TOMS RIVER-For many years, the wildly popular Rivoli’s Italian restaurant was housed in this small building on Fischer Boulevard. It was a quaint family favorite known for humongous portions of food, served in many cases by the owner himself, Tony Rivoli, a salt-of-the-earth blue-collar guy who patrons learned to love or hate, but one thing customers learned at Rivolis’s was that to get in the door, you’re going to have to wait.
The restaurant eventually closed and the location, according to the Grunin Foundation’s website was taken over by a partnership between Patricia Caneda and Jeremy Grunin, son of wealthy Toms River philanthropists Jay and Linda Grunin and it opened with some pretty rave reviews. Now, Gordon Ramsay and his team from his latest show “24 Hours to Hell and Back” are going to try to turn the restaurant around. Ramsay has faced some very difficult restauranteurs in his time and it’s going to be interesting to see how he handles Grunin, who himself often comes across as arrogant and smug.
The restaurant has a 3.5 star Yelp! rating and some pretty damning reviews even offering huge discount coupons these days to draw customers through the doors.
“We waited a good 15 minutes before the waitress took our order, the wait for the food was over half an hour! My brother and father both ordered the Cuban Sandwich. They both had the same “Meh” reaction and were underwhelmed,” said Kristina P, a Toms River Yelper who gave the restaurant 2 stars this summer.
“Service below average to say the least,” said 2 Yelper Tina T. “The food, steak was over cooked outside felt like rubber, no salt and covered with their green sauce!”
“This food that SHOULD NOT be classified as anything more than comida de perro! This places leaves MUCH MUCH MORE to be desired. NONE of the food served looks remotely similar to the pics online and I’m extremely sorry I selected this overly priced place for take out,” said Regina P, of Toms River who gave the restaurant a lowly 1 star this past winter.
“Waited 45 minutes for our reservation which would of been ok if the food had been good but it was not. Appetizers came out pretty quick but they were just not good. For example our Tostones were cold and soft instead of warm and crispy,” added C.M. of Wayne, NJ before giving the place just two stars.
“I would like everyone to know that the food here is authentically traditional spanish food. And also the alcohol service is horrible and the female bartender is very unprofessional and rude,” said Bill S.
Through last winter, the restaurant received consistent 4 and 5 stars on Yelp, but the general theme of the reviews these days is that the place has gone down hill and Gordon Ramsay might be just what the restaurant needs to turn itself around.
Grunin and his wife Laura are also involved in local politics in Toms River, combined, the couple donated $5,200 to the political campaign of Maurice Hill. Grunin is also the owner of the ill-fated Super Wal-Mart project that was to be built on the Manchester and Toms River border before the project failed to materialize. He is now attempting to build a new project on that site, near Ciba-Geigy.
Grunin has also dabbled in local talk radio, but his show recently also went off the air this past spring.
It will be interesting to see how Grunin, a man who rarely hears the word “no” in these parts fares against hard-nosed Brit, Gordon Ramsay.