La Griglia Kennilworth, New Jersey

Similar to my review of Sam Vera in Marlboro, New Jersey: When you live in the Jersey Shore where do you go to eat on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend? Up the parkway to Union County to one of your all time favorite restaurants La Griglia in Kennilworth.

Let me start this by saying La Griglia is one of my all time favorite restaurants, it simply never fails to please. I’ve been coming to this location since the late 80’s early 90’s when it was a red sauce joint, literally with checkered table clothes called Ange & Mims. Since then it became La Griglia out when the red sauce stained black and white table clothes and in came an upscale decor and menu which bill’s itself as a Seafood Grill, which I do not think gives this place enough credit.

The menu is heavily Italian, with many seafood options, but also (you know if I love the place) they have excellent steaks and chops too. I probably dine here once a month on average, pretty much anytime I have an evening appointment in the area, and over the 15+ years I’ve never had a bad meal. Consistency in quality and service are the two things I look for most and this place delivers every time.

We had 7:30 reservations for 4 being Memorial Day weekend the place never filled up during the evening. They serve a nice variety of bread along with some pepper bread sticks and assortment of olives which are on the table. We were greeted by our server, drinks ordered and specials were given. After a cocktail our apps were:
Seafood tower, fried Cajun calamari, fried zucchini flowers and a beat salad. Everything was excellent!! The cajun calamari is served tossed in a balsamic reduction with a hint of jalapeno(?) pepper to give it just enough heat. The tangy sweetness of the balsamic reduction balanced by the heat of the jalapeno isn’t something you could imagine would go well, but it does! The zucchini flowers were stuffed with a crab meat then fried and very, very good.

Salads were (3) Cesar salad and a beet salad, this place has my all time favorite Cesar salad made very traditionally just the balance of ingredients in the dressing is perfect, and it’s served with a garlic toast point(s) and shaved romano cheese. Love it!! The beet salad got a rave review! (my wife who loves beets)

Pet Peeve and I’ve had this issue here before, I do not eat raw clams, I have requested in the past (and received although I paid an up-charge) that they substitute the raw clams on the seafood tower for additional oysters. Although I think it’s a rip-off if they up charge you, I have willingly paid it in the past because it’s simply what I want. This time I was denied the request saying NO substitutions were allowed, up charge or not. WTF? Seriously? Truthfully, at any other restaurant a move like that would have pissed me off enough to really taint my opinion of them, but as this is one of my favorite places, and I’ve had similar experience with this request before I let it slide. Thankfully my buddy didn’t mind eating the clams.

Entrees: I ordered the osso bucco which is one of my regular dishes, served over risotto. Two aged bone in NY Strip steaks and an Ahi Tuna special were ordered. (I normally get the NY Strip but since the other couple were each getting it I decided to go with osso bucco). As I’ve said they describe themselves as a Seafood Grill, but their steaks and meat dishes are outstanding. The osso bucco served with carrots and celery in a tomato based au jus is just perfect. No reinventing the wheel here, just proper execution of a dish, the risotto is an excellent accompaniment for the dish. The steaks were served over brocolli rabe and as always they were delicious and my wife loved the tuna steak.

Even though they pissed me off with the oyster/clams, still an excellent meal at one of my long standing favorite restaurant. If you are in the area this is a must try.


After reading about NotJr’s raving review of La Griglia, we decided to give it a try. We normally only go to BYOs. We drove up to the valet parking lot & the attendant couldn’t be bothered to open my wife’s door. I could have just as easily parked my car myself 2 feet away in a spot. We walk in, & I thought we walked into a nursing home. I don’t think there were any customers younger than 80 there. They were wheeling them in & pushing their chairs into their tables. I’m 60 and felt like a teenager. My wife got all dressed up and the waiters were leering at her all night (probably because they have never seen anybody so young):grin:
I ordered this Italian Cabernet, which was the cheapest red they had at $34.00. I would guess that it goes for $8 retail. It was very weak. I could have brought my own excellent wine for half of that price. Most of the other decent bottles of wine are over $50. They have a lot of triple digit wines.
This concludes my rant. Sorry NotJr. Now on to the food.
I have to admit that they started us off with an excellent bread basket, which was one of the highlights of the dinner. There was some very hot & crispy bread (some sort of miniature everything baguette, crispy Italian bread, and a delicious raisin mini roll). The olive oil was outstanding, and they had some nice olives.
For appetizers we ordered ‘lightly’ battered zucchini blossoms stuffed with crabmeat, capers, & lemon, in a White Wine Sauce. The crabmeat stuffing was very good, but I would have liked the blossoms to be a little more crispier. They were drowning in batter.

We also ordered beef carpaccio with raw filet mignon, arugula, & big chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano, in a black truffle vinaigrette. This was pretty good, although the meat was a little stringy.

For entrees Mrs. P had the red snapper with crispy potato crust, & sautéed spinach, in a Chardonnay beurre blanc. We asked for the crust extra crispy, and of course they proceeded to ruin it by pouring the Chardonnay beurre blanc over the crispy skin to make it greasy. It was pretty tasty, but would have been better if they left the crust crispy. The sauteed spinach was nice & garlicky.
I had the excellent fork tender boneless short ribs, with bourbon smashed sweet potatoes, Chinese longbeans, and king oyster mushrooms, in a Barolo demi-glace. The smashed sweet potatoes were excellent.
The husband of the elderly couple next to us was complaining non stop all night. His wife was just in a fog. He had to wait more than 5 minutes for his entree, and was saying that the chef must be on his lunch break. After dinner he complained to the owner that it was a lousy breakfast (since he had to wait so long).
The food wasn’t too bad (there were actually some pretty good dishes), but with the indifferent service, and customers that made us old farts look like teenagers, I’m sorry, but I think this is a one & done restaurant. I would have given the valet driver a $5.00 tip, if he would have even made an attempt to open my wife’s door (coming or going), but he didn’t, so I didn’t leave him a tip, since he didn’t even attempt to go out of his way. I went to open my wife’s door and he just stood by my door waiting for a tip. Sorry, there are just too many full service restaurants that I would rather spend my money on.
Next week we try another non BYO in Kenilworth called Boulevard 572, which looks really promising. I will provide my report next week.

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