J. Marinara’s Casual East Coast Italian Dining: A Reviewby Jim Gressinger on Oct. 14, 2012, under Restaurant Reviews, Southern Arizona's Best
- Recently, I had the pleasure of dining with two friends at J. Marinara’s in Oro Valley. The restaurant’s tag line is “Where The Sauce Sells Itself.” I like “East Coast” Italian. I have fond memories of Italian dining in New York City and Baltimore, MD, so I was looking forward to writing this review.
It was a Monday and this establishment only serves from 11 AM to 3 PM on Mondays. We arrived around 1:30. All other days, they serve both lunch and dinner.
As soon as we parked, we could see they have a small patio in front, but saw no reason to take advantage of it since it only overlooked the parking lot and Oracle Road.
Casual East Coast Italian Dining
The interior, while pleasant enough, was nothing fancy. No white table clothes or related finery as one encounters at Vivace in St. Philip’s Plaza. However, I understand that dinners are slightly more formal with Italian-looking table clothes and more formally-dressed wait staff. Lunch is clearly informal. Given they have no Dress Code, it seems safe to say that J. Marinara’s is casual East Coast Italian dining.
Bret seated us and said he would be our server. In fact, Bret was the only server in the whole place. Two of us order iced tea. When it arrived after a few minutes, it looked like slightly tinted water … very weak tea, indeed. Bret apologized and, after several minutes, returned with real iced tea.
The lunch menu was interesting. We had a choice of several different pastas and, for a couple bucks more, we could add our choice of meatballs, chicken, sausage, or shrimp.
Kathy ordered the Butternut Squash Ravioli. Jeff ordered the Angel Hair Pomodoro. And I ordered both the Sicilian Rustico AND the Lasagna dinners.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking … want a glutton! True, I have been known to over-indulge on occasion. But, here’s my reasons for ordering two full dinners. First, I had a Groupon for half off dinner for four. But there was only us three. To use my Groupon, I had to purchase four meals.
Second, Ms. Karen was out of town on business for a couple of weeks, so I had to fend for myself. I figured I would eat my Sicilian Rustico for lunch, and take home the lasagna for later in the week. Besides, as I so love lasagna and have it almost every time I dine Italian, it’s easy for me to offer my viewers a comparison.
Sicilian Rustic is a combination of chicken & mild sausage served in a champagne tarragon cream sauce, topped with two jumbo shrimp all over a penne pasta. It was excellent! Fresh pasta and lots of flavor. But the notion that I would consume the whole thing in one sitting turned out to be fantasy because the portion was so huge, I took half of it home along with my complete lasagna meal.
I inquired as to how Kathy liked her Butternut Squash Ravioli. “Very good,” said she, “wanna try one?” I tried one. Wow! Very good, but unexpectedly sweet. Almost could have been dessert.
I made the same inquiry of Jeff’s Angel Hair Pomodoro. He too said, “Very good.” I waited politely, assuming he too would offer me a sample. Nothing. And this from a good Catholic boy and fellow Rotarian.
We did have a small dinner salad with our meals. Fresh, no complaints. But just a salad. Next time I want to try their Caesar Salad.
One minor disappointment occurred when I ordered some garlic bread. Italian should always be accompanied by fresh-made garlic bread. When mine had not reached our table by half way through lunch, I asked Bret about it. “Oh, so very sorry. We burned it and that was the last of the garlic bread until we make more in the morning.” Bummer!
Not Cheap, But …
Our bill came to $80, which worked out to $20 per meal. Not cheap, particularly when you consider that we had no wine or cocktails. But I can attest that the food at J. Marinara’s is very good and the servings are more than I can eat at one sitting.
As to that take-home lasagna, it too was both very good and the portion was so huge I got two very fine meals out of it. I made my own garlic bread to go with.
Full Bar, Full Menu
J. Marinara has a full bar and a full Italian menu. They serve just about anything Italian you can think of … Veal Marsala, Chicken Parmesan, Portobello Mushroom Ravioli, and on and on. I intend to go back for dinner sometime before the holidays. I will also add J. Marinara’s to our 2012 List of the Best Southern Arizona Restaurants.
8195 N. Oracle, Oro Valley
Reservations are recommended: 520-989-3654