A Honeymoon Brings Mexico to Asbury Park

Owners of Talula's in Asbury Park and now newlyweds Steve Mignogna and Shanti Church are honeymooning in Mexico. Photo: Christina Lilly

You won’t find owners Shanti Church and Steve Mignogna at Talula’s, their hip Asbury Park restaurant and bar this week. Instead of making pizzas and bread for sandwiches in their wood-burning oven and serving craft beers and nifty cocktails, Church, 30, and Mignogna, 31, are honeymooning in Mexico.

But while they’re celebrating, Talula’s is celebrating, too—with a pop-up menu of Mexican dishes.


After opening Talula’s together last October, Church and Mignogna, long-time lovers, recently decided that with the capable staff of baker Josh Stewart, Church’s nephew, and their kitchen manager, Laura Brahn, in place, the time was finally right to get hitched.

They got married this past weekend in Southern California, where Church, the youngest of 12 children, had grown up. But they asked themselves, could they afford, in all senses, to take time for a honeymoon?

Brahn convinced them that they could. Indeed, had to.

Braun, 25, played muse, regaling them with stories of her time living in Tulum, Mexico, on the East Coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, facing the Caribbean Sea. Braun had studied in Tulum during her college years at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan.

It did not take a lot of arm-twisting. “She was making our mouths water,” Church relates, “with all of her descriptions of the restaurants there and these foods that she had such heart for.”

Brahn, who describes the Tulum restaurant scene as being “part of the jungle strip,” suggested that while the newlyweds were feasting on the beach, she would turn Talula’s into a pop-up, taking customers on a virtual vacation by serving some of her favorite Mexican dishes.


“Now,” says Church, “everyone here can be part of it and be connected and can celebrate with us. I love the idea of including the people who have supported us. We owe them a lot, and they are very much a part of our life.”

Brahn’s Honeymoon Dinner menu will include Sopes (fried masa patties) slathered with beans, cabbage slaw, crema and queso and a choice of chicken, fish or vegetables; a Yucatan soup served with habanero salsa; octopus braised in citrus and beer; mango and cilantro ceviche; and Jaguar (whole fish served with blistered vegetables and chimichurri sauce).

Brahn has devised some cocktails to go with the Mexican theme. These include an El Dorado of coconut water, rum and chocolate bitters; an El Viejito of rum, mescal and charred pineapple; and  a Margarita de la Casa of tequila, fresh lime juice, Cointreau, golden beet juice and turmeric.

The bar and restaurant’s regular menu specializes in hand-crafted pizzas, straight from the wood-burning oven, and artisan breads created by Stewart. Church brings a homey sense of kinship to the space with communal tables, and to the menu with her passion for making everything from scratch, from the cheeses and spreads to the pickles and sauces.


There’s an interesting story in how Church, the Californian, and Mignogna, who grew up in Tarrytown, New York, happened to open a restaurant in Asbury Park.

They used to work in marketing and environmental energy, but what they wanted to find was a small community in which to settle and get their feet wet in the restaurant business. They  traveled together extensively, making exploratory stops in New York State, Maine, Canada, Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee, “and saw all these awesome cities,” says Church.

They were drawn to Beacon, New York, a community with a strong art scene, up the Hudson from Mignogna’s hometown of Tarrytown. They thought it might be the right place for them. But then they happened to check out Asbury Park. That it was a seaside town, like Redondo Beach, where Church grew up, was a big plus. And it had an art scene, a restaurant scene, the sense of a happening downtown.

“It became really obvious that it would work for us,” says Church. “We just loved it.”

At the Honeymoon Dinners, the dessert will be Luna de Miel, which literally means moon of honey. These are fried pastries filled with fire-roasted apricots. They will make a sweet conclusion for a meal inspired by love.


550 Cookman Avenue, #108

Asbury Park














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