In the Works:
—Eric Rakaj and Tony Gonzalez opened A Modo Mio in Sea Isle a few years ago, but already the high energy Italian BYO seems ready to expand. They’re opening another location in Avalon this June. The original spot, on the corner of Landis Avenue, does broad-shouldered Italian classics (think Braised Short Rib, Rigatoni alla Vodka, antipasto on a slab of polished wood, etc.). The next location should be pretty similar, plus or minus a possible liquor license? (No word on that, and no word on whether chef Gonzalez does double duty at both locations or hires out more help.) A Modo Mio, Avalon; no phone yet.
—Reilly’s Rib Cage, formerly of Bergenfield, is set to open soon in the former home of the (very adored, much lamented) Hillsdale Starbucks on Broadway. The new location is much larger, with indoor and outdoor seating, but as for changes expect only a few possible menu additions; the heart of the menu was, and remains, pitmaster Dan Reilly’s seductive barbecue repertoire. Sides, of course, will return to provide brief respite from that mound of pulled pork, USDA Prime brisket, and/or behemoth ribs. March seems unlikely but we’ll keep our fingers crossed, and wet naps handy, and keep an eye on the Reilly’s Instagram page. Reilly’s Rib Cage, 126 Broadway, Hillsdale; no phone yet.
—A next wave restaurant concept is coming soon to Route 23 in Wayne: Prime Fusion 23 is a combination butcher shop and restaurant set to open in April. The concept is simple, bare bones (so to speak): a top-quality scratch kitchen built on a USDA Prime in-house butcher shop where you order at a counter, sit down, and eat frills-free high-quality food for less than you might elsewhere. Chef Rudy Straker’s career actually had lots more glitz in it (he was executive chef of Solomon & Kuff, and a former private chef client owned the Knicks) but it seems like with Prime Fusion the chef and self-professed “culinary geek” is trading in high-gloss for refined-but-elemental. Instagram dish teases include items like Pan-seared Deep Sea Scallops over Kimchee Salad, glistening mammoth barbecue ribs, and house-made pastrami that looks like it should have a fan club. Which it will. Come April. Prime Fusion 23, 1471 Route 23, Wayne; no phone yet.
—As of just a few days ago, Paterson’s own chef Kass Gutierrez is now at the helm of her own spot in East Rutherford: Mima’s Cuban Cantina honors the Cuban cooking Gutierrez grew up with while also playing up the 29 year-old CIA-trained chef’s technical skill. Guitierrez isn’t from Jersey—she grew up in Miami, surrounded by echoes of her parents’ homeland—but Cuban food lovers will reap the benefits of her experience and move north with a menu of soul-satisfying Cuban standards like the Media Noche sandwich (roast pork, swiss, and pickles), Pastelito de Guayaba y Queso (flaky, buttery pastry with guava and cream cheese), and a Veggie Bowl of crispy portobello mushroom over arroz moro (black beans and rice cooked with generations of love). Gutierrez also helms the catering company The Malleable Palate, which works out of her restaurant and emphasizes sustainability and local sourcing. Mima’s Cuban Cantina, 850 Paterson Avenue, East Rutherford; 973-246-8475