Menu over at Graffiato. If you want to pretend like you are on a boardwalk vacation while never leaving the city, this is the place to be.
Start with the drinks (yes, we KNOW it is maybe lunchtime, but hey – you’re on pretend vacation here). The watermelon margarita (teeny tiny umbrella and melon ball included) is the way to go, but if you’re feeling particularly springbreak-y there are also test tube shooters (mind erasers and lemon drops, naturally), hurricanes, zombies, beer buckets (remember beer buckets???) and more to choose from.
Then, onto the seafood naturally: from the chilled shrimp (with creole sauce) to oysters on a half-shell (with bloody mary granita) to the soft shell crab (with corn crema) – all your beach bar snacks are covered.
Add to that some disco fries (fingerlings, sunday gravy, pancetta jam, stracciatella, foie gras) and you can see why even after this week Isabella’s team is considering keeping some of these offerings on the happy hour menu.
Now, it isn’t a trip to the beach without a lobster roll, and this week Graffiato does a wonderful mini version ($6 each), in a perfectly toasted brioche bun, loaded with fresh lobster, with just a touch of lemon aioli, and topped with fingerling fries (as part of the sandwich, naturally). During the meal we had, this was a big favorite. BIG FAVORITE.
Then, pasta, which also is delightfully over the top: the mussels come with crunchy gnocchi on top (covered in the same cherry chilli aioli as the Jersey Shore Pizza), the linquini with razor clams almost as long as the linquini themselves. Every dish basically screams: just have fun with it, ok?
Even the more traditional sounding dishes (scallops, octopus etc) which we’ve all come to expect at Isabella’s joint, get a playful variation on the theme: the scallops are a “Baked Bay Scallops Casino” with a salty, cruncy calabrian chilis, gremolatta, capicola topping, and the octopus rests on a bed of fried caper berries and other colorful goodies.
Afterwards, of course, there needs to be room for dessert: chicken and waffles are being served around the clock, as is a perfect play on funnell cake (crispy, thin, with biscoff gelato and crumbs on the side) and Stacy’s cookies (thin, nutella filled).
In the mood for something lighter? Maybe try the fudge cake. Just kidding. The Shaved Ice with strawberries and strawberry infused prosecco is the way to go.
Best thing of all? Not a thing on the menu is over $18, with plenty options in the $6-$12 range (check out the full menu here, and make those reservations through Friday). In the meantime, here is one more funnel cake photo to keep you afloat during the work day: