—Franklin Lakes just got a new, very hot oven. “Italian comfort food” restaurant Pazza recently opened on Franklin Avenue, cranking up the wood-burning brick oven to a raging 850 degrees for their Neapolitan-style pizzas. The menu is fleshed out by local veteran chef Arturo Barrales (formerly of Café Amici and Café Panache), with dinner options like housemade cavatelli with sweet sausage and broccoli rabe and cauliflower flatbread with fresh mozzarella and roasted vegetables. There are vegetarian and vegan pizza options, but we’re most intrigued by the sopressata, fermented chilis, and hot honey of the “Jersey Devil” pie. Pazza, 794 Franklin Avenue, Franklin Lakes; 201-848-5050
—Old York Cellars in Ringoes just celebrated the grand opening of its new tasting room at the Quaker Bridge Mall in Lawrence Township. (The winery already has one other offsite tasting room at Bridgewater Commons.) The tasting room is right next to a Cheesecake Factory, with a decidedly more relaxed atmosphere: $10 gets you a “day membership,” which comes with a free wine tasting, though you can also easily pass a pleasant hour or two tasting wine alongside cheese, charcuterie, smoked salmon, or hummus plates. Award-winning Old York wines, plus a few sundry curated retail items, are available to take home. Old York Cellars Tasting Room at the Quaker Bridge Mall, 3320 Brunswick Pike, Lawrence Township; 609-799-2707
In the works:
—Alfonso’s Pastry Shop has been a fixture in Staten Island since 1970, when Italian transplant Alfonso Campitiello first opened his doors. Fast forward almost 50 years and Alfonso sons Anthony and Vincent have taken over the main baking and management duties. There’s a second shop in Cranford, and any day now a new Alfonso’s is set to open in Red Bank. Set to do the same kind of custom cakes, pastries, breads, doughnuts, and the cannoli’s they’re known for, Alfonso’s takes over the space formerly occupied by Carlo’s Bake Shop—which has seen some closures recently. Get your cannoli counts ready, as it’s any day now. Alfonso’s Pastry Shoppe, 86 Broad Street, Red Bank; no phone yet.
—Tre Pizza in Freehold is opening its second location in the former home of Joe’s Crab Shack in Brick. The opening date is fuzzy, but sometime around mid-February is the plan. The new space should recreate the same atmosphere as the Freehold location, with brick oven Neapolitan style pizza, Italian classics and a family friendly vibe (Bocce for the restless kids or adults at your table). They’ll be right next door to Rosie’s Roadside Cantina, which opened last December. Tre Pizza, 1048 Cedar Bridge Avenue, Brick; no phone yet.
—The build-your-own (‘cause why not) cinnamon roll chain Cinnaholic is opening its first-ever location in New Jersey in Westfield, presumably by the end of February. Beyond providing another tempting weekend treats option, Cinnaholic’s menu is actually 100 percent vegan. Cinnaholic, 15 Elm Street, Westfield; no phone yet.
—The Windmill closed down its three decade-plus run at 200 Ocean Avenue in Long Branch last fall. But the Levy family, who own the Windmill restaurants, plan to reopen that branch just a few miles away, in the space formerly occupied by Niko’s Trapezi Greek Taverna. The old location has been taken over by a condominium complex. The Levys plan to open their new (old) spot by late February, so come summertime, Sabretts should be flyin’ off the flat top. The Windmill, 444 Ocean Boulevard North, Long Branch; no phone yet.
—Mezza Luna in Manalapan is staking a claim to some of the beautiful new space at Bell Works in Holmdel. The Italian restaurant will do a modern take on scratch-made Italian (think fresh bread, fresh mozzarella). The restaurant is owned by Anthony and Melissa Imperiale, who also plan on opening Mexican fast casual restaurant Estrella Azul in the Bell Works space. Mezza Luna, 101 Crawfords Corner Road, Holmdel; 732-536-0207Click here to leave a comment