Joseph Cetrulo always dreamed of living in a castle. The chef and restaurateur (his company, Trinity Hospitality Group, owns Stella Marina and Cubacan in Asbury Park and Sirena in Long Branch), wanted a grand place to entertain friends and family. In 2014, he made his dream a reality, purchasing Glynallyn, a 32,000-square-foot, circa-1917 Tudor mansion in the Convent Station section of Morris Township.
The property, which at one point was to be torn down to make way for a condominium development, was in desperate need of restoration. Entrepreneur and world traveler George Marshall Allen built the house starting in 1912, inspired by Compton Wynyates, a 16th-century castle in Warwickshire, England. It had been spruced up in 2012 for the Mansion in May designer showhouse, but was hardly in move-in condition when Cetrulo and his wife, Cathy, embarked on the painstakingly detailed project.
“People thought I was crazy to buy this house,” says Cetrulo. But he was determined. The castle, set on 7.3 acres, has 60 rooms, 18 chimneys, multiple secret doors and hidden passageways, and an actual dungeon.
“The restoration,” says Cetrulo, “was one surprise after another.” Several of the stained-glass windows (there are 575) were broken and most bathrooms (there are 14) had leaks, as did the roof. Naturally, there was no central air conditioning.
Cetrulo pored over the original blueprints to assure the restoration was authentic. Massive projects included restoring the windows, vaulted ceilings and elaborate oak paneling; updating the expansive kitchen; and transforming the dungeon into an immense wine cellar.
Outside, Cetrulo rebuilt stone structures, including numerous fountains and carvings, and reimagined the castle’s moat as a serene pool. The back terrace, which overlooks a glen (part of the inspiration for the name, Glynallyn), was restored, as was the outdoor chapel, now utilized for alfresco dining. Cetrulo added a firepit and an outdoor kitchen. After four long years, the space was ready, although it is still, Cetrulo points out, “a work in progress.”
It’s no surprise that Cetrulo is passionate about food. “I started cooking as a teenager and never stopped,” he says. He trained in Italy, spending weeks at a time in the kitchens of noted restaurants. “I went to one restaurant after another, picking up different styles,” he says.
When planning his home’s outdoor kitchen, he incorporated a 54-inch commercial-grade grill, a custom-built pizza oven (which operates as either woodburning or gas) built from reclaimed native stone, and an expansive countertop for guests to watch the action.
Cetrulo prepares food for guests directly off the menus of his restaurants. Favorites include grilled Margherita pizza topped with fresh mozzarella (from Sirena), and oven-roasted Mediterranean sea bass topped with olives, capers and cherry tomatoes (Stella Marina).
The Cetrulos rent Glynallyn for a limited number of private events each year; the home and grounds have also been featured in a number of photo shoots and television shows. Most recently, NBC filmed an episode of The Enemy Within on the terrace and in the living room. The couple has hosted one Glynallyn wedding: Their son Joey wedded Tessa on the property last September.
Mostly, though, the home is for family and friends. “We wanted to bring it back to its original glory,” says Cetrulo. Mission accomplished.
RESOURCES: Location: Glynallyn Castle, 732-775-7753, glynallyn.com. Contractor: Tri-State Quality Construction Corporation, Jersey City, 201-792-6569. Landscaping: LandWorks Landscape Design, Convent Station, 973-683-9040. Floral Designer: J&M Home and Garden, Madison. 973-377-4740.Click here to leave a comment