Reality TV stars Albie and Chris Manzo have teamed with the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel in Asbury Park to put a new spin on the historic hotel’s dining scene.
After Covid-19 closed the doors at the Berkeley for months, the hotel reopened on June 25, simultaneously launching a food-and-beverage partnership with the Manzo brothers from “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.” The two are no strangers to the Garden State hospitality industry: Both have experience at the Brownstone, a family-owned restaurant in Paterson, as well as Chris’s own eatery, Tenth Street Pizza in Hoboken.
The brothers contacted Berkeley management early this year about partnering with the venerable seaside hotel, which was built in 1924, to reimagine its dining and event space. “When the Berkeley came up, I was very excited,” says Albie Manzo. The history of the hotel was of particular interest to the brothers—especially the chapter when Johnny Cash was an investor. “It’s very rare that you have a venue with the kind of history that the Berkeley has,” says Albie. “That is also a sort of blank canvas to put your own spin on.”
The hotel was equally excited about the partnership. “We’re thrilled to partner with Albie and Chris Manzo on this iconic property,” said Berkeley spokesperson Ana Lopez in a statement. “It was extremely important for us to bring on a food-and-beverage partner that was deeply entrenched in the heart and soul of New Jersey and the Jersey Shore.”
At the Berkeley, the Manzos are putting their touch on multiple venues, starting with the revamped Blue Bar, a lounge and poolside hangout with cabanas, a koi pond and lunch service. Another of their concepts is a quick-serve, diner-inspired indoor experience, which will also provide in-room meals to hotel guests. It will open for indoor dining when the state allows.
With the uncertainty of Covid-19, the changes introduced by the Manzos remain a work in progress. “We’ve had to continue to pivot with the Covid guidelines,” says Albie. “We really had to be nimble and open minded as to how to launch things.” One example: An upscale experience offered on a second-floor balcony overlooking the koi pond. Not originally intended for food service, it was transformed to increase outdoor seating.
As for the menu at the various Berkeley dining venues, Albie says guests can expect what his brother calls “simple done right”—items that diners will find familiar, but with signature details. Albie points out menu items change often, but raves about a short-rib grilled cheese served poolside, a summer-inspired rigatoni conceived to be light enough for a hot day, a classic shrimp cocktail and “the best hot dog I’ve ever had.”
Still to come is a new indoor-outdoor restaurant, Johnny and June, named for country music immortal Cash and his wife, June Carter Cash, who invested in the property in the early 1980s.
The space will be dedicated to the Cash era of the Berkeley, which serves as a source of inspiration to the brothers. “We really wanted to get a venue together that embodied [Cash’s] iconic personality in ways we think the city of Asbury is going to be really excited about,” says Albie.
To book a dining experience at the Berkeley, call 732-776-6700. For hotel reservations, visit the website.