Big Joe shares his Favorite NJ Restaurants: number 9 in a series
Blu Grotto Ristorante
Nestled into the back stretch of beautiful Monmouth Park Race Track in Oceanport, NJ is a jewel of a restaurant. Blu Grotto Ristorante has the ambience of a world class conservatory while serving up regional Italian dishes that are true to the country landscape of Italy.
I love the view from the 3 decks and beer garden at Blu Grotto; you’ll feel like you’re in a countryside restaurant in Europe. It is a great escape destination that serves up very good food, lots of fun artisanal cocktails, along with a great wine list.
Overseeing this large dining operation is General Manager Elvin Kehres, his impressive resume keeps Blu Grotto Ristorante running smoothly with up to date seasonal offerings that enhance your experience.
Executive Chef James Corona insists on using fresh local ingredients and uses his expertise to serve up the classic Italian dishes and some of my favorites like the Veal Porterhouse, Lamb Chop Milanese and their featured dish Fettuccini Bolognese.
The Fettuccini Bolognese has great substance and packs some terrific flavor. I love the consistency of this dish which stands up nicely to the fettuccini pasta. This dish is awesome, the flavors transport me to the countryside of Italy, combine that dish with the Blu Grotto atmosphere along with their countryside view and it makes this dish even more enjoyable, if that’s possible.
Whether you’re looking for a bite or a cocktail before or after a visit to Monmouth Park or a great Sunday brunch or just a great night to hang with friends and family, make Blu Grotto Ristorante one of your destinations and you’ll see why it’s one of mine.
DISCLAIMER: Blu Grotto has changed the pasta type from rigatoni to fettuccini after the photo's were taken.
Blu Grotto Fettuccini Bolognese
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 small carrot, peeled, chopped
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb. ground beef chuck
1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground veal
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp fennel seed
Pinch of finely grated nutmeg
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
3 lbs dry fettuccini
2 oz. finely grated Parmesan cheese
Pulse onion, celery, and carrot in a food processor until very finely chopped. Transfer to a small bowl.
Heat oil in a large pot over medium. Break beef veal and pork into small clumps (about 1½") and add to pot; season lightly with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally but not breaking meat apart, until beef is lightly browned but not crisp, 6–8 minutes. It may be gray in spots (that’s okay!) and still a little pink in the center. Using a slotted spoon, transfer beef to a medium bowl.
Return beef veal and pork to pot and pour in red wine. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, smashing down on beef with a wooden spoon, until wine is evaporated, surface of pot is almost dry, and meat is finely ground, 12–15 minutes. (The meat should be reduced to what looks like little bits. It takes a bit of effort, but you can take breaks.) Add tomato paste, bay leaf, and nutmeg and cook, stirring occasionally and still pressing down on meat, until tomato paste is slightly darkened, about 5 minutes.
Pour stock and heavy cream into pot; add a pinch of salt and fennel seed. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until meat is very, very tender, 2–2½ hours. There shouldn’t be any rapid bubbles at this stage. Instead, the sauce should release the occasional small bubble or two, if the liquid reduces before the meat is completely tender, add an extra ½ cup stock and continue cooking. Discard bay leaf. Taste sauce and adjust seasoning with salt; keep warm.
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water. If using fresh pasta, cook about 3 minutes. If using dry, cook until very al dente, about 2 minutes less than package directions.
Using tongs, transfer pasta to pot with sauce. Add 1 cup pasta cooking liquid and ½ cup Parmesan. Increase heat to medium, bring to a simmer, and cook, tossing constantly, until pasta is al dente and liquid is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.
Transfer pasta to a platter and top with more Parmesan.
Do Ahead: Sauce can be made 4 days ahead. Cover and chill.
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.