Chef Bill Dorrler was born and raised in Hunterdon County and grew up knowing first hand why New Jersey is dubbed the Garden State. After going to school for accounting, and quickly realizing it wasn’t a career suited for him, Dorrler remembered his love for the kitchen.
Fast forward 25 years in the business, and Dorrler is celebrating his 10-year anniversary at Osteria Morini in Bernardsville, where he has served as executive chef since its opening in the fall of 2010. Though he has cooked through a lot over the past decade, his hardest challenge yet has been the ongoing pandemic.
“Even though this has shaken us up a little bit, we’re determined. We think we can find silver linings here,” said Dorrler. “We’re just trying to figure out what they are.”
To celebrate the monumental mark, Dorrler put together a special menu for loyal customers of Osteria Morini, showcasing their well known pasta dishes. We caught up with chef Dorrler to ask about the inspiration behind his special menu, the changes he’s seen at Osteria Morini over the years, and what guests can expect for the holiday season.
Table Hopping: Tell me what led you to working in the kitchen at Osteria Morini.
Bill Dorrler: I always loved cooking, I just never really thought it was feasible. I thought you had to be born into it a little bit. I walked into a restaurant in Bridgewater about 25 years ago and I just fell in love with it. I worked there for the first four years of my career, then just bounced around…for a little bit. Then I worked at Harvest Restaurants for a couple years. That’s when this opportunity came around starting up this new company, ultimately a group which Osteria Morini is under.
TH: After going to school for accounting, did you ever see your career taking a jump like this?
BD: No, absolutely not. Since I can remember I’ve always wanted to be in the kitchen. So it just came to a point after graduating, after going to work for a couple of months with my suit and tie on, going “no way that I could do this.” Twenty-five years later, I got four kids and I’ve been doing this a long time. I still love what I do. It’s still fun for me.
TH: What originally drew you to Osteria Morini?
BD: It was just exciting to start something new. Since then, I’ve opened nine or 10 restaurants with this company. It’s kind of like controlled chaos to open restaurants, from pizzerias to fine dining. It’s quite a ride and I think that’s what attracted me.
TH: How have your spots been doing during Covid?
BD: No doubt, a challenge, right? Since the beginning we stayed open for mostly pickup. It was scary and stressful and I think to an extent it still is. We have multiple [restaurants] and we’ve tried to keep as many open as we can. Since day one, just the appreciation, that’s what kept us going-everybody coming in and picking up their food. Everybody has just been very, very encouraging and supporting. It’s really fueled us and kept us going.
TH: What went into creating the special menu for the 10-year anniversary?
BD: It originated from the northern regions of Italy and pasta has always been our driving force. We make all of our pasta in house and have just kept it as one of our specialties. We just took a lot of our signature dishes here in Bernardsville and with mixing seasonal pastas, we created a pasta tasting menu. There’s always been an appreciation for that, so I think that was our inspiration.
TH: Other than your special anniversary menu, do you do anything seasonal?
BD: We’re branded so we have an Osteria in Jersey, SoHo, Long Island, DC, and we’re opening in Miami. Right now, we try to get some of the squashes in and fresh mushrooms and stuff. Our focus is not as much as changing the menu to every season as it is more of staying consistent with the quality of food that we have. Maintaining that is the standard of what we want to do.
TH: With multiple locations, I’m sure consistency is one of the most important things for the restaurant.
BD: Yeah, if you travel to DC and you have the Cappelletti, one of our signature pastas with ricotta cheese, truffle filling, and a simple butter prosciutto, and you come to New Jersey, you can eat that here. If you go, “Wow, that’s exactly how I remember it,” that’s important to us.
TH: How has Osteria changed over the past 10 years?
BD: We recently changed cosmetically a little bit. We put a wall up and closed in the kitchen because we heard a lot of people were saying it was loud. Also, we added our pizzeria Nicoletta right next to Morini which has been there a couple years.
With the pandemic, we actually kind of morphed the two together. So you have Morini which is a very fun, casual, rustic place but you can get some high end steaks and wine. If you want to have your kids and they want pizza, but you want branzino and a bottle of Barolo or something, you could do that.
TH: The best of both worlds!
BD: There’s just so many options. At least from my peer group, to my friends and my neighbors, I think they all really enjoy that. So, yeah, there’s been changes with Nicoletta as we continue to navigate how we’re coming back and what the new normal is, there’ll even be a couple more.
TH: Do you have anything special planned for the upcoming holidays?
BD: We do offer a pickup Thanksgiving to include all the potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry, Brussels, squash, the turkey, and the pies. You can pre-order and pick it up the day before or pick it up the morning of. We are going to open for that day as well and are open for taking reservations.
We also created this online Morini bake shop. So our head pastry chef locks down in Bernardsville, so that’s our home base. You can go online and she’s got pies, cakes, cookies, and different holiday themed desserts as well. We’re gonna run it all the way through the holidays and see how it goes.Click here to leave a comment