Ciro’s Ristorante Italiano (Monroe Township, NJ)

I’m on vacation right now, and my dad and I are staying in Monroe Township, NJ. There’s this restaurant we always went to called Basile’s. It’s in a beautiful old building that used to be an old-fashioned, balconied, wooden-walled, carved-ceilinged nightclub. The staircase looks like this:

Basile’s changed hands a few times and is now Ciro’s Ristorante Italiano & Cocktails The owner of Ciro’s had retired from owning another restaurant, but got restless and bought this one.

We walked in at around 9:30 PM and they were still happy to serve us. Not only was that nice of them, but I think condoning late dinner is a good way to authenticate the Mediterranean vibe. I ordered a Caesar salad with high-quality lettuce (only the dark part), and my dad ordered peppers and mozzarella. They offered soup of the day free with your meal. I got Pasta Fagiole; a red-brothed mixture of pasta, cheese, vegetables, and beans.

My entree was eggplant parmigiano stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella, and spinach on top of marinara sauce and pasta. The pasta and marinara sauce were pretty standard, but the stuffed eggplant itself was unusually tart. This is a great thing, and I’m not sure how they did it.

The crowning glory was the Limoncella Mascarpone cake. It was two layers of yellow lemon cake with sweet mascarpone cheese frosting. I wouldn’t have known it was cheese unless they told me: it was just as sweet as anything I’d get on a cupcake and the texture was far more appealing. They put four dollops of high-quality whipped cream on the side. I would present that cake to the Queen.

The second floor is fancier, and is geared towards catering and dinner parties. There’s a cocktail bar on the first floor that looks like a good place for older people (Monroe Township has a lot of retirement communities) to talk, relax, and bring dates. Ciro’s also has a pizza kitchen.

Ciro’s has great service and a gorgeous atmosphere. The food was nutritious and well-cooked, but the soup and salad felt thin. The best food resulted from the creative touches of the chef, whom I imagine has a sweet tooth.

Rating: 7
Recommended Dish: Limoncella Mascarpone Cake
Atmosphere: Casual
Price Range: $25-$40 per person
Clientele: Older people, families, parties

301 Buckelew Avenue
Monroe Township, NJ 08831

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