Piccola Italia

Ocean, NJ

piccolaitalianj.com

Big Joe Henry/ Cinecall Productions

When I came up with the concept of focusing on my favorite restaurants, Piccola Italia was at the forefront of my mind. Executive Chef/Owner Brian Gualtieri is an artist when it comes to preparing unique Italian dishes. His marriage of seasoning with local ingredients makes this restaurant a must for you to enjoy.

I’m a huge fan of Chef Brian’s and the outstanding food that he creates. Talking to Chef Brian makes you feel that you’re at his home and he’s been anxiously awaiting your arrival. He keeps it a family affair with his wife Carolina and father Lou actively involved in the day to day operation of this great restaurant.

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Piccola Italia is tucked away in the corner of a shopping plaza and when you walk in you realize that this restaurant could be front and center in any major US city. Chef Brian has been influenced by his work at some of the world class restaurants here in New Jersey, San Francisco and New York.

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I’m just glad that he’s here in New Jersey. His duck, steaks, scallops and pork chops are my favorites and I’ll always try a pasta dish on every visit and there are many of them. His deserts are house made and are a necessity to end your meal.

The bar at Piccola Italia is one of my favorites and very well appointed making it my favorite spot to enjoy my meal at Piccola Italia. The wine list is extensive and Chef Brian takes great strides in acquiring wines that go well with his classic dishes.

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There are frequent wine tasting dinners at Piccola Italia that introduce some unique wines to Chef Brian’s customers. There were many of his dishes that I would have enjoyed having the recipe to and the Porcini Seared Day Boat Scallops is one of them.

Chef Brian was kind enough to add his recipe for potato puree and his wild mushroom truffle butter. Make Piccola Italia a part of your Jersey Shore restaurant experience, I do quite often.

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Piccola Italia Porcini Seared Day Boat Scallops with Potato Puree, Wild Mushrooms & Truffle Butter

Yields 6 Portions

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Scallops

Ingredients:

18 U-10 Dry Diver Scallops - *abductor muscle removed*

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 Cup Porcini Powder

Kosher Salt

Cracked Black Pepper

1 teaspoon Canola Oil

Note: Scallops should be cooked in separate pans or in batches. If the sauté' pan is overcrowded, the scallops will steam rather than sear, and the nice crust will be lost.

Heat 1 tablespoon of Canola Oil in a sauté pan on medium heat. Season the scallops with salt and pepper on both sides. Place one side, of the scallop, in porcini powder, and once the oil is very hot, sear 6 scallops at a time, keeping the porcini side down. Do not move the scallops around and allow them to sear for 2 minutes. Flip the scallops over and add 2 tablespoons of butter. Baste the scallops, with the hot butter, for another 2 minutes. Transfer scallops onto a plate, and repeat the process with the remaining scallops.

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Mushrooms

Ingredients:

1 Cup sliced Cremini Mushrooms

1 Cup sliced Shiitake Mushrooms

1 Tablespoon Canola Oil

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

1 Sprig fresh Thyme - chopped and stem removed

Kosher Salt & Cracked Black Pepper to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon of Canola Oil in sauté pan, on medium heat. Add mushroom and butter, letting them sear before moving them. Season with salt and pepper and add chopped thyme. Sauté for 2 minutes, until caramelized, and be careful not to burn the mushrooms.

Big Joe Henry/ Cinecall Productions

Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients:

2 pounds of Yukon Gold "B" potatoes

1/2 pound unsalted, cubed butter

1 cup 40% heavy cream

1 Teaspoon truffle oil

Kosher salt

Cracked Black Pepper

Fill pot with COLD water - enough to cover all of the whole potatoes. Bring water to a simmer and let simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender. Strain potatoes. Add butter and smash with a mallet. Do not overwork. Fold in heavy cream and truffle oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Truffle Butter

Ingredients:

2 cups white wine

1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 Shallot - sliced

1 spring of fresh Thyme

1/4 Cup cream

1/2 pound butter - cubed

Kosher Salt

Cracked Black Pepper

Truffle Paste

Truffle Oil

In a small sauce pot, reduce wine, vinegar, shallots and thyme until its 1/4 of its volume. Add cream. Slowly whisk in butter - 1 cube at a time - until emulsified. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Add truffle paste, truffle oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Big Joe Henry/ Cinecall Productions

Good to know about Scallops:

We are so lucky to be located near fresh, Day Boat seafood. Our scallops are brought in, daily, to the Manasquan Inlet and they're most known for their sweet flavor. When buying scallops, it's best to get Dry Scallops which means they are not preserved in water and sodium. Dry scallops are delivered fresh, over ice, and typically the same day as they're caught.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.

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