Chef Joe Racioppi is well-known in the two river area as a the former proprietor of Racioppi’s restaurant in Red Bank, where Joe and his family cooked up culinary delights for their patrons for more than 15 years.
These days, Racioppi is wearing a different hat (or toque), however – as executive chef of McLoone’s Pier House restaurant in Long Branch.
Since joining McLoone’s Racioppi has introduced some of his own specialties to the restaurant rightly famous for its crab cakes while leading the kitchen team to new heights by refining the popular menu selections that make the Pier House a popular destination for diners looking for fine food in a relaxing and fun atmosphere.
Racioppi began his culinary career as a teenager, frying donuts and washing dishes at a deli before going to work on the prep station for Jack Baker’s Lobster Shanty in Red Bank.
While completing a two-year program at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., Racioppi served a six-month externship as a saucier at The Horn and Musket restaurant in Brielle.
After graduation, he joined the hospitality industry, becoming part of the opening team for Trianon Restaurant, which was located in the Helmsley Hotels in New York City, and continuing on to serve as Sous Chef at La Recolt and at the Manhattan Ocean Club and La Cite.
Eventually, Racioppi decided to return to his home state of New Jersey where he and his wife, Dawn, wanted to concentrate on raising a family. He become Banquet Chef and Catering manager for Piancone’s in Bradley Beach.
In 1996, he opened his own restaurant in a small storefront in Red Bank. The restaurant and catering facility known as Racioppi’s soon needed to expand into additional space, and he spent the next 15 years serving lunches, dinners and providing catering services to hundreds of two river families.
The downturn in the economy led Racioppi to make the difficult decision to close his restaurant. As he was in the midst of doing that, he had a chance meeting with a general manager from McLoone’s Restaurants, who told him they were looking for a new chef and asked if he knew anyone who might be a good choice. “Yes, me!” Racioppi responded.
Not long after that, Racioppi took charge of the kitchen at the Pier House, just in time for the summer season.
Since then, Racioppi has added his special touch to the Pier House menu, adding a few of his personal recipes to the mix of McLoone’s favorites that include the Marechiare Grouper and McLoone’s famous crab cakes.
Racioppi graciously shared a few Pier House recipes with The Two River Times.
8 oz. jump lump crabmeat fresh
salt and pepper
½ chopped onion
2 oz. chopped red and green peppers
1 oz. Japanese (Panko) breadcrumbs
4 large grilled asparagus
4 oz. julienne broccoli, cabbage and carrots
1 oz. Thai chili sauce
2 oz. Hellman’s mayonnaise
½ oz Srirachi chili sauce
¼ oz. relish
In a bowl combined crabmeat, onions, and breadcrumbs, seasoned with salt and pepper and rolled into two 4 oz. cakes. Bake or sauté the crab cakes until golden brown. Season asparagus and grill until tender. In another small bowl add the julienne vegetable and the Thai chili sauce, mix and set aside. In another small bowl add the mayo, srirachi chili sauce and the relish, mix and set aside. Plate the crab cakes, asparagus, and the broccoli and cabbage mix on the plate. Serve with a side of the mayonnaise sauce.
6 large shrimp
1 whole chopped tomato
2 cloves garlic
½ cup white wine (Chablis)
¼ cup fresh basil
salt and pepper
¼ lb. linguini
1 oz. olive oil or fresh butter
In a large skillet, put the olive oil and heat until at the smoking point. Season the shrimp and add it to the smoking pan. Add the garlic, chopped tomato, basil, salt and pepper, and white wine. Cook until shrimp are done (approx 4 mins) add cooked linguini, finish with a teaspoon of fresh butter or olive oil. Remove from heat and serve warm.
8 oz. fresh grouper fillet
2 tbsp. capers
½ tsp. crushed red pepper
¼ oz. lemon juice
1 cup fish or chicken stock
1 cup spinach
½ chopped tomato
½ cup cooked Chinese rice or rice pilaf
2 tbsp. fresh butter
salt and pepper
1 oz. olive oil
In a sauté pan, heat up olive oil until smoking point. Season the fillet, put in pan skin side up. Wait until golden brown and turn it over. Cook for approximately 4 minutes. Remove the fillet, add the spinach, chopped tomato, capers, lemon juice, fish stock, and crushed red pepper. Reduce by about half, put the fillet back in the pan and finish with the fresh butter. Serve with the cooked rice in the middle of the plate, fillet on top of the rice and pour the sauce over top.