The long-awaited, and certainly the most architecturally challenging local restaurant, Montclair Station, finally opened Monday, March 29. Rebuilt from the fire-ravaged station house under the scrutiny of NJ Transit, Montclair township, and NJ Historical Society, the project has been years in the making. “This is the first public/private venture of its kind for NJ Transit, generating collateral income,” says entrepreneur Ralph Nuzzo. The prized porte-cochere stands restored at the entrance, a gleaming wood wrap-around bar and a dazzling menu await you inside.
Situated track-side at NJ Transit’s Upper Montclair train stop, Montclair Station is perhaps the only full-service bistro and bar serving continuously from 6am through 10pm in Baristaville. Restaurant manager Charles Nuzzo was understandably bursting with excitement on opening day.
“We want to be known for serving upscale food at reasonable prices. And convenient. Come in any time for a meal or to graze. We’ll take phone orders from the train; just tell us what time the train comes in, and we’ll have your take-out ready. Or come have a drink at the bar, we’ll have it ready when you want it,” says Charles.
The Nuzzo brothers labored over the menu with executive chef Steve Mohren, a Montclair resident who promised the owners he knows what works in Baristaville. The result is a creative menu of round-the-clock comfort food plus more elaborately conceived dinner entrees.
Breakfast is grab-and-go for train commuters; homemade soups and pasta, paninis, salads ($9) and thin-crust pizzas ($10/11) are served throughout the day, as are their tapas style “small plates.” How do kobe beef sliders with asian slaw ($14) or gnocchi with wild mushrooms, prosciutto, swiss chard and parmigiano cream ($12) sound? This week’s soup selections are tempting: black bean chili with jalapeno cheddar cornbread ($7), and lobster chowder with roasted corn and smoked bacon ($9).
Chef Mohren will be mixing up the menu every couple of weeks with new selections, and his signature dishes are of the fish variety. This week’s dinner menu has five fish selections such as diver scallops with andouille sausage and squash hash, sauteed spinach and poblano cream ($22) and grilled tuna with melted leeks, roasted tomato, serrano ham and romesco sauce ($23). Meat entrees include seared duck breast, ancho chili-orange reduction($19) and a 12 ounce Angus sirloin with brandy cream sauce ($27). Two sides of your choice are included.
The wine formula is easy, reds and whites priced in three tiers: $20, $30, and $40 per bottle. Desserts are also a favorite of the chef. I had the guilty pleasure of tasting a Latino classic – crunchy coconut-topped tres leches cake with a side scoop of hazelnut gelatto. It may have been the most delicious tres leches I’ve tasted.
Kids: there’s no special kids menu, however, Charles assured me that there are always chicken fingers and fries in the kitchen as well as kid-friendly pasta and sandwiches.
Parking: Daytime, the restaurant has 10 spots in the NJT lot; after 6pm, come one, come all. The municipal lot is just across the tracks.
Chef Mohren, classically trained, with a passion for innovation, came over from Highlawn Pavilion and The Manor. Prior experience includes Patria and Bollo in Manhattan. His sous-chef, Michael Reese, just moved to Montclair from a position at Seaview Country Club in Galloway, NJ. We’ll give them a few weeks to work out opening kinks, but I’m hopeful for this ambitious new venture. Montclair Station, Bellevue Avenue, Montclair, 973-337-5828.
–Left to right: Chef Steve Mohren, Ralph Nuzzo, Charles Nuzzo