Appetizing Variety of Italian Specialties At Gennaro’s Italian Market & Catering
PERFECT PARTNERSHIP: “Italian food is the most complete cuisine in the world. It embraces everything — meat, rice, seafood, vegetables, pasta, salads, etc. It’s very healthy eating.” Gennaro Costabile, owner of Gennaro’s Restaurant & Catering, Gennaro’s Italian Market & Catering, and Gennaro’s International Cuisine, is shown with his “partner” and three-year-old grandson Jax, at the market’s ribbon cutting.
By Jean Stratton
Gennaro Costabile has a long history in the restaurant business and a successful story to tell. A native of Italy, he came to the U.S. in 1983, after meeting his American wife-to-be in Venice, where he was working at a hotel.
As a boy, he had also spent eight years in Germany, when his parents moved to Stuttgart. Returning to Naples, he later attended Concierge School in Sorrento, with the intention of embarking on a career in the hospitality field.
Arriving in the U.S., he and his wife settled in her home area of Utica, N.Y., and Gennaro found work in a restaurant. Ambitious and enterprising, he looked forward to taking on more responsibility.
“In 1992, we moved to New Jersey, when I was offered a job as general manager in a restaurant in South Plainfield,” he explains. “I always wanted my own place, my own operation, however, and in 1995, I opened Caffé Piazza in Hillsborough. Then in 1999, I opened La Terrazza, a Spanish restaurant, in Princeton on State Road. This later became Gennaro’s Restaurant in 2003.”
The popularity of these restaurants (he sold Caffé Piazza in 2005) encouraged him to add catering to the business, and ultimately another food establishment. In 2014, he opened Gennaro’s Italian Market & Catering at 4587 Route 27 (Main Street) in Kingston.
“It was my intention to have a market and a headquarters for the catering business,” explains Gennaro. In addition, he took the unusual step of selecting his three-year-old grandson Jax as his legal partner.
“I made Jax my partner as a way of remembering what my grandfather, Francesco Pollio, had done for me long ago,” he explains. “When I was born, he set aside 5000 Italian lira for me so that I would have something to count on. I want to pass on to Jax the same values of hard work, honesty, and integrity that my grandfather gave to me. What is important is family, friendship, and integrity.”
The Kingston market is filled with a wide variety of tasty Italian specialties and prepared foods, many with Gennaro’s own recipes. Sandwiches, salads, meats, cheeses, homemade pasta, including many different raviolis (a specialty), potato gnocchi, and tortellini are all available.
“One of our best sellers is ‘Greens Gennaro,’” reports Gennaro. “It can be served warm or cold, and includes escarole, prosciutto, hot cherry peppers, Romano cheese, and oreganata mix. It can also be part of a sandwich, and customers love it.”
They also love the chicken parmiagiana, penne with vodka sauce, and the fresh mozzarella, made on the premises. Other favorites include eggplant rollatini, Gennaro’s meat balls and marinara sauce, quinoa salad, Italian hot sausage, and the variety of sandwiches.
Among the most popular are “Capri”, with fresh mozzarella, basil, tomato, extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic glaze; “Chicken Balsami Panini” (hot pressed) with grilled chicken, sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh arugula, and balsamic mayonnaise; “Palermo”, featuring eggplant, Greens Gennaro, ham and provolone; “Italian”, with capicola, salami, and provolone; and “Napoli”, with prosciutto di Parma, capicola, salami, and provolone.
In addition, Gennaro’s offers a variety of breads, such as rosemary, olive, Tuscany, and ciabatta, also cookies and muffins. Some are baked on the premises; others come from a bakery in Hoboken.
An array of gourmet items from Italy includes cookies, biscotti, pizelle, crackers, and special canned plum tomatoes, among other items. Fig cakes with almonds are another big favorite. Also imported from Italy is the Nero Oro espresso machine and the ready-to-use espresso pods. Gennaro’s is the exclusive distributor of Nero Oro in the U.S.
The market offers a display of delicious desserts, including almond tiramisu, cheese cake, chocolate cake, limoncello, mascarpone dessert cheese, and sfogliatelle; also “Tuxedo” strawberries covered with black and white chocolate. This “Tuxedo” special creation by Gennaro has been served at The White House.
Assorted beverages, including sodas, iced tea, and bottled water, are also available.
Gennaro is proud of the success of all of his restaurants, and is well aware of the work involved. “A successful business depends on the quality of the food and the expertise in preparing it. We don’t forget the basics, and we always emphasize quality. I am a chef, and that really means supervising and overseeing the whole operation.
“I am also very proud of my staff, and many have been with me for a long time. We have 25 to 30 on staff, including chefs, servers, kitchen technicians, etc.
“At the restaurant, we’ve had clients for 16 and 17 years, and we have to sell ourselves every day. It has to be a new experience, as if it is always the first day, so that customers have a special memory — as special as when they remember their first kiss!
“In addition, we are a full-service caterer, doing every kind of event, including weddings and small dinner parties. Whether it is an event with 700 or a dinner for 10, we will make it special. We can provide everything, including rentals, servers, etc. Our catering customers are from all over the area and beyond. We have catered events in Philadelphia and Brooklyn.”
Gennaro is especially conscious that his success has given him the opportunity to be generous and help people who are less fortunate. “Giving back is important. I always want to give back to this great country that adopted me, and I can do this by helping others. I want to use my resources to help people who are hungry and in need.
“In 2001, I established Food For America, a not-for-profit organization, which raises money to help others. We were able to donate $20,000 to New Jersey Farmers Against Hunger. Bruce Springsteen matched our donation, and when he mentioned the organization at one of his concerts, we raised another $17,000.
“I also established the Caring Cooks Academy. We bring in companies involved in team building, and invite them to lunch at Gennaro’s restaurant. After lunch, we take them into the kitchen and show them how to make what they had to eat. When they master it, they then make it for the charitable organization Center For Great Expectations in Somerset. A lot of companies have been part of this, and have contributed many meals.”
Gennaro has recently added another restaurant to his culinary network: Gennaro’s International Cuisine, located in Princeton Business Park at 107 College Road East. “We have a varied cuisine there,” he reports. “Customers will find Indian food, also German and Mexican, as well as Italian.”
As he explains, Gennaro always makes it a point to learn something new and broaden his horizon. “The biggest challenge is to understand and think like our employees and customers. And then, I think what can I do to make it better? I realize that I love to learn. I listen to suggestions, and I keep learning every day. I believe there is nothing you can’t do if you put your mind to it and work hard. And always, our performance is our best advertisement.”
Gennaro’s restaurants and market are competitively priced, with sandwiches from $6.95, salads from $7.50, and entrees starting at $19.
Hours at the market are Monday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday 9 to 7, Saturday 9 to 5, and Sunday 11 to 5. The bulk of the market’s business is take-out, but seating for 16 is also available. (609) 683-1212. Website: gennarositalianmarket.com.