“After working in the hospitality industry, nothing else comes close,” says Jeanne Cretella, who has been part of the Garden State dining scene for over 20 years.
Frank and Jeanne Cretella’s Landmark Hospitality, based in Plainfield, opened its first restaurant, Liberty House, in Jersey City in 2001. Since then, the couple has developed numerous other restaurants and venues in the state.
They celebrated their 20th anniversary last week, along with their daughter, Maddy, who has joined the family business. Landmark owns other notable spots in the state, including Felina (Ridgewood), Terra E Mare (Jersey City) and the Ryland Inn (Whitehouse Station).
“We put a lot of effort into keeping this a family business,” Frank says. “I wouldn’t want to run our business any other way.”
NJM: What was it like opening your first restaurant 20 years ago?
Jeanne: We were going to an Andrea Bocelli concert in Liberty Park, and Frank noticed there was a structure that had started to be built. It was the beginning of what was going to be a restaurant, and during the concert, Frank snuck off and scouted the property.
Frank: We have built so many relationships from having Liberty House, and it’s where we built our entire business.
Jeanne: It’s always been rewarding getting to work together. We’re really proud to now have our daughter Maddy working with us as well. This business is totally consuming, so it’s really important for us to stay in close contact with our team members and guests.
Did you always plan to develop more properties?
Frank: All the places we have now, [they] have always been on my radar. Even though our growth has been dramatic in the last couple years, it is all in buildings and places that we love.
Jeanne: Frank is very good at finding diamond-in-the-rough properties. We love to transform them in a way that pays homage to what had been, while also creating an exciting new experience.
What changes in New Jersey dining have you seen over the last 20 years?
Frank: Everyone has gotten more sophisticated with their food. They want to eat sustainably. As soon as ingredients become available, our clients want it. Instagram is another big thing—everyone wants their food to look good in a photograph! People view dining as an experience.
Any favorite memories?
Frank: There is a thing called a “groom cake,” and one of the grooms at Liberty House had the New York Giants logo on his cake. By coincidence, four New York Giants players were in the restaurant. They saw the cake and went into the wedding and took pictures with everybody.
Jeanne: When Barack Obama was running for president his first time around, he stopped at Liberty House with the then-mayor of Newark, Cory Booker.
What has been your favorite part of being in the dining industry for two decades?
Frank: We formed The Art of Hospitality Workers Alliance in Plainfield, and we help introduce people to the industry. We also give out scholarships. It helped a lot of people during Covid.
The real passion comes from each place being like a family. Jeanne and I are like the grandparents at each place. Hospitality is one of the best industries to be in because of that. A big thank you to Jersey City, because it has supported us for so long. I don’t think we would have been half as successful if we opened up somewhere else. It’s such a great town.Click here to leave a comment