Another new article in The Showcase Magazine – November 2017

spiceisle

Salute to Spice Isle in Warren, NJ

By Susan Baldani

If you want to take a trip to the islands but can’t get away right now, do the next best thing. Spice Isle in Warren is open and ready to tempt you with their Caribbean fusion cuisine. As your taste buds explode and tropical music plays in the background, close your eyes and imagine the sound of the waves and the feel of the ocean breeze.

Upon entering, the first thing you will see is a coconut tree. What fun! The soothing yellow walls and matching napkins, orange drop lights, and the orange and dark wood of the tables, bring all the colors of the tropics together. The style manages to combine the relaxed with the upscale. The chandeliers glisten off the copper recessed ceiling panels and the flickering candles on each table create a cozy ambiance, while the artwork in the dining room adds to the lavish feel. One of the paintings is of musicians playing the steel drums, and another captures the beauty of a beach in St. Croix. There is even art to be found in the restrooms. A bright colorful painting in the men’s room shows a vendor surrounded by the fruit of his island, and the painting in the ladies’ room is of women dancing in vibrant, flowing gowns.

The owner, Joyce Joseph, is very familiar with the Caribbean. She first visited the island of Carriacou, where her parents were born, when she was six. As a child, her parents introduced her to many of the dishes from home, often combining them with the foods and flavors of their new country when they moved to the United States. Through them she acquired a love of cooking these family favorites as well, and learned more by watching other cooks, such as Julia Child, demonstrating their skills.

Throughout the years, Joyce has traveled extensively to many of the islands in the Caribbean, including Trinidad, Antigua, Jamaica and Aruba. After obtaining an MBA and embarking on a long, successful career in the finance industry with many well-known companies, including KPMG and JP Morgan Chase, she decided the time was right to offer her favorite dishes in her home state of New Jersey, where she now lives. She is excited about the opportunity to expand Caribbean cuisine in the area and incorporate the foods of the various islands of the region. She states, “I wanted to take the best of the best of the various islands and get them into the menu.” Fusing these dishes with American favorites is a primary goal of hers, along with making it affordable so more people can discover the unique flavors the restaurant has to offer.

Many of the ingredients used in the dishes are found locally and emphasize what’s in season, so everything is fresh and full of flavor. There is something for everyone on the menu, starting with the Calypso Coconut Shrimp and Codfish Fritters. Entrees include Jerk Chicken, Tropical Salmon, and Curry Shrimp. Curry Goat, Pork Chops and their Spice Isle Ribeye will satisfy any meat lover, and vegetarians will appreciate their Rasta Pasta and other vegetable choices. If you have a hard time deciding what to have, share a Chef’s Platter with your dining companion. Of course, you have to include some of their delicious sides, such as Garlic Spinach, Yellow Plantains and Jamaican Festival Bread, and dessert with choices like Caribbean Black Cake, Gourmet Tropical Sorbet and Chocolate Cheesecake. To complement your meal, order a bottle of wine and sit back and relax. The wines are from Alba Vineyard in Warren County, NJ and are chosen specifically for Spice Isle. Or if you prefer, bring your favorite bottle with you.

Spice Isle is located at 41 Mountain Boulevard in Warren, NJ. They are open for lunch Tuesday through Friday, and for dinner from Tuesday through Sunday (they are closed on Mondays.) For reservations and more information, please call 908-834-8864 or go to spiceislenj.com.

http://theshowcasemagazine.net/showcasemag/warren_edition/salutes/spiceisle

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Latest article in The Showcase Magazine – November 2017

Salute to Biagio’s in Stirling, NJ

By Susan Baldani

Walk into Biagio’s Italian Bakery and Deli in Stirling, New Jersey, and you may just decide to have dessert before dinner. There is a display of desserts that will make anyone with a sweet tooth want to rejoice. Napoleons, cannoli, Italian cookies, brownies, cheesecakes and more are there to greet you. However, keep walking, for the dining room of their new restaurant, Trattoria Biagio, has even more temptations.

With its high-end modern furnishings and sparkling chandeliers, it is truly a special place to spend a night out. The menu is filled with a variety of mouth-watering dishes, starting with appetizers such as Clams in a White Wine sauce and Mussels in Red Sauce. Their entrées, including my favorite, Chicken Francese, literally melts in your mouth. Other traditional Italian favorites, including Lasagna, Rigatoni Bolognese, Penne con Vodka, along with Pork Chop Giambotta, Ossobuco di Maiale, Black Sea Bass Del Giorno, and a Zucchini Parmigiana with Penne Marinara, are on the menu. Since the restaurant focuses on seasonal ingredients so that everything is fresh and flavorful, dishes may change depending on the time of year.

The owner and Executive chef, Biagio Iuliano, is living his American dream. Growing up in Italy, his love of cooking was fostered by his mother who encouraged him to help in the preparation of the family meals, which were often elaborate and contained multiple courses. After training in Salerno to be a baker and pastry chef, and attending IPSAR, where he studied courses in culinary arts, hotel and restaurant services, Biagio immigrated to the United States in 1996.

For many years, Biagio worked for various restaurants in the Morris and Union County areas, and even appeared beside Emeril Lagassi on the Food Network. Since his specialty is bread making, he decided to start his own bread business in 2003. “Unfortunately, people don’t know what good bread is, they are used to the supermarket stuff, which does not even compare with the type of product I put out.” he said.

His wholesale bakery in Millington, NJ supplied bread daily for area restaurants and delis. In 2010, he opened Biagio’s Italian Bakery and Deli in Stirling, where he creates his wonderful pastries and lunch offerings, and then in 2013, recognizing the need for southern Italian cuisine in the community, he expanded to include a dinner menu. With long lines of customers outside the door, in 2017 he expanded again and opened Trattoria Biagio, an upscale BYOB restaurant, right next door.

With his wife Carmela at his side, diners feel like part of the family. The couple often stops by tables to not only check how your meal is, but also to just chat and get to know you. Since it takes a team to run a successful restaurant, in addition to Carmela and Biagio, right there by his side is his highly experienced sous chef Raphael Armenti, who has worked in some of New York’s finer restaurants. Their daughter, Rikki Arale, the General Manager, helps keep everything running smoothly.

Biagio’s dream of coming to American and being a successful restaurant owner has indeed come true. And he still finds time to devote to beekeeping, and even sells his local farmed honey in the store.

And remember those desserts I mentioned? Whether ordering in or taking out, I can never leave without at least one of their Napoleons. And the cakes and bread! If something you want isn’t there, just order it and they’ll have it ready for you when you need it. Or stop in for breakfast for a Taylor Ham and Cheese, or for lunch to pick up one of their amazing sandwiches or salads. Planning a party? Ask for their catering menu. Whatever time of the day or night, and whichever part of the establishment you choose to visit, you won’t be disappointed. Molto delizioso!

Biagio’s Deli and Bakery is located at 239 Main Ave., Stirling, NJ and is open Tuesday 8:00-6:00, Wednesday-Friday 8:00-9:00, Saturday 7:30-9:00 and Sunday 7:30-1:30. Trattoria Biagio, right next door, is open Wednesday through Saturday from 5:00-9:00. For more information or reservations, please call (908) 350-8064 or go to http://www.biagiosbakery.com

http://theshowcasemagazine.net/showcasemag/warren_edition/salutes/biagio