What do you get when you cross the "classic New Jersey red sauce joint with a regional Italian restaurant"? Fanny's Restaurant & Bar in Bloomfield, which opened for business on September 12, says Chef Jonathan Kavourakis, one of the new restaurant's owners.
Named after co-owners Anthony and Joey Cinque's Italian nonna, Fanny's is elevated Italian food, classic dishes done with The Brookdale's flair:
Simple done well," as Chef Jonathan likes to say. "We've created a new school progressive menu for the more adventurous eaters."
As I talk with Chef and his general manager at The Brookdale Thomas Rodriguez about Fanny's and Ladyfingers Bakery & Bar (opening September 28), their excitement becomes palpable. In fact, it is downright electric! With opening night mere hours away, Chef whips out his phone and proudly shares the menu with me like a brand new papa showing off his baby pics.
There is a Hamachi Crudo, "kind of a play on caponata," with charred tomato granita, parsley and oregano oil, and castelvetrano olives. If you want a pork chop "as big as your head," order the Heritage Pork Chop Milanese, which has a caper pesto rub and comes with an arugula and chicory salad. They'll be serving a Whole Branzino with Clam Escabeche (warm pickling liquid made of clams and vegetables, poured over the top of the fried fish), and a Saffron Shrimp Arancini, accompanied by a salsa verde.
Chef's eyes light up with a mischievous flair as he describes some of the vegetarian dishes they'll be serving. Cauliflower Scarpariello with "sausage," fingerlings, cherry peppers and fennel, is 100% vegetarian. However, “The vegetarians are going to be asking if there’s meat in it” because it tastes so much like sausage, Chef grins. And the Lasagna with a mushroom and walnut bolognese "will have the umami and mouthfeel of eating beef." Both dishes sound fantastic, even to a carnivore such as myself! Add the homemade pastas made fresh every day – fantastica!
The Focaccia, which Chef says is "Fucking awesome!" will be made by Ladyfingers Bakery and change every week. The bakery will also make the desserts for the restaurant, which is right next door at 1109 Broad Street.
But this isn't your mom's bakery!
The "brainchild of pastry chef/owners (and 'BFFs') Samara Sulin and Lauren Kavourakis, Ladyfingers Bakery & Bar will be a saucy, 'spicy,' fun take on the modern bakery, featuring the kinds of treats diners have come to know at The Brookdale ... along with new creations" (The Montclair Girl).
"We are going to serve nice treats, boozy desserts with cocktails," says Rodriquez.
Exciting news for Java Love-rs!
Sulin and Kavourakis have partnered up with Java Love Coffee Roasting Co., a woman-owned, artisan coffee roasting company in Montclair, to make Ladyfingers X Java Love, a unique coffee blend that will only be available at the bakery. We will definitely see other concoctions at the new drip and craft coffee bar, according to Chef Lauren, including cereal milk coffee!
Meant to be a fun cocktail bar and dessert place, Fanny's will also pair desserts with cocktails, much like wine and food pairings, according to Rodriguez. Getting more and more animated, literally dancing in his seat as he says to me with a twinkle in his eye, “Most of the fun would happen at night after a certain time..." when it changes into a craft cocktail and tasting bar.
It's not the kind of place he's seen anywhere else in New Jersey either. The word is, people cannot wait for it to open!
From custom cakes to cocktails, the goal of our decadent dessert bar is to offer a little piece of happiness for everyone,” Kavourakis said (The Montclair Girl).
The 5 LC Group, the partners behind all three restaurants, which includes owners Chef Jonathan, pastry chefs Lauren Kavourakis and Samara Sulin, brothers Anthony and Joey Cinque, and partner Cheyenne Intindola, will use their many years' of experience in the food business to bring the same kind of success from The Brookdale at 1099 Broad Street to just a couple of doors down, right next door to Hot Bagels Abroad.
Chef Jonathan (@chefbigsexy on Istagram) and Rodriquez met working within the Tao Group Hospitality restaurants. Rodriguez, who has 20+ years working in restaurants, joined Chef at Vandal where they were serving 12,000 to 15,000 covers on a Tuesday or Wednesday night. Insane! He created the menu and was a partner at Vandal before it closed in February 2021 as a result of the pandemic.
This is where the two met Cheyenne Intindola, who became a protege of Chef and is "super creative," says Rodriguez. Asking Cheyenne to join the 5 LC Group – which stands for "5 little crabs," or "cinque kavourakis," a play on four of the partners' last names – was a no-brainer!
In addition to working at Vandal, Chef Big Sexy, winner of Chopped, Season 23, Episode 9: Let's Do Lunch, worked at the Lower East side's "sexiest restaurant and lounge," The Stanton Social (Total Food Service). Go figure! There he gained a wealth of experience before it closed on New Year's Eve 2018. Click HERE to watch "Sausage and Pepper Sliders w/ Chef Jonathan of Stanton Social."
Prior to this, he worked at Beauty & Essex, the entrance of which is described as "a well curated modern day pawn shop replete with a saxophone, boombox, quirky artifacts, vintage treasures and an eclectic array of 'one-off' pieces of jewelry," according to their website. Chef-owner Lauren Kavourakis, who met Jonathan at The Stanton Social, was a pastry chef at Beauty & Essex, as well. (Kavourakis was sent out to California to open Beauty & Essex LA, before going to help open Beauty & Essex Vegas. It was in Vegas that she hired Sulin.)
Vandal, The Stanton Social, and Beauty & Essex are all part of the Tao Group of restaurants.
Of his time working in Manhattan, Chef has this to say:
NYC is amazing, and has definitely helped me rise in the ranks a lot faster than maybe other chefs and cooks have. NYC is kill or be killed. If you aren’t gunning for your superior’s job you are in the wrong city. You need to hustle to make it here, and you need to be ambitious and want to grow. [...] Working in NYC made me work harder, and helped mold me into the chef I am now because of all that." (Total Food Service)
The group has grown closer working so hard and so closely together for these last three years (and more!). They've become like a family and feel more than ready for the challenge. “Opening The Brookdale has been a great experience. The support from Bloomfield, Montclair and all surrounding towns has been extraordinary,” says Chef. “We’ve been talking about opening an Italian restaurant since the day we opened [...]. When the opportunity arose to open next door with enough space to open a bakery, we had to jump on it" (NJBiz).
Like The Brookdale, both new restaurants will have outdoor seating in the front. Fanny's will have a new pergola with a retractable roof and outdoor seating in the new courtyard out back, which will be shielded from the parking lot.
It's been great to watch The Brookdale thrive and grow, to watch the spaces that are the new bakery and restaurant evolve. The people in the community couldn't be more excited about their success. Welcome to the neighborhood!
Chef sums it up in a way we get here in Bloomfield: "We’re big on family and community and there’s nothing I love more than eating and cooking Italian food!” (NJBiz).