—Among some tasty Instagram pics, Criollo’s describes itself as “PuertoRicanMinicanExican Food.” The new restaurant, located inside the EZ Mart on West Main Street, does a pan-Latin menu that includes goodies like Sopa de Pollo con Fideos, Pastelillos, Pernil, and Flancocho (an amazing flan-and-cake creation that’s also, like other menu items, available for catering and special order). Criollo’s Latin Cuisine, 811 West Main Street, Millville; 856-818-3888
—Plenty of Shore restaurants are reopening or revamping for the summer season, but keep an eye out for some timely newcomers, like the East Bay Italian Grille in Barnegat, which just opened in the former home of Spiaggia e Luna and later Serpico’s and Gemelli Bistro & Pizzeria, both under chef Matt Dunn. East Bay Italian Grille is the brainchild of Barnegat local Matt Vernieri, whose father is an industry veteran and who’s owned several restaurants himself prior to this. The menu will go all-in Italian and pizzas, FYI, will be thin crust. East Bay Italian Grille, 696 Bay Avenue, Barnegat; 609-994-2353
—Pickett’s Village Bar should be opening soon in Maplewood, with New American “comfort cuisine” in an upscale pub setting. 2208 Millburn Avenue, Maplewood
In the Works:
—Chef Robert Pantusa will reopen Osteria Giotto in Montclair after it closed in 2016. To be more precise, he’s opening a restaurant in the same location, with a new name. Chef Luca Valerin, who was a partner in the original Osteria Giotto and the smaller Café Giotto the duo opened on Church Street, will not be returning to the restaurant (but will remain at the café). It’s an amicable parting, although it does leave in question whether the second coming of Osteria Giotto will be exactly like the first. In between Pantusa’s dual occupancies, the space was for two years home to Bluff City BBQ, a Memphis-style barbecue restaurant run by Montclair resident Scott Hermo. We spoke to Hermo about the closure last November. No word yet on opening dates for Osteria Giotto but considering the buzz, specifics should come soon. Unnamed Robert Pantusa Project, 21 Midland Avenue, Montclair; no phone yet.
—After more than a year of waiting—not to mention a total interior renovation of the space—Restaurant Luna Stella will be opening its doors to Maplewood any day now. A collaborative effort between owner Max Kian and Lorena’s Chef-Owner Humberto Campos, the restaurant will do the kind of fresh-casual Italian you’d find in the home country, scratch-made by Campos and team in the open kitchen, moving with seasonality and supplied, as often as possible, by local area farms and producers. The restaurant does have a liquor license and the menu will be sophisticated but the renovated space aims to be as family-friendly as it is airy, open and refined; folding windows in the front and a heated back patio mean lots of al fresco dining once the restaurant opens. Restaurant Luna Stella, 5 Highland Place, Maplewood; no phone yet.
—With two locations in Staten Island, Project Brunch first made the leap to Jersey by way of Clinton. This summer, the unapologetic brunch-fest restaurant concept is coming to Manalapan, just in time to destroy all hopes of maintaining a hard-earned beach body. There are healthy options (grain bowls, avocado toast, oat waffles), but if you’re really brunching with abandon, options like Cinnamon Toast Crunch french toast, fried Oreo pancakes, and a steak and eggs with a NY Strip and chimichurri sauce. The Manalapan location is set to open sometime in the summer, likely with a few menu options reflecting Shore culture. Project Brunch, 41 Route 9, Manalapan; no phone yet.
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