ALBARIÑO TAPAS AND WINE BAR EXPANDS, BRINGING A WIDER VARIETY OF MEDITERRANEAN DISHES TO THE JERSEY SHORE

BY JESSICA JONES GORMAN • PHOTOS © AMESSÉ PHOTOGRAPHY

For Raoul, Carlo, and Anthony Momo, crafting fresh farm to table Italian fare has long been a strength. After opening their first restaurant in 1982, sharing their mother’s traditionally authentic recipes with the residents of New Brunswick, the brothers introduced three more successful Italian concepts to the Garden State each one built upon their culinary heritage. But in 2017, when a new opportunity presented itself to their Terra Momo restaurant group, the brothers decided to try something different.

Albarino-076“This space became available in The Grove, and while we didn’t want to be in a strip center location, something about this site just felt right,” noted Raoul Momo, detailing the inviting atmosphere that would become Albariño Tapas and Wine Bar, his family’s fifth gastronomic enterprise. “My brothers and I started thinking about what we could create here, envisioning what type of restaurant would fit best. And if you’re from New Jersey, you know we don’t need another Italian restaurant. So we focused on food and wine from different regions of Spain and devised a small plate tapas menu our guests could share and enjoy with lots of good wine.”

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The Momo brothers worked diligently to turn what had been a freestanding nail salon into a Mediterranean oasis. They hired Dowling Studios to design a contemporary space that made use of genuine Spanish materials and ample natural light. Then, they built a menu around a selection of the successful Mediterranean dishes already being served in some of their other restaurants.

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“At Mediterra, we do a paella that has always been one of our most popular entrees,” Raoul said. “We also have several signature tapas items on that menu that we chose to expand upon here at Albariño.”

Those tapas dishes are anything but basic. Patatas Bravas are served in a spicy pepper tomato sauce and drizzled with garlic aioli; Crispy Eggplant is topped with rosemary and honey; Bacon Wrapped Dates are accompanied by sweet Marcona almonds and Valdeon cheese; and Pulpo a la Plancha, a Portuguese octopus, is smothered in romesco Negro sauce and topped with chickpea croutons and charred red onion.

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Timepiece Spread

“At the core of Terra Momo’s culinary philosophy is a deep appreciation for a ‘taste of place,’ ” Raoul noted. “We believe that food should speak eloquently of its provenance its soil, its climate, and the people who nurture it. True to our motto ‘Eat Locally, Drink Globally’ Albariño features Spanish inspired dishes that use the best ingredients New Jersey and the mid-Atlantic region can offer.”

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There are three different varieties of that locally famous paella and four entrees, or “platos principals,” for those not interested in sharing. Charcuterie and cheeses are also served in abundance, intended to be paired with a bottle of wine from Albariño’s vast collection.
“Spain is such a huge wine country, and many people are just discovering what these beautiful wine regions have to offer,” Raoul said, noting that the restaurant itself is named after a richly flavored white from the Galicia region of Spain. “I think America has fallen in love with the Spanish style of eating. Tapas is such a wonderful way to dine out, enabling everyone at the table to taste, try, and savor a variety of dishes instead of committing to just one and pairing that experience with the perfect varietal of wine only intensifies the meal.”

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Albariño’s success in Shrewsbury came quickly, and after consistently filling the dining room for two years, the Momo brothers decided to expand.

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“The space next door became available, and we just couldn’t pass it up,” Raoul said. “So we added more prep space, expanded the kitchen to include a specialty oven for flatbreads, and created a wine focused gathering space for about 35 people that we call the Cava Room.” (Cava is Spain’s answer to Champagne.)

 

The Cava Room features a “hyper focused” Spanish wine list with many varieties picked by Ole Imports, a company that specializes in a unique portfolio of 100 Spanish wines, many of which are unique artisanal discoveries.

“All of the different regions of Spain are represented in our list,” Raoul said. “And for those who aren’t interesting in taking a Mediterranean wine tour, we offer Malbecs from Oregon, California Pinot Noirs, and a range of other bottles that pair nicely with our food.”

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Raoul plans on bringing different vendors to his space each month, offering events where wine lovers can learn about the vineyards from which their favorites originate. “Great food and wine has to be presented in an intimate setting,” he said.

“You want to take your time, enjoy every bite, and savor every sip. That’s what this room and this menu are all about enjoying delicious food and drink in a warm, friendly, and very comfortable atmosphere.”

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Albariño Tapas and Wine Bar
The Grove West, 508 Broad Street, Shrewsbury 732.852.2640 /
albarinorestaurant.com