Bocca Coal Fired Bistro is a hot new place in town, located on Ventnor Avenue right in the heart of Margate City. It’s bar scene is hopping and it’s the perfect sit-down restaurant to meet up with friends or spend an evening out with the family.
There is certainly no shortage of good places to eat when you’re at the Jersey Shore. Wherever you go, you’re bound to find an excellent sub, slice of pizza, or big fluffy bagel; and of course, no one does diner food like New Jersey, that’s for sure. But what if you want something a little more refined? Not fancy schmancy upscale and expensive, but not a place you’d wear sweats to, either.
Enter Bocca Coal Fired Bistro, an Italian eatery with an intense focus on its coal fire oven that produces its specialty pizzas as well as the vegetables and meats featured in other signature dishes. Bocca opened its doors on October 10, 2012 and has since proven to be a happening spot in Margate. You can go to Bocca three times in the same week and have three completely different experiences.
Sit in the bar and lounge area any day from 11am-6pm and take in the lively happy hour scene with $2 domestic draft beers, $5 house wines, $4 well mixed drinks and $6 well martinis and manhattans. You can nosh on two-for-one finger foods such as the Black and Tan Onion Rings or Tail Tenders with your choice of spicy buffalo, hot & honey, Thai sweet chili or BBQ sauce; or try the Coal Fire Nonna Pizza for only $6. You can also enjoy dinner off their extensive menu in either one of their two dining areas. For a casual affair, have a seat in the low-key pizza parlor-esque area; but if you’re looking for a nice evening out, opt for a table in the formal dining room. Wherever you decide to eat in Bocca, you’re going to like it. Trust me.
Bocca means mouth in Italian, quite the appropriate name for a restaurant, especially one that leaves your “bocca” very happy. My friends and I sat at the table in the lounge area so we were surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the bar. It was really busy; there wasn’t a seat open at the bar and every table in the lounge was occupied. Not bad for a Saturday night in the dead of winter in Margate, a beach town primarily full of visitors in the summer and pretty empty once the temperatures drop. But hey, just because it’s winter at the Jersey Shore, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still locals around – and the locals gotta eat!
Aside from being known for their coal fired pizzas, Bocca has a popular French Onion Soup as well. Layer upon layer of crispy, crunchy fried onions top a steaming hot coating of cheese covering an even steamier bowl of soup. Anyone who’s had French onion soup knows that it is all about those onions and that cheese. Bocca obviously knows what they’re doing.
Having already been impressed by the soup alone, we had some high expectations for dinner. Let’s start with that Bocca staple: pizza! The Vegetarian Pizza comes chock-full of veggies: portabella mushrooms, artichokes, spinach, marinated yellow tomato, and coal-fire-oven-roasted red peppers. Garlic, extra virgin olive oil and fresh mozzarella take it over the top with big bursts of flavor. This is so much more than your typical cheese pizza. The specialty coal fired pies only come in 12” so it’d be great as an appetizer for the table, or you can order it as an entrée for two to share. If you want something a little simpler, traditional pies come in small or large sizes and can be ordered by the slice. But come on, if you’re going to a place with a coal fire grill, you definitely want to splurge on one of their coal fired pizzas.
There is quite a variety of entrée selections available, ranging from sandwiches and burgers to chicken, veal, seafood, and beef. Whatever you’re craving, Bocca is here to satisfy. Next up is from the seafood portion of the menu, the Salmon Augustine: a perfectly cooked herb-seared salmon filet with sautéed Jumbo gulf shrimp, mushrooms, artichokes, and plum tomatoes tossed in a Prosecco Key lime reduction, and Tuscan potatoes on the side. There was such a nice balance of tastes and texture in this dish. It hit all kinds of flavor notes and is a definite winner if you like seafood. Now every Italian restaurant had better have some good pasta dishes. One of the dinner specials of the night was Pesto Clams and Mussels, a heaping bowl of clams and mussels with garlic, basil, and sun-dried tomatoes in a creamy pesto broth served over linguine. The many components of this dish complimented each other so well. The pesto enveloped every ounce of food and was prominent in each bite. It was hard to put the fork down…
No dinner is complete without something sweet, right? Of course dessert was on the horizon, and there was no skimping on this one. We wanted chocolate, and that’s exactly what we got. The Chocolate Tower… Sounds dangerously indulgent already, doesn’t it? Two layers of decadent, fudgy chocolate cake alternating with layers of a chocolate mousse-like filling, topped with dark chocolate ganache. Homemade cannolis drizzled in chocolate sauce and livened up even more with fresh whipped cream. I think it’s safe to say we got our chocolate fix.
Bocca has live entertainment on select nights, as well as special menus for the holidays. They also host weekly whiskey tastings on Wednesday nights, as well as other comfort food specials throughout the week. Meatloaf Mondays and Turkey Tuesdays dish up specials for lunch for $8.99 and dinner for $15.99. If you’re a meat and potatoes lover, a $22.99 Prime Rib dinner every Thursday night is your new happy place.
Judging by the crowd, Bocca is the place to be right now, and it’ll be even more jam-packed once the Northerners trek on down. The prices are reasonable, ranging from $4-18 for soups, salads and appetizers; pizzas range from $9-14, and entrees are anywhere from $9-27 (sandwiches and burgers are on the lower price end with seafood up top.) To those who have already begun planning their summer at the shore, add this to your list of restaurants to go to while you’re in town; you don’t want to miss out!