Tapastry: Bringing Tapas to Montclair


Although the newly-opened Honest Dog Restaurant was deserted last night, having closed suddenly on Tuesday only a few weeks after it opened, 12 Church Street was far from forlorn. Upstairs, amidst the food and music of their weekly Studio 12 open mic night, Montclair restaurant veterans Greg and Cheryl Spinelli were busy planning a new venture. Come Friday, the downstairs restaurant space will open as Tapastry, where, together with Chef Gonzalo Fernandez (formerly of La Xunta Tapas Bar in NY’s East Village), they’ll be bringing Tapas to Montclair.

According to Greg, they hold the lease on the building for 3 more years, with an option to extend for another 10. With their sub-tenents gone, the Spinellis knew they needed to generate revenue in the space. “My head was spinning when I first heard that ‘The Dog’ had run off,” he said. “But then Cheryl and I looked at each other and we knew we were ready for our next adventure. It’s such a hoot! No one is doing Tapas in Montclair, and we’re really excited.”

Downstairs, Chef Fernandez was in the kitchen, cooking for the Studio 12 crowd and organizing his ideas for the new restaurant. A Montclair resident, Fernandez has worked with the Spinellis for the past few years in the catering business. Tapastry’s menu will initially include a range of entrees, but Fernandez said that if all goes well, they’ll make it all Tapas. “We’re gonna start with 12 Tapas, and bring it up to 15 or 20 within a few weeks,” he explained. When asked to name a sampling of opening Tapas, the chef mentioned classic Spanish omelets, mushroom croquettes, Pan Catalan (unsweetened cornbread grilled with tomato puree), and grilled dates with bacon. “Soon, we’ll add seafood paella,” he said. “And live flamenco music.”

With a staff already in place — they’ve absorbed some of the Market/Honest Dog crew, plus their catering personnel — and a fully equipped kitchen and restaurant, the quick turnaround isn’t as daunting as it might have been. “I’ll want to do some redecorating in the next few weeks,” said Cheryl. “but we’re ready for this — we’re up to the task.”

Tapastry will open on Friday, at 5 p.m. for dinner, with brunch starting on Saturday and lunch service planned for next Thursday. There’ll be live music on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, as well as during Memorial Day brunch, with performances from some Baristaville favorites, including Meg Beattie Patrick and John Finnegan.

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  1. Chef Joe Albergo at Mediterranean Rose in Caldwell is also planning to add a tapas selection to his already rich menus. Interesting in that he once worked at the very same restaurant on Church Street, back in the day… And Conan, She Who Must Be Obeyed, Mr. and Mrs. Iceman, and another couple of our acquaintance met Jose Andres, tapas evangelist extroadinaire and most recently James Beard Award-winning Chef of the Year, at his Las Vegas restaurant, Jaleo, a few weeks back. Chef Andres was most gracious, and he led us through his extensive tapas menus with the kind of enthusiasm you really want in a restauranteur. Among the six of us we sampled and shared 18 separate dishes and two deserts. All wonderful! The Iceman even got a very special Gin and Tonic with Juniper berries and bay leaf. We settled for Albarino wine.

  2. Wait, so Honest Dog which was open for all of a week is now closing? Frankly, I’m not surprised. I passed by and glanced at their menu to see a $14 hot dog and a $20 fried chicken dinner. They just didn’t get it. How can you open a comfort food restaurant in a town with several other comfort food spots (one not more than 5 doors down) all of which are cheaper?

    The owners of Church Street Catering seem to be going about this wisely by doing something others in town are not doing. I hope it works out for them and look forward to giving it a try.

  3. Yes, but Conan, did you get to attend the last supper at El Bulli? 🙂

    Seriously, I am anxious to try the tapas menu at Church Street.

  4. a $17 gin and tonic, I might add. And it was the best drink I ever tasted. Hendricks Gin, Fever Tree tonic complemented with fresh juniper berryies and a bay leaf.

    What a meal we shared with Jose.

    I know we look forward to supporting this new Tapas venture.

    Bon Appetit

  5. I think I’ve found where I’m spending what’s left of my youth. Oh I hope they have papas bravas, boquerones, and some nice cheeses. I might even hop off the wagon if they serve up Shandy for summer.

  6. Way to try and hijack the thread, Conan. That’s as rude as what the former cook at Church St., who’s now at Rose, did–take the mailing list and now spam it!

  7. I would have loved to have dined at El Bulli. I have never really tried a lot of molecular cooking at all once. We are going to go back to DC this fall and try to get a couple of seats at minibar, Jose Andres’ six-seat restaurant-within-a-restaurant which offers a fixed-price tasting menu of many courses of molecular/avant garde cooking. Andres trained with Ferran Adria at El Bulli and the reviews are good. I am glad that small plates are starting to become available in the area. To my mind, it is a great way to eat when you can taste many different dishes in one sitting. Are any of the Italian places starting to offer stuzzichini? There are a few places in the City that specialize, but I haven’t seen any out here.

  8. Chef Gonzalo Fernandez is formerly of the great La Xunta tapas bar in NYC’s East Village. ‘Xunta’ is another spelling for ‘junta’ which is a coming together. Congratulations to this (now Montclair) chef and to long-time Montclairians Cheryl & Greg Spinelli on this new union, and best of luck, to all, for this new venture!

  9. I agree, Conan. I like the concept of smaller “tasting-size” portions. In this way, you get to sample many. I also like leaving a dinner feeling a little less than full. The Japanese practice this, saying you should eat until you are about 80% full. Maybe that’s why they live so long? At any rate, I absolutely hate supersized portions, unless of course, we talking about the Spanish-Portuguese restaurants Down Neck. Those portions last a couple of days!

  10. Xunta was one of my most favorite places to go but when they moved to Brooklyn I stopped going. If Tapestries is anything close to what Xunta was – it will be awesome. Xunta had about 100 tapas to choose from and a somewhat authentic feel with a dark interior and wine barrels used in place of tables. I don’t expect a copy but hope the owners keep things more on the casual side – we need more laidback social eateries with bar seating in the area instead of the usual table service.

    If the chef reads this – PLEASE SERVE JAMON … it’s so hard to find and we can’t smuggle it back from Spain 🙁

    Some pulpo gallego would be nice too!

  11. Im pretty sure Cuban Petes had tapas since it opened. To me, tapas should always be an option on any menu. It is not exactly difficult to put a smaller portion on a smaller plate and reduce the price a smidge.

  12. My husband and I are fond of Mombou on Ferry St. in Newark (when the bar isn’t full of shouting young execs — the place is all noise-reflective surfaces.) I’m looking forward to trying this place. Wish they had fresh anchovies tapas like in Barcelona…

  13. When I was commuting between Baristaville and DC, I ate at Jaleo in DC and Crystal City quite a few times. I loved their tapas.
    I wish Chef Fernandez and the Spinelli’s best of luck. Prepare good tapas and they will come.

  14. Gastro — jamon iberico and jamon serrano are widely available in the states now. They are expensive as hell, but you can get them. I think even Whole Foods carries some, but Tapas restaurants should have no trouble finding the hams. And there is a lot of octopus available too — so alla Gallega shouldn’t be a problem, either.

    The chef said “We’re gonna start with 12 Tapas, and bring it up to 15 or 20 within a few weeks,” and I think that is a good idea. To provision for 50 or 60 different dishes when you don’t know how the theme is going to go over could be costly. Of our six-top at Jaleo, four were not familiar with the dishes at all, and the other two of us had only a little bit of experience. When the dishes were explained — this is a salad, this is a meat, this is a starch — everyone was able to order two or three that looked like they would go well together, and everyone ate very well indeed. So I think Chef Fernadez’s plan is a good one. We will definitely try it out.

  15. I agree with Kit’s suggestion for tapas. The name of the restaurant is Mompou Tapas and Wine Bar. They do a fantastic monthly wine tasting dinner. I highly recommend it.

  16. I was happy to hear of a tapas restaurant in montclair but was gravely disapointed. The tapas portions are a calamity. The cheese with quince paste (the size of a postage stamp a mere sliver) and 3 paper thin wedges of cheese. Come on! The endives with blue cheese were 3 tiny leaves with oil on them,maybe it melted since it was stiffling in there!I asked for grilled sardines asked if they were canned and didnt want canned, he said they werent canned, but they were, and it was gross! Half a sardine on a teeny wedge of endive. This is shameful guys. The owner came over and she was very nice and apologized said the waiter got it wrong, than i got the saltiest grilled frozen sardine. The chicken kabobs and shrimp are good. She is trying to incorporate music venues which is awesome but it was strange there were no signs or anyone saying there was music upstairs we just kept seeing people go by with guitar cases and finally asked. It was Friday night and we were the only ones there. Montclair is the foodie haven, if you’re going to make it anywhere this is it. People don’t mind paying more for good food. We are foodies frequenting montclair establishments such as aozora, egans halcyon and others.Its a nice concept but I won’t be going back.

  17. Was there last week …Tapas good….but don’t make the mistake of ordering their Paella….awful dish of WHITE gloppy-gooey rice with some weird Green herbs fused into it.. sitting in a pool of water…no safron (or seafood like in the pic on their website)…just a few sea food items….not a traditional Paella whatsoever….cost us $39 to have a few clams and shrimp

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