KENILWORTH, NJ – Attilio Guarino, pizza chef at Emma’s Brick Oven in Cranford, will bring his talents to Kenilworth this winter when he opens Ava’s Kitchen & Bar, his modern, intimate restaurant.

Ava’s Kitchen & Bar, which will fill the space formerly occupied by Umberto’s, will specialize in brick oven pizza, cheese and charcuterie and small, shareable plates.

Additionally, the bar will feature 32 craft beers on tap, five ciders on tap, and a variety of wines by the glass. Late-night snacks will be served at the bar from Thursday through Saturday after the kitchen closes.

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“It’s my dream to serve quality pizza with quality beer,” Guarino said. “To me, it’s the whole future. Beer and pizza are two great items.”

The secret is in the flour, Guarino said. To make high-quality pizza, Guarino only uses flour from Champlain Valley, New York. The flour is organic, long-fermented and has a high hydration percentage.

“People that are gluten-sensitive can eat our pizza and be fine with it,” he said. “With other flour, the nutrients are stripped, the flour is bleached and then it’s enriched. My flour has all the nutrients in it. It’s easier for digestion.”

Guarino, who grew up in Staten Island, has studied pizza for years. He began working in a bagel shop at age 13 and transitioned into pizza from there. Since then, he’s came in second place at Las Vegas’ International Pizza Expo on three separate occasions.

“There’s a famous chef who says ‘Good bread is good for you,’” Guarino said. “It’s true, but no one is pushing that message. Good dough is good for you and bad dough is bad for you. That’s the message I’m pushing.”

Guarino plans to mix modern and traditional techniques in both cooking and décor. He studied classic, French techniques with a farming couple who make their own bread and plans to decorate the walls with reclaimed pieces from the 1800’s. However, for a truly modern twist, no entrees will be served at Ava’s. 

“It’s the way modern cuisine is going,” Guarino said of small plates. “People want more choices and to taste a little of each.”

Although he’ll miss Cranford, Guarino is excited for what the future holds.

“I like the space [Ava’s] because it’s a cozy hole in the wall that borders Cranford,” Guarino said. “I feel like I can be in the center of both towns. It’s a win-win.”

Ava’s Kitchen & Bar is scheduled to open in early 2018, Guarino said. To follow their progress, he asks that you follow Ava’s Kitchen & Bar on social media.

“I’ll always remember the people in Cranford,” Guarino said. “I will continue to help out everyone who’s supported me over the years.”

To view Ava’s website, click here.