I’ve got goods news, Belleville – in more ways than one.
Antonio’s Italian Restaurant on Franklin Avenue is no more. It’s true. The restaurant my wife Lucille and I dined at back in 1985, the year after its 1984 opening, is gone…just about.
You see, owner Antonio Iovino is still at the same location. Explanation coming.
Steve Lauda, partner in New Milford’s Jersey Boys Grill, eventually tired of the commute from Little Falls to Bergen County, so he sought something a little closer to home.
Do you see where I’m going with this? Iovino had been in the location with a butcher shop, then an Italian grocery store, and then Antonio’s and, at age 83, was running a wee bit low on steam. Enter Lauda, who wanted a shorted drive and a place with a sleek bar.
Result? Another partner ownership for Lauda, and the birth of Brix Tapas Bar & Grill. The interior is now more chic, and the menu changed slightly while still maintaining allegiance to delicious Italian cuisine. This is an 80-seat, two room dining gem run by Steve and Ann Lauda along with Iovino with, yes, a room with a bar which has comfortable booths and tables, and another, thinner, booth- dominated dining room which sits a bit below a lovely party room, the latter which can also be used for overflow dining.
“A change was made,” said Iovino on Grand Opening day, July 6, from the Brix party room. “There was a bakery here,” he said, indicating the room he was standing in. “I took over half the room [prior to his arrangement with Lauda].” He then looked around the room. “I’m not sad. People knew Antonio’s, and me, for 40 years. We’re taking a chance here, and we’ll see.”
And then, proudly, “I tried my best for so many years.”
The Executive Chef is Michael DeNigris, a restaurant veteran of many Bergen County eateries. Yes, there is a tapas menu of 24 items, but a great variety of choices elsewhere on the four-page menu including gourmet pizza, pastas, meat and poultry dishes, and much more. When my wife Lucille, daughter Stefanie and I recently visited, Stefanie went “lite,” opting for s superb skirt steak salad, the steak grilled to perfection over mixed greens and tomatoes. The steak slices were abundant and a good size, and the amount perfectly complemented the salad. I opted for a 100% Angus beef steer burger with a slice of cheddar cheese and french fries, while Lucille chose a chicken balsamic panini with fire roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella, with the balsamic sauce on the side. Steve Lauda was also kind enough to bring us out a traditional thin crust pie, made in the Brix very own brick oven. I recommend it as an appetizer for your table when you visit. For dessert, we shared tiramisu, chocolate mousse cake and warm apple cake with vanilla ice cream.
“It’s nice to have a new business open in town,” said Mayor Ray Kimble prior to cutting the ribbon. “Brix is a real asset. It’s nice the way they fixed the place up, and Steve is a great guy. We’re happy to have him.”
There are growing pains at Brix Tapas Bar & Grill; the restaurant just opened in late June. But with Antonio Iovino still in the picture, and the extremely hospitable Steve and Ann Lauda side-by-side with him, the place is a winner.
Brix Tapas Bar & Grill, 371 Franklin Ave., Belleville, (973) 751-7001