SOUTH PLAINFIELD - Angelina’s Tavern held a ribbon cutting ceremony to commemorate the official open of the newest addition to the South Plainfield restaurant scene on Saturday, August 24th at 11a.m. Angelina’s is located at 2501 Plainfield Avenue and is open seven days a week, serving a variety of authentic Neapolitan cuisine with a specialty in pizza cooked in a wood burning oven.
“Our main goal is to treat everybody like family here,” said Giovanni Cerbone, Owner of Angelina’s Tavern. “I’m from Colonia and we’re next door to South Plainfield. I used to play soccer out on the fields nearby and I have several friends that grew up in South Plainfield. I knew that with a little bit of tender loving care, this place would be amazing.”
“We are so happy to welcome the Cerbone family to South Plainfield,” said Mayor Matthew Anesh. “We embrace family in our town and understand the importance of supporting one another as a community. The Cerbones share our perspective and I congratulate them on the official open of Angelina’s Tavern.”
Surrounded by members of the Cerbone family, Anesh cut the red felt ribbon that stretched across the outside of the restaurant, accompanied by borough officials Councilwoman Christine Faustini, Councilman Gary Vesce, Councilman Derryck White, and Councilman Joseph Wolak.
“I’m very pleased to welcome Angelina’s to South Plainfield,” said Vesce. “Family friendly restaurants are always a welcome addition to the community. I wish them much success.”
White presented South Plainfield lapel pins to the new owners, congratulating them on the opening of the restaurant.
“I’m excited for the Cerbones and our community,” said White. “I believe our values and theirs are a perfect match and what better way to share them than over great food! Angelina’s will be an amazing and successful addition to South Plainfield for many years to come.”
Angelina’s is a family run business, drawing from generations of Italian tradition. Giovanni Cerbone is the official owner of Angelina’s, while his father Antonio Cerbone offers decades of experience in the restaurant business. Also assisting in the day to day operations of the restaurant are Giovanni’s brother, Roberto Cerbone, and sister, Rita Cerbone.
“My father and I have worked together for years,” said Giovanni Cerbone. “My brother is a school teacher, but he is going to be coming in every night, helping out and running the dining room. My sister is going to be coming in a helping at night. My mother is making cakes and cookies, for parties and dessert.”
“I’m so excited for Giovanni, not just because he is my brother, but because he’s an amazing person and has always dreamed of this,” said Rita Cerbone. “He’s my best friend. I’m really close with both of my brothers. Roberto and I are really lucky to be here and we’re just really happy for him. It’s a family event!”
“I help Giovanni with the staff and the bar,” said Roberto Cerbone, who is also a school teacher in Elizabeth and father of triplet daughters. “We’re doing great things here. South Plainfield is a great community. We’ve had our fair share of businesses and they’ve all been successful. I love education, I love the restaurant business. I love just interacting with people.”
Since the much anticipated grand opening of Angelina’s Tavern on Tuesday, August 13th, the restaurant has been busy with locals excited to sample the vast variety of Italian cuisine.
“We came on the opening and multiple times since,” said Janice Campos, South Plainfield resident. “The food and the service just gets better and better and better. The establishment itself is familiar, but it’s new and we love the new specials that they have.”
“The warm welcome you receive from the Cerbone family when you arrive makes you feel like your stepping into your own family’s kitchen,” said Faustini. “The food that is served is so delicious that you want to bring your friends and family back to try it.”
“This town is amazing,” said Giovanni Cerbone. “Everybody at town hall was very friendly and helpful during the renovations. From the clerk to the health inspector, everyone has been very welcoming. The mayor and all of the councilmen have been so supportive. And since we opened we’ve been really busy with everyone coming in the try the food and see what we’ve done.”
Giovanni Cerbone has been in the restaurant business since he was twelve years old when he began working for his uncle in Scotch Plains. At the age of nineteen, while a student at Kean University, Cerbone began working at Ciros Pizzeria in Warren, owned by his uncle. Six months later, Cerbone bought Ciros Pizzeria. Under his management, Ciros flourished for twelve years, but Cerbone says he had a bigger vision and sold the Warren restaurant to make his dream a reality.
“I always wanted to open a family restaurant like this,” said Cerbone. “And we’re just getting started. We’re going to be doing more specials and putting out gluten free options.”
Angelina’s Tavern is named after Cerbone’s two and a half year old daughter Angelina, who was named after her grandmother. Cerbone’s wife, Glenda Rodriguez, a Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse, is pregnant with their second child and due to deliver on November 11th.
“The name ‘Angelina’s’ was his first choice,” said Rodriguez. “Giovanni stepped back and thought of other names, but kept coming back to ‘Angelina’s Tavern.’ We love it. I think it’s perfect.”
“My name is Angelina too, but the restaurant is named after my granddaughter, Angelina,” said Angelina Cerbone, mother of Giovanni, Roberto and Rita Cerbone. “I’m so proud of my son for pursuing his dream. He had a pizzeria, but nothing as big as this, so we are really proud.”
Angelina, the energetic toddler was very at home in her family’s new establishment as she played with her many cousins.
“I had the pleasure of meeting the restaurant’s namesake, Giovanni and Glenda’s daughter, Angelina,” said White. “With the restaurant being so family friendly, I had previously wondered why it was not named ‘Cerbone’s Tavern.’ However, after meeting the adorable, free spirited Angelina and experiencing the friendly atmosphere and homemade foods, I realized the name mirrors little Angelina perfectly.”
Earlier in the year, the Cerbone family purchased Flanagans, the popular Irish Pub that had stood on the corner of Plainfield Avenue and Lane Avenue for decades. Renovations to transform restaurant into an Italian bistro took nearly four months.
“We had an opportunity through real estate agents to purchase a restaurant and we knew that Flanagan’s was for sale,” said Antonio Cerbone. “We came here, we looked at it and the building needed a lot of work. It was a big challenge for us, but we decided to come here because, we did some research this town is a very close knit town, which is what we were looking for. With the encouragement of the town, we said let’s go for it.”
“They had been looking for another place, some place where it was family oriented,” said Ida Vitabile, South Plainfield resident and close family friend. “Giovanni had this opportunity here when Flanagan’s came available in a nice town, a family centered town. And that’s what he wants this place to be, where every family can come in. It’s not a bar, it’s not a restaurant, it’s a family place.”
Renovations to the restaurant were extensive with the installation of a new kitchen, bar, specially designed wood burning ovens and state of the art equipment throughout.
“It took my husband a lot to get everything ready and set up,” said Rodriguez. “He was very nervous about it. He didn’t want to disappoint everybody, but he did it. I knew he was going to do fine. He just now has to enjoy that everyone is loving what he’s doing so. I was a good project. He’s loving it.”
“It was a big challenge, especially with the ovens because these are not regular ovens,” said Antonio Cerbone. “These are wood burning ovens, which are really unique. The Fire Department was so nice with us. They went around and told us all that needed to be done because everything needed to be updated. We had to make partitions and we had to make the stack on the top, but we went according to the laws, rules and regulations and everything was approved.”
The Cerbone family say they wanted to keep the memory of Flanagans alive while bringing in the new experience of Angelina’s to locals.
“I wanted to combine the old memory of Flanagans with the new ways of the restaurant because people remember Flanagans,” said Antonio Cerbone. “I didn’t want to change too much on the inside, but everything is newly renovated and decorated.”
With recipes that have been passed down for generations, sauces with secret ingredients and thin crusted pizza cooked in wood burning ovens, Angelina’s combines tradition with the latest technologies in equipment to bring the customer a unique dining experience.
“There are some recipes here you can’t find anywhere else, especially our sauces,” said Cerbone. “We make thin crust pizza with equipment that’s top of the line in the same wood burning ovens you see in Naples City, where the pizza was born. So we wanted to do something special for the town of South Plainfield. Nobody has them. ”
Antonio Cerbone was born in Afragola, a small province of Naple City. In 1973, Cerbone says he came to America as a teenager to fulfill his dream of opening restaurants and making people happy with delicious food served in a comfortable, family friendly environment.
“One thing I can say is I look at America as my second mother,” said Cerbone. “I took my traditions from Italy and came here forty-five years ago. I love Italy, but America welcomed me with open arms and gave me an opportunity that other countries wouldn’t even dare. I’m still living that dream. Opening this restaurant with my children and grandchildren is a dream come true.”
“We’ve been friends with the Cerbone family for forty-five years, so Antonio was like a big brother to me,” said Vitabile. “He was sixteen when he came to America. I was four years old when we met. So his children to me are like my niece and nephews. We’re just so happy for them all and very proud.”
Antonio Cerbone opened several pizzerias over the years and spends long hours working alongside his children to help make Angelina’s Tavern a success.
“I see myself as the motivation behind my son, Giovanni, and the whole family,” said Antonio Cerbone. “We’ve been doing this for many many years and it was one of our dreams to go above and beyond. We used to have small places and we wanted to do something pretty big. It took a long time to do it, but with the help of the town, with the help of the councilmen and everybody around it, we were able to do a lot of things here.”
The entire Cerbone family is taking part in the daily operations of the restaurant, working together to bring generations of experience and age old recipes to South Plainfield.
“We’re here working eighteen hours a day for now,” said Giovanni Cerbone. “My father is coming here at 6a.m. and he’s leaving here at nine at night. I’m going to Restaurant Depot, going to produce companies. I’m leaving here at two in the morning. So for now, we’re trying to see how everything falls into place and then we’ll put people into positions. This place started from nothing. It’s an adventure, but we love it.”
“I’m almost fully retired, so what I want for my kids and my grandkids is for them to succeed,” said Cerbone. “So I’m here everyday, to make sure everything goes smoothly. If they need advise, I’m there. If they need me to do something, I’m there. I work with the team. So I put my apron on and I serve the people as part of the team. It’s not like the chain restaurants where you don’t get that kind of warm welcome.”
The sense of familiarity is what the Cerbones strive for as they run the restaurant and welcome customers.
“Angelina’s Tavern fills a void of a family style restaurant here in South Plainfield to simple hang out and talk to each other over homemade Italy food,” said White.
“Any person who comes through the doors of this restaurant becomes a family member of ours,” said Antonio Cerbone. “This is very important to us. We have great food with large portions.”
“Angelina’s going to become our go to place for the kids,” said Campos. “We can come, eat and have a really good meal and feel like we’re family.”
“I really love South Plainfield,” said Angelina Cerbone. “My husband and I are thinking of buying a little house here. It’s really beautiful and it touched my heart with everyone coming here and cutting the ribbon. It was really wonderful.”
The long await for Angelina’s to open is over and a new journey begins for the Cerbone family as they hope to enhance the town.
“The bottom line is that we want to change the face of South Plainfield,” said Antonio Cerbone. “It is a beautiful town, but we want to bring something extra that the people feel happy that we’re here. They don’t have to drive far away to get a great family style meal. They can stop here and they can feel comfortable every time. Any person who comes through any doors of this restaurant becomes a family member of ours. This is very important to us.”
“It’s just great that we can be part of the South Plainfield community,” said Roberto Cerbone. “They are so welcoming. South Plainfield’s like one big Italian family!”
“We’re nice people and customers notice that we go out of our way to make people happy,” said Giovanni Cerbone. “I love making food. I love making people happy and we’re really excited to be here in South Plainfield.”
Angelina’s Tavern is open seven days a week, Monday through Sunday, 11a.m. to 9:30a.m. On Mondays, only pizza is served. Bar hours are Monday through Sunday 11a.m. to midnight. Angelina's is also available for parties and events.