Few would argue Rico Rivera, co-owner of Bistro Ole, is the heart of Asbury Park’s restaurant industry – beating energy, spirit and soul into diners and restaurateurs alike.


“We opened the doors of Bistro Ole seven years ago April,” said Rico.  “And we are here today because of a great group of people including my staff, the talented guys in the kitchen and co-owner Deborah Walsh.  I am a survivor with a great group and community and the most wonderful, loyal customers – they all have kept me going.”

Deborah, who today lives in Ocean Township with her family, introduced Rico to Asbury Park 15 years ago when they both worked in Brooklyn and she owned a home in town. 

“I always envisioned owning a restaurant,” said Deborah.  “When Rico came to Asbury to visit me we would leave the city to go out to dinner.  We put our heads together and decided to open a restaurant when there was very little else going on in town.”

The summer of 2003, Rico had his “a-ha moment” and realized, as he says, that Bistro Ole “was going to be something.”

I would call it a modern Asbury Park institution.  Bistro Ole is a gateway business for Asbury Park – introducing the city to some who might not otherwise come to town and then seducing them to come again and again.

“I wanted the restaurant to have a special ambiance and family feel – a special energy, more than generous portions of great food,” said Rico of the restaurant, who asked me to tell you that he is “single and available.”

Today, Rico and Deborah with Chaz Foster, manager, continue the same tradition of excellent Latin infused cuisine coupled with the same intangible community excitement. 

“We have been coming here for at least four years,” said Elaine Bernstein of Monroe Township.  “Bistro was the first place we came to in town and we keep coming back because the food is fabulous and Rico makes us feel welcome.”

Rico takes care of the front of the restaurant and Deborah works in the equally important background.

“I travel to South America a lot and bring the inspiration from the great chefs I meet along the way to our menu,” said Deborah.  “We experiment with the menu but there are items that have been on the menu since the very beginning.”

Items such as Bistro Ole’s most popular dishes: seared sea bass served with Spanish pesto sauce and guacamole, sweet plantains topped with shredded beef and center cut pork chops topped with sautéed Spanish onions and tomatillios. 

“Everything – entree to dessert – is made here,” said Rico.  “Some of the guys in the kitchen like Pablo and Ceaser have been here since the beginning too.  A special magic happens in that kitchen.”

As Mother’s Day approaches, I am reminded that Bistro Ole was the first restaurant my mom and I went to in town more than five years ago when I was looking at homes in Asbury Park.  I took her there because I knew it would be the Tequila sauce on the sautéed bananas (if you will) in her believing in my move to Asbury Park. 

New for 2010, look for a few twists to the Bistro Ole show, including a makeover of the outdoor dining area by House of Modern Living’s Billy Meisch and new lunch hours and menu. has information on new weekend entertainment.

Visit for Bistro Ole’s famous recipe for spicy meatballs.