Vol. LXV, No. 2
Happy New Year!
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
DINING OUT: Weve had a great response. We had 100 people the first Friday night we were open. We were brand new and went right into the holidays, which was a very busy time for us. Now, we already have lots of regulars, including some who come three times a week. Tony Vitella, owner of Metro North, couldnt be happier with the success of his new restaurant.
Your chef made the best chicken piccata Ive ever had!
After lunch at Metro North restaurant, Lawrenceville resident Jean Aldrich makes a point of telling Tony Vitella the good news.
Owner of the restaurant with his brother Joe, Mr. Vitella enjoys receiving the compliment, and looks forward to hearing similar responses from other customers.
With 32 years in the restaurant business, Mr. Vitella is a true professional. He and his brother have owned several restaurants in the area, including, currently, the Metro Grill in Ewing. Formerly, they owned the long-time Pennington favorite T.J.s Trattoria.
We started in the pizza business, and just kept going, reports Mr. Vitella. We liked the idea of coming here, and opened in September.
Metro North is located at 378 Alexander Road, formerly the site of JL Ivy and The Rusty Scupper. The ample and convenient parking area, featuring handsome vintage-style lamp posts, is a real plus, as is the spacious restaurant, which can accommodate 250 diners inside, as well as 75 on an outside patio. Upstairs space has room for 100 people.
The atmosphere is informal and inviting, appealing to a variety of customers, including families, who enjoy both the food and the ambiance. Dark wood tables enhance the attractive decor, and comfortable chairs and small sofas in an alcove welcome diners for cocktails or wine before dinner.
Those with sports on their mind will appreciate the large TV screen above the spacious bar.
The cuisine is Italian/American, with a focus on fresh ingredients and the special dishes of Chef Dan Hopkins, says Mr. Vitella. Our chef has been with us in four different restaurants, and this menu is a combination of all the things weve had on the menus of our restaurants.
Its a very diverse menu, and includes steaks and chops, fresh fish, veal, chicken, pasta, and pizza. We also have six to eight specials every night, including fish. I like everything on our menu!
The customers do too, he adds. Some special favorites include the 14-ounce double-cut pork chops, the porcini linguine (porcini mushrooms, Italian sausage, and linguine in parmesan cheese sauce), and the above-mentioned chicken piccata, which is also available with veal.
A variety of sandwiches and hamburgers from the Angus beef Swiss burger to the portabella veggie version to the salmon burger is another plus, points out Mr. Vitella. We also have individual pizzas with very thin crusts, and customers love them.
The crab-stuffed portabella mushrooms are a popular appetizer, along with Clams Casino, Mediterranean platter, and antipasto.
We also always have wonderful desserts, all homemade, including tira misu (served in a martini glass), chocolate lava cake, and bread pudding, among others. We also serve espresso and cappuccino and other favorites.
The restaurant can accommodate those with special dietary needs, including gluten-free, he adds. Everything is prepared to order, so we can accommodate special needs.
Metro North has a liquor license, and offers a full selection of wines and spirits. Mixed drinks are popular, and the ubiquitous martini (in many flavors) remains a favorite. Wine by the glass is also in demand, says Mr. Vitella.
I also think people like the fact that we have the same menu for lunch and diner, and you can come in all day long. We are open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Mr. Vitella has made an effort to offer reasonable prices, which the customers also appreciate, he says. Our burgers start at $10, pizzas at $9, chicken dishes at $15, and pasta from $13.
In addition, take-out is available, as is full-service catering on or off premises.
Getting the restaurant off to such a good start has been a real accomplishment for him. I really like getting places started and running smoothly, he notes. This has been the smoothest opening of any restaurant Ive ever had. Its been great.
Its a team effort, he is quick to point out. You need a good staff. This is major. It really is a team effort. You cant do everything by yourself. Many of the staff are people who have been with us in our other restaurants, including one staffer who has been with us 20 years!
Of course, it is very important to keep tabs on everything and attend to all the details, which are ongoing. I am very encouraged. I look forward to making this a successful and special place.
Metro North is open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 4 p.m. to 10. Reservations are recommended. (609) 454-3121. Website: metrogrill.com.
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