IMAGINATIVE FLAVOR COMBINATIONS WITH A DASH OF SENSORY ALLURE COMBINE FOR A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE ON THE ASBURY PARK BOARDWALK
BY GILDA ROGERS • PHOTOS BY ROBERT NUZZIE
Trends come and go, but Stella Marina Bar and Restaurant, a pioneer of the rejuvenated city by the sea, has been a trendsetter when it comes to serving Italian fare. Located directly on the boardwalk in Asbury Park, its ocean side view and lauded fare are complemented by an extensive wine list and drink menu.
“We’re keeping up with the Joneses, but put our own spin on drinks,” said Bar Manager Jason thorpe. For instance, “The Enza” is a fusion of pear vodka with muddled basil, herb oil extract, and lemons—a novel take on lemonade. Presented in a tall Tom Collins glass, its garnished with lemon slices and sprigs of fresh basil.
Thorpe, who’s been working in the service industry for 15 years, began bartending in Atlantic City while a freshman at Stockton University in Galloway. He strayed from the scene for a few years, taking a more “traditional” management job, only to discover “That wasn’t for me,” he said.
The popular cable television show Bar Rescue, about the business and science of creating a successful tavern, provided crucial tips for thorpe, not least in organization, education, and consistency when it comes to managing bar and staff to maximize revenue.
When it’s time to create Stella’s seasonal cocktail menu, thorpe and General Manager Jacqui Pignataro— who started as a server and was promoted to bartender and manager—collaborate on all manner of spirit possibilities, while incorporating a myriad of fresh herbs into menu selections…like their summer twist on the Mojito, with lemon basil and Bacardi Rum topped with ginger beer.
Although Pignataro is no longer a drinker, she quipped, “I will smell something and say, ‘Yep, the nose is still there.’” Another house cocktail, “Thyme-Ade,” incorporates citrus vodka, house-made thyme simple syrup, and fresh lemon juice, topped with club soda—the fragrance released from the muddled thyme adding another dimension.
Given to describing his role as one analogous to that of a chef, thorpe has earned an Honorable Mention nod in a local cocktail competition for a drink he created at Langosta Lounge called the “Stella Rose Marina.”
Signature cocktails at the Asbury Park restaurant also include “The CEO” (Titos Vodka, olive juice, and blue cheese olives), the “Blood Orange Martini” (Stoli Orange, Solerno Liquor, and fresh blood orange juice), and “The Italian Botanist” (Botanist Gin and lemon juice with a float of Prosecco).
An impressive selection of Italian beer by San Gabriel and local craft beers are also highlights at the comfortable, warm space at Stella Marina, which offers outdoor dining on the boardwalk level as well as on a balcony strewn with market lights during warm months.
“Craft beer is what wine was years ago,” explained thorpe, describing his excitement over new discoveries and the overall explosion of the craft movement. To that end, Stella Marina has aligned with two local breweries—Asbury Park and Dark City—joining another growing trend particularly prevalent in Asbury Park, namely supporting local businesses.
Stella Marina Bar & Restaurant
800 Ocean Avenue, Asbury Park
732.775.7776 / stellamarinarestaurant.com