MAPLEWOOD, NJ - This spring, Altopiano restaurant plans to open at 5 Highland Place, with the lease on the space officially signed on Monday, Novemeber 27. The space was formerly the Highland Place restaurant, and has been empty for several years.

Humberto Campos, who owns Restaurant Lorena's in Maplewood, is working with the property owner, Max Kian, to totally renovate the space.

Kian and Campos signed the lease on Monday afternoon, with their families, Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca, Committeeman Dean Dafis, and Julie Doran and Deb Yohannan of the Maplewood Village Alliance in attendance. 

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The space is currently in an unfinished state, with bare walls, floor, and ceiling, but when completed the restaurant will have higher ceilings and new finishings all around.

"The bar will be along the south wall in the front, with an open kitchen in the same area as in the past," said Campos. "There will be a chef’s counter where diners can eat overlooking the kitchen, and the area in front of the bar will give a communal area where guests can dine," added Campos.

Other plans for the space include opening the rear wall and enclosing the space with a glass wall, and creating a patio area with a fire pit which could be utilized for summer dining and for relaxing or enjoying an after-dinner drink all year round. Outdoor seating is planned for both the front and the rear of the building, said Kian.

"This all started seven months ago, and I’m very happy it has come together... the lease is signed and we’ll have a terrific addition to the town," said DeLuca. Campos explained the DeLuca was instrumental in putting the deal together, adding, "we are really excited and anxious to get going."

Campos described the new restaurant as being "casual chic," with "updated Italian food," and a "beautiful bar." Campos said the restaurant will be open seven days a week.

Restaurant Lorena's, which serves award-winning seasonally inspired French food and does not have a liquor license, "will continue as it is," said Campos.

The architect’s plans should be finished in the next two weeks, according to Kian, explaining that after building approvals, the roof will be raised and then the interior work will begin next.

"Humberto is a one-of-a-kind chef and this will be a number one restaurant," shared Kian.