Two new restaurants recently opened near each other in South Orange, NJ, both with Brooklyn roots.
Owners of the upscale American The Fox & Falcon and Latin street food specialists Miti Miti were drawn to the area first for their families, seeking more space in the New Jersey suburbs than they could find in Brooklyn. It wasn’t long before their culinary roots came calling.
The Fox & Falcon owner Dave Massoni was a partner in the now dissolved Three Kings Restaurant Group, with restaurants in Manhattan and Brooklyn. With a proven history of success at establishing “great neighborhood restaurants,” Massoni said, he sought to do the same in the South Orange-Maplewood area.
“I wanted to start a new chapter for myself and my career,” he said. When he arrived in SOMA he found a community eager to embrace his elevated American cuisine and artisanal cocktails. He added a kids menu to fit the suburban demographic.
“The reception that we’ve received from the local community has been fantastic,” Massoni said. “Everyone is rooting for us.”
Massoni hopes that he in-season, locally sourced ingredients and dishes prepared by executive chef Matt Ruzga will maintain the momentum of the buzzy new establishment with menu items like linguine with mussels and jalapeno; mezzi rigatoni with pancetta, onion and tomato; and a pan-roasted chicken with sautéed Swiss chard.
The Mulo Rosso cocktail is by far their most popular libation, Massoni said.
Nearby at Miti Miti, co-owner Farid Ali Lancheros said he was originally against the idea of operating a business in his new hometown. But SOMA’s Park Slope ex-pats familiar with his full-service restaurants Miti Miti and Bogota in Brooklyn frequently asked him to open something locally, he said.
“There was a constant chorus asking us to please open up,” said Lancheros, who co-owns the casual restaurant with husband George Constantinou Fernandez.
With menu items like Mexican street corn, pork chicharron and carne asada tacos, Lancheros and Fernandez hope that their sophisticated take on Latin street food will take hold in a community eager for additional culinary experiences.
“The cripsy fish tacos are definitely popular,” said Supervisor Angie O’Keefe, who also recommended the savory lentil soup special when available — an ideal choice on a day when temperatures barely broke double digits.
While the two new restaurants in town offer up unique and distinct flavors, what they have in common is their faith in the SOMA community and their enthusiasm over friendly competition.
“South Orange is now on the right track thanks to the efforts of the [South Orange Village Center] Alliance,” said Massoni. “Mayor Sheena Collum and people like [Executive Director] Bob Zuckerman are really starting to push the potential of what South Orange has to offer.”
They encourage other restauranteurs and retailers to consider the potential of SOMA.
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