LIVINGSTON, NJ - This week, The Alternative Press (TAP) of Livingston sat down with Joe Ottiano, who owns Calabria Restaurant and Pizzeria with his brother Dino, to learn more about him and his business as part of a new member benefit being provided by The Livingston Area Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with TAP Livingston.
Q: Can you tell me some general information about Calabria?
A: For 35 years, Calabria Restaurant and Pizzeria, which is located at 588 South Livingston Ave., (973-992-8496) has been delighting guests with Italian Food from the old country, coupled with old-fashioned service, and hospitality. My brother Dino and I started out with a pizzeria at 499 South Livingston Ave., which is located just across the street, and moved to this location in 1991, so we could expand.
Now, guests can enjoy casual dining (sandwiches, salad, calzones and pizza) or a dining room experience, depending on what type of meal they desire. We also offer on- and off- premises catering, take-out and delivery for both lunch and dinner, and 125-person party rooms for anything from a corporate meeting or holiday party to a birthday party, baby/bridal shower, rehearsal dinner, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, graduations, reunions or any other type of event.
Q: Do any of your other family members work here?
A: Yes, My niece Gabriella and nephew Dino, Jr. work here.
Q: What are your business hours?
A: We are open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday. We are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Q: What types of menus to you offer?
A: We have a Dining Room Menu, a Bar Menu, a Take Out/Delivery Menu, a Children’s Menu, a Gluten-Free Menu and a Dessert Menu.
Q: Where do most of your recipes come from?
A: They come from my mother.
Q: What foods do you specialize in?
A: Homemade food—and of course pizza.
Q: What are some of your customers’ favorite toppings?
A: Sausage, peperoni, chicken or mushrooms, but really—all of our toppings are popular.
Q: What are some of your customers’ favorite meals?
A: Grilled sausages and hot peppers with broccoli rabe and potatoes, veal chop parmesan and brick oven pizza.
Q: What is your favorite meal?
A: Jumbo rigatoni in ragu sauce—Sunday gravy, with homemade meatballs.
Q: What other kids of foods do you serve here?
A: Steak, fresh fish, chicken , paninis, salads, etc.
Q: What are some of the desserts you serve here?
A: We serve homemade desserts including cheesecake, tiramisu, chocolate peanut butter cake, red velvet cake, tartufo, cannoli’s, carrot cake and more.
Q: Tell us about your bar.
A: Our full bar features one of the more extensive wine lists in New Jersey and is complemented by Wine Stations where guests can buy a card and self-serve. In addition, our bar is the perfect place for a happy hour gathering, to watch the big games or to get a drink after work.
Q: Do you have entertainment here?
A: Yes, we offer music a few times a month. Guests can check out our website for bands and dates: http://www.calabrianj.com.
Q: Do you offer any special deals throughout the year?
A: Yes, we offer a Saint Barnabas & Teacher Special of 15 percent off any outside catering or lunch order placed before 11:00 a.m. to all hospital employees and teachers. We also have season specials during football season; offer a complimentary glass of champagne for Valentine’s Day; and we do other specials throughout the year.
Q: Do you host special events?
A: Yes, we do—in fact on March 25, we invited guests to “Dine & Meet New Jersey Devils’ Stars!”
Q: What do your customers say about Calabria?
A: They say they love the food, the family feeling, the comfortable environment and that we have very courteous service. They also love the fact that we have a kid-friendly side to the restaurant. And, we have many regulars who enjoy seeing each other and talking to one another, while they dine. In addition, people say we have a great environment for hanging out.
Restaurant Guest John Liuzzi of Cedar Grove who joined the interview says, “I always have a great time and lots of fun up here and the food is really good.”
Q: Why do you like having a business in Livingston?
A: I like the loyalty of the customers.
Q: Why do you love what you do?
A: I have always liked being around people. I love the restaurant business and I enjoy cooking.
Q: What can you tell TAP that people may not know about Calabria?
A: Calabria has also been used as a subject and/or location for various television shows like CBS’s “Tony Tantillo Dining Deal,” Housewives of NJ spin-off—“Dining Out with the Manzos.” TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress” and ABC’s “What Would You Do,” with John Quinones.
We also have a Facebook page.
Q: If your restaurant had a theme song, what would it be?
A: “My Way”
Q: What is your favorite TV Show?
Q: What are your favorite movies?
A: “The Godfather” and “Zero Dark Thirty”
Q: Calabria is known for being very charitable, what are a few of the local charities you support?
A: In the past five years, we have raised $500K in funds. For over 35 years, Calabria has been serving the community and donating our services to organizations like the Livingston Fire Department, Kiwanis, Saint Barnabas Medical Center, its NICU and Burn Unit, RBaby, the Livingston Bicentennial, Newark Academy and the entire Livingston School system among many.
Last year we also participated in Cooked and Uncorked Food and Wine Festival to benefit the New Jersey State Firefighter's Mutual Benevolent Association and Saint Barnabas Burn Foundation. We also raised $75K for the Saint Barnabas Burn Unit, and every year we host the dinner for the hospital’s Golf Outing.
So far, this year alone, we have raised around $5-$6K for both the Valerie Fund by donating $1 for every pie ordered, and on January 24, Calabria’s Restaurant donated twenty percent of every lunch and/or dinner bill to the Goodman’s family—Team: A Mission Continued…Jennifer Goodman Linn for Cycle for Survival.
Click HERE for a full listing of charitable stories about Calabria at TAP Livingston.
Q: Lisa, Calabria’s Manager/Bookkeeper joined the conversation… Lisa, what can you tell TAP about Joe and Dino?
A: “Joe and Dino are always the first ones to help out if they are approached. They are very compassionate and helpful people—that is just the type of people they are.”