Mia Chiarella, co-owner of Mia Mia in Wildwood, believes in the importance of evolution.
Chiarella took over the 70-seat eatery, formerly named Gia, when her father passed away in 2016. The restaurant served Italian food, and Chiarella still offers that with piccata, parmigiana, Marsala, Milanese and saltimbocca dishes.
But she wanted to morph the eatery into something different, namely a high-end steakhouse and raw bar.
“There’s no place on the island where people can get an Angus steak similar to what you’d get at the Capital Grille,” says the 31-year-old chef. “I have to keep up with trends and stay three steps ahead. Now people don’t have to travel to Atlantic City or Philadelphia to get great steak and seafood. It’s right here.”
Chiarella offers certified Angus beef from Wells Meats, a purveyor of high-end meats, with a G-1 specification. Chiarella says G-1 means “top of the top.”
The seafood, too, is top shelf; Chiarella gets it from Samuels & Sons, another high-quality purveyor. “I’m all about fresh and good quality food,” she says, noting she gets deliveries of fresh fish daily.
When it comes to the fruits of the sea, Chiarella has a magic touch. “I cook it perfectly,” she says. “It is never overdone. I part cook it, and let it coast,” as it continues to cook in the pan.
Customers can order locally caught scallops ($29); crab cake made with colossal crab meat ($34); shrimp scampi over homemade pasta (Chiarella makes it fresh every day, $28); and a big seller, lobster Newberg, made with lobster, scallops, shrimp and mussels in a cream sauce ($35). Mia’s also offers a fresh catch of the day, which might be opah or Dover sole, at market price. Fish dishes (sans pasta) come with Chiarella’s homemade risotto.
As a high-end steak house and raw bar, you’ll find the full complement of meat and raw dishes. For carnivores, there’s a 6-ounce center cut filet ($41); 14-ounce, bone-in strip ($39); 16-ounce, bone-in rib eye ($46); 14-ounce rack of lamb ($45); 14-ounce veal chop ($52); and whole half duck with orange glaze.
Meat dishes come with mashed Yukon gold butter potatoes; a salad accompanies all entrees.
For the raw bar, Mia Mia’s serves the usual yummy sea fare: oysters ($3 each); Jonah crab claws (six for $14); shrimp ($3 each); tuna tartar, with red onion, soy and capers ($15); a sampler with six shrimp, six oysters and six claws ($45); and a build-your-own sampler for ($85).
Chiarella makes the pasta fresh every day, and co-owner Joe Schulte makes the bread. Both create the desserts in-house: cannoli; panna cotta flavored with mango or raspberry; Key lime tarts; peach cobbler; and blueberry crisp.
Aside from cooking, Chiarella enjoys coming out of the kitchen to greet patrons. She relishes this contact with her customers and appreciates their business. “I want to make their dining experience the best it can be,” says the fourth generation chef in the Chiarella family, and wants Mia Mia to be a great date-night destination, “where you can get the perfect steak and the perfect fish.”
While the BYOB has a cool vibe, Chiarella wants people to relax and enjoy themselves. “You’re not going to spend a ton of money on alcohol,” she says. “You can bring your bottle of wine. It may be cheap or it may be expensive, but you enjoy it. I want people to take their time and relax. I want people to feel like they’re family.”
The eatery’s artwork, created by 16-year-old Robin Altman, depicts that family atmosphere. For example, there’s a portrait of Chiarella with her Corkie, Louis, for all to enjoy.