The news broke on Thursday afternoon that Chris and Albie Manzo are adding yet another business venture to their quickly-expanding resumes: They're going into the restaurant business by opening up Little Town New Jersey in their own town of Hoboken. The eatery (hopefully opening in or around November) will focus solely on iconic dishes from all over New Jersey, and will also source as many ingredients and products as possible from Garden State farmers, brewers, vineyards and producers. It will be a part of the growing Little Town franchise, which also has two spots in Manhattan with a New York-based menu.
The Dish hopped on the phone with Chris Manzo to discuss the news and pick his brain about the restaurant plans, his restaurant pet peeves and also what his cooking skills are like. Check it out:
So how did restaurant business all come about?
The guys over at Little Town and Pour House, they have a pretty good reputation in town and I always went there to hang out. They have a few different partners that we met and became friendly with and started hanging out with randomly around town and started doing Halloween bar crawls and stuff like that. Next thing you know they said they were thinking about opening a place in Hoboken and they kind of laid the concept on us of it being all New Jersey-based food. We loved the concept and said there's so much about Jersey that can be used here. It's got so much of our lives and so much that we've done in our past in it, from the restaurants we love to go to and dishes we love to have and things we grew up on, and now we get to share that with other people. There's so much of us that's going to be in it as far as the decorations, the food -- we had a huge part in it.
How involved were you and Albie along the way?
We were involved in pretty much everything. We don't run the day to day financials, but we're in there as partners in most of the big decision making. We're going to do a chef competition coming up to find out who's going to be the head chef. I went on a little research and development trip recently with the whole team to put together some menu items. It's all New Jersey craft beers and wines. I'm not really a beer drinker, but there's there's a ton of awesome beer in New Jersey that I had no idea about. It's great to show that to people, because we went to some of these small breweries and they've never even heard of something of this magnitude order-wise. We're helping contribute to their success, and that's a huge thing to us. We know how hard it is right now for a lot of people, so for us to be sourcing Jersey tomatoes, Jersey oysters, clams and helping the farmers and breweries and wineries, that's really important to us. That's really what the concept is.
What are some iconic Jersey dishes you expect to be on the final menu?
I don't know if we're ready to roll everything out yet, but the obvious ones are going to be there. Disco fries (*Editor's note: For
the non-Jerseyites, that's gravy cheese fries, best eaten at a diner
after midnight), Taylor ham egg and cheese in some form of sandwich.
We're going to try to throw in a signature Brownstone dish to pay homage
to my father. We have a lot of ideas that we're willing to throw
around, but we're not at the final draft stage yet.
Click here to read more, and click the photo below for our gallery of the Manzo kids growing up!