Summertime BYOB in Stone Harbor: Spiaggia

The quaint Stone Harbor trattoria’s specialty is seafood, as tailored around similar 
establishments sited in the southern Italian coastal hubs.

By Frank Gabriel

Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 2 | Posted Jul. 11, 2012

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Shrimp and cannelli

Last summer, it was Margate’s daring, al fresco Fisch Kitchen, attached to Downbeach Deli.

In 2010, it was Avalon’s Diving Horse, featuring a brief menu rotating to reflect regional availabilities.

What we refer to is the Jersey shore phenomenon of the summertime BYOB. Now, in 2012, that mantle clearly rests with Stone Harbor’s Spiaggia Seafood Trattoria. What could be more appropriate than a place whose very name — “spiaggia,” or “beach” in Italian — invokes our own unique seashore environs?

Owner/operators Marco and Analia Tarantino, along with their extended family, have simultaneously carved out an exciting new local dining niche with this latest concept.

Spiaggia is what one would expect to find in southern Italian coastal hubs like Positano, Capri or Bari — a menu largely based on the nearby ocean’s bounty. The Tarantinos were limited partners in the building’s previous occupant, a restaurant called Sole, more along the lines of standard Italian-American fare.

Visiting Spiaggia just prior to July 4, we were stunned to see several dozen patrons patiently waiting curbside for entry, despite the oppressive heat. Once inside, we quickly figured out why.

My starter, traditional fritto misto, had been given a nice twist. A cute, mini fryer basket used for presentation was filled, overflowing with chunks of lobster, calamari and artichoke. All were crisp and hot, delivered quickly, bearing no evidence of residual oiliness. Plated with a peperoncino-infused aioli, this spicy dip offered just the right amount of contrast to the subtle ingredients. 

My dining partner opted for seared day-boat scallops. Between a duet of mollusks, in the plate’s center, was a silky-smooth sauté of organic zucchini. Blood orange vinaigrette nicely dotted the corners. The scallops themselves were fresh and properly prepared. Which is to say, barely exposed to heat. This allowed their oceanic flavors top billing, and the pairing with soft ribbons of zucchini also worked well texturally.

As middle courses on this sizzling evening, we opted for a pair of cooling salads. First, the Spiaggia, loaded with organic lettuces, seasonal Jersey tomatoes, pecorino cheese and vinaigrette. Simple, pretty and delicious, just as all Italian cookery aspires to be.

An evening’s addition, arugula salad, was more intricate. Composed of those peppery greens, halved figs, crumbled gorgonzola and chopped tomatoes, these elements alone would have made for a worthwhile special. Gilding the lily even further, the addition of thinly shaved prosciutto, draped across like a rooftop.

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1. Kay V said... on Jul 14, 2012 at 08:41AM

“We vacationed with another couple in Stone Harbor mid-June. We were looking for an upscale restaurant. After much internet surfing, we decided to give this wonderful BYOB a try. We were not disappointed. The food was out of this world, the staff was friendly and engaging, and the hospitality was gracious. I was born and raised on Southern hospitality - the was Southern Italian hospitality! This Stone Harbor gem is not to be missed.”

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2. Lois H said said... on Jul 14, 2012 at 07:38PM

“Highly reccommend this new spot in Stone Harbor. The food was above and beyond our expections. The service was very attentive and friendly. They went out of their way to accomodate us. Will be back to visit in September.”


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