Upscale with a smile.
Neena’s Brick Oven Pizza and Coffee Bar
Price Paid: $25 (Two – including tip & coupon)
Meal: Dinner / Weekday / 730p
Compare to: Bertucci’s, Pizza Hut Italian Bistro
The problem with a lot of these gourmet pizza places is that when push comes to shove, the pizza isn’t that much better than something you can order for considerably cheaper. Thankfully, Neena’s is fairly consistent across the board and is a viable place to have a nice dinner with friends.
We’ve been there twice in the last few weeks, taking the trip into Sewell to hear the sounds of Coffee House Players’ artists amidst the cozy Italian interior of Neena’s. We’ve only gone on Thursdays when the live music has been there, and the seating is almost always maxed out around the 730 start time. The staff is friendly with its regulars, but we’ve found service speed a little uneven between our two visits; one time we were served our dinners in under ten minutes, and the second it took at least double that. With the music and a full table it’s not a deal-breaker, but if we were sitting alone it may have been an awfully long wait.
The menu is full of brick oven pizza (duh!) available in many varieties. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from those who’ve tried most of the specialty pizzas, and they’re almost always thumbs up. We did run into someone who said the seafood pizza was ‘awful’ on their prior visit, but had ironically re-ordered it and was delicious the second time around (that’s adventurous!). The few slices I’ve had, while good, weren’t as earth-shattering as I’ve hoped. Your mileage may vary, but you should get there plenty satisfied if you’re strictly sticking to pizza.
As far as the rest of the menu, it’s full of various italian dinners, sandwiches, paninis, and wraps. It would be foolish, however, to skip the bar-style appetizers. We found the onion rings to be pretty damn good, served with a horseradishy/ranchy dipping sauce. They are on the smaller side, but cooked almost identically the same both times we ordered them. There’s enough for two people to have several rings each. The mozzarella sticks are also above average, slightly on the larger side, and come with a tasty marina dip. Like the onion rings, they came hot and are decidedly ungreasy. They have just enough breading to satisfy my preferences. With a full table, I’d actually order two of these. We’ve also tried the breadsticks and thought they were delicious.
For dinner, we’ve had a chicken cheesesteak, tomato and mozzarella sandwich, and a chicken panini. Personally, I’d give the nod to the tomato and mozzarella creation, although I would have liked a heartier bread than the flakey one they serve with it. The chicken panini was very good, but again, the breading seemed inadequate – it was quite thin and fell apart on us. Let me make clear that I’d order each of these items again, so obviously I’m not too sour on them. The chicken cheesesteak, however, I’d probably pass on the next time around. Instead of shredding the chicken, they went for a fancier twist and had flaked the chicken into large chunks. For whatever the reason, it just doesn’t taste the same and I wished they had just gone traditional. All of the items are available to be served with french fries, which we found to be supplied in an honest proportion and were quite good. It is clear that the ingredients used are top-quality, and the pricing is fairly reasonable. We havent tried any of the pasta dishes, but they looked pretty good in passing. If you have, be sure to comment.
Keep some room for dessert; there’s a lot to choose from. There are a lot of individual-sized cake creations that we think are generally good. We tried a carrot cake and a peanut butter choco-thing and loved them both. The canolis looked pretty but didn’t especially wow us. Although Neena’s likes to also tag itself as a ‘coffee bar’, it doesnt have the atmosphere. We did, however, try a ‘milky way’ specialty hot chocolate, and loved it. It was rich without being overbearing, hot, and all around a nice close to our meal.
– Terrific appetizers
– High quality ingredients
– Friendly service
– Reasonable pricing
– Live music on Thursdays
– Family atmosphere without looking lame
– I’d swap some bread choices they’re using for sandwiches
– Sometimes they outdo themselves with presentation (ie chicken cheesesteak)
Guru’s Score: 4.0 Chews
Subjective rating: We’ll come back.
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