A Visit to New Brunswick: Stage Left and Catherine Lombardi
Monday, June 18, 2012 • 10:24pm
Best friends and partners, who met while students at Rutgers College in 1984, Mark Pascal and Francis Schott became a Team. Upon graduation, they both headed to the well-known New Brunswick restaurant, The Frog and the Peach.
When Francis Schott left to pursue a career in fine dining, and avail himself to the the best culinary experiences Europe has to offer, his dear friend Mark Pascal stepped into his position, and remained at the “The Frog and The Peach for a longer period.
Upon his return, Pascal and Schott decided they would become partners, and open a restaurant, together. Because their whole personal network was located in New Brunswick, they purchased the restaurant located just to the left of the George Street, State Theater, and Crossroads Theater, thus naming their first well-known dining spot, Stage Left.
When space above the restaurant became available, the guys purchased the area, and decided to open another new establishment. Naming it after Mark’s late grandmother, Catherine Lombardi has a definite presence in New Brunswick. The only resemblance to either of the restaurants is: The Wine List!
Designed in a deep maroon or sultry-wine color, the restaurant, replete with roaring fireplaces, definitely has its own personality.
“I wanted the new restaurant to resemble my Grandmother Catherine Lombardi’s living room,” said Pascal.
“Catherine Lombardi was an enormous influence in my life,” he continued. “At least 40 Sundays a year, our family would drive over the bridge to Brooklyn, just to have Sunday dinner with her.”
And indeed as the door to the lovely restaurant opens, you can easily visualize your very own grandmother’s living room.
Hailing from Pittsburgh, and a Culinary Institute of America graduate, and classically trained chef, Executive Chef JR.. Belt offers his concept on today’s cuisine, “People are eating a lot more healthier and a lot more local. At Catherine Lombardi, we’re enjoying fresh pasta, eggplant, fresh tomatoes, and an entirely new menu featuring healthier dining choices.”
“Each year we can about eight to twelve-thousand pounds of tomato sauce for our pasta. Our guests enjoy freshly prepared lasagna, Mark’s grandmother’s original recipe for meat balls, and a whole host of old-world Italian favorites. I can tell you that Mark’s grandmother’s meatballs, are always the last item to enter the gravy.”
What really impressed me about both restaurants is the daily 4:30 p.m. staff meeting which takes place in the dining room of Catherine Lombardi. That’s when partner Francis Schott describes the menu of the day in complete detail. His informative talk speaks to the service, new products, and what to expect and emphasize on the menu.
The day I arrived, I heard him describe salmon in infinite detail, and like students in a university setting, he takes questions from the audience. In addition to all that I learned, I can expect a menu change in October, with a bounty of wine dinners to tempt every taste and appetite.
The summer New Brunswick theater season promises to be an exciting one. While Stage Left promises to be a snap shot of both restaurants, do come and enjoy truffles from Australia, and divine pasta, meatballs, and all of your favorite Italian specialties at Catherine Lombardi.
Those of you who love the theater will enjoy not only seeing the shows, but perhaps, wandering doors away for dinner at Stage Left and or Catherine Lombardi. The two restaurants are easy to find. Just look for the floral display and lovely outdoor tables. Then take your choice and wander into either of the locations.
Stage Left, 5 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick
Hours: Open seven nights and Fridays only for lunch from Noon to 2:30 p.m. Dinner 5:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday. 5:30 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 4:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday.
FYI: Award winning wine list. Reservations suggested. Smart casual dress. Watch for special events. Check them out at: Stageleft.com/events. Wine Shop Hours: By appointment only. To book a party in the Wine Shop: Call: 732.828.4444 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Private rooms are available for groups of 15 to 80, or book the entire restaurant for a group of 125. Gift Certificates available.
Dinner for Two: $100 per person (including tax, but not tip).
Catherine Lombardi, 3 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick
Hours:Lunch:11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday. Dinner: 5 to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday. 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Catherine Lombardi offers a late night menu served at the bar.
FYI: Call for reservations. Full bar opens for lunch service, and closes upon completion of service. Gift certificates available. Ask about arranging a wine dinner to take place in the special Wine Room.
Dinner for Two: $60 per person (excluding tax and tip).
We want to hear from you. Please let me know if you’ve discovered a new place to have lunch or dinner, a fabulous bakery, or a great caterer.
Have a great month of June, and stay well!
Millicent K. Brody is an award-winning writer and photographer and a resident of Westfield, New Jersey. Contact her at Mkbrody@aol.com
The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TheAlternativePress.com or anyone who works for TheAlternativePress.com. TheAlternativePress.com is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.