For the longest time, Tony Rivoli wanted a liquor license.
It may not have been for his restaurant of 20 years on Fischer Blvd. in Toms River, because the building may be a bit too small.
It may not have been anywhere in Toms River, because the price of a liquor license there is rather expensive.
So when the opportunity presented itself in the Ramtown section of Howell, at what was formerly known as the Hungry Qual, Rivoli could not pass up the chance to get what he's always wanted.
Tony Rivoli opened Rivoli's Grill & Chill on Oct. 1, fulfilling his dream. And when you see him at his place, you can tell he is a happy man.
Being content may be more like it.
He enjoys his new establishment, much as he does Rivoli's in Toms River, which has been legendary for its large portions of wonderful food.
Rivol's Grill & Chill is a bit different, other than a bar which Rivol's in Toms River does not have. Rivoli's Grill and Chill is more casual, more pub-ish in style, which attacts sports fans and families alike.
"It's got a great family-style atmosphere," said bartender Gary Zappi of Howell.
True to his word, he's right. It's comfortable and everyone seems to blend together without a harsh word being said.
A patron who declined to give his name says the people at Rivoli's "are awesome." Adding, "everyone is very personable.
"He, too, loves the family-style atmosphere since he lives close by and enjoys everything about this new venture in town.
"It's exactly what we wanted it to be," said Tony Rivoli, who truly knows how to run a business in the proper way.
Casual, friendly, good food, clean place ... that was their goal when they first opened for business in Howell.
It pleases Tony Rivoli that he and his staff were able to achieve the desired goal.
"I couldn't be happier," he said.
Everyone who works for Tony Rivoli has the same persona.
That's always a very good sign.
Zappi and fellow bartender John Clayton of Belmar are great behind the bar and waitress Kelly Schreck is a delight.
I toyed with Ms. Schreck while I tried to make up my mind to order. She also gave me some good advice as to what is best on the menu.
I finally settled on the Drunken Clams ($11) as an appetizers. I should have ordered a second dish they were so good.
After passing on a salad and bread (I think I'm on a diet), I finally settled on a 20 oz. porterhouse steak, which I could have gotten "smothered" or not.
I got the smothered (potatoes, green peppers and onions) as a side dish and the porterhouse steak cooked medium.
The steak was cooked perfectly -- so rare in restaurants these days -- and I nibbled at the "smothered" dish.
Let me tell you, there were no complaints from me, not a one.
I don't think that surprised me because Rivoli's in Toms River is outstanding, too. I thoroughly enjoyed the clams and steak, and had my eye on the prime rib special ($12) of the night, billed on a "Guys Night Out" menu.
It was so good, and the people I met at the bar so friendly, that I know I'll make repeated visits. Let's face it, good places are so hard to find.
And I found this one.