Overall Experience - 7.4
Summary : You can grab reasonably priced pies just steps from the beach at this landmark restaurant in the recently redeveloped town of Asbury Park.
If there is any town along the Jersey Shore that’s become a microcosm of Brooklyn, you could make a strong case for Asbury Park. New residential developments, artisanal-focused dining and even a shuffleboard club — there is perhaps nowhere in America where hipsters can more seamlessly “GTL.”
A necessary landmark in any area that’s being redeveloped is an upscale pizza place. And in Asbury Park, Porta (911 Kingsley St) fits the mold quite well. The restaurant actually preceded much of the development that’s going on in the area now; it opened its portas in 2011 (the restaurant’s name is Italian for “door”), which are a common decoration throughout the space.
Among the former uses of the space, was as a nightclub (where The Boss is said to have performed). Now it has an open warehouse feel, with room for dozens of diners, a large bar area, and two pizza ovens in the back. And they’ve converted their outdoor area into “Porta National Park” featuring more seating, another bar, and even a tented area with games like cornhole.
Although Porta is primarily a pizza place (there were 14 pies on the menu the afternoon I visited) there is a full menu available for those who are interested in expanding their horizons. In addition to salads and appetizers, their lunch menu boasts six sandwiches and their dinner menu contains seven pasta dishes. But I was there for one reason: pizza.
My party of four ordered four pies — each are individual, but we had a few slices left over. Pies range from $14-$17 (not including a $6 foccacia and a $10 marinara pie). My favorite was an onion pie that featured an onion purée, fontina cheese, scallions, onions, and crispy shallots. If you like onions, it’s hard to go wrong with this pie. I especially liked the crunch from the crispy shallots (think homemade funyons) on top. It could have use a little more onion purée though. My favorite part of a good onion pie is always the taste from the caramelization of the onions. And that flavor wasn’t particularly noticeable on this pie.
The other pies we ordered were good, but not great. While the Besto pie contains pesto, it was barely noticeable under all of the other ingredients (can you even spot any in the photo below?). The Summer Betty contains sliced tomatoes on what is essentially a margherita pie (I think I would have preferred the pie without the tomatoes). I felt the same way about the Meatball pie which is essentially a margherita with meatballs (but a favorite pie of my in-laws!).
I don’t think that the pizza at Porta compares a top tier Neapolitan pizza place in New York City. So a trip out to New Jersey just for pizza is certainly not worth it (even to their Jersey City outpost). But if you live in New Jersey — or happen to find yourself at Asbury Park for the weekend — it’s definitely a viable option. It’s a cool space. The menu is reasonably priced. And there are options for all palates (the pizza section of the menu is divided into vegan, vegetarian, and meat pies).
Plus, what other pizzeria has it’s own national park out back?
(vidalia onion purée, fontina, scallion, red onion, crispy shallot)
(house-made ricotta, house-made mozzarella, arugula,
pine nuts, pesto, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt)
(San Marzano tomatoes, house-made mozzarella, goat cheese,
sliced heirloom tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, thyme)
(San Marzano tomatoes, house-made meatballs, house-made
mozzarella, Pecorino Romano, parsley, extra virgin olive oil)