NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
By Gina Pace Wednesday, November 6, 2013, 2:00 AM
The hottest new foodie neighborhood has a posh wood-fired pizzeria, a buzzed-about hipster bar and a new eatery on the way from Park Slope’s most-hyped chef.
No, it’s not Bushwick, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Ditmas Park, Greenwood Heights or Ridgewood. In fact, it’s not even in New York state.
Apparently all those years of “sixth borough” jokes have finally rubbed off on Jersey City, which is in the midst of a culinary renaissance.
Star chef Dale Talde, best known for cooking up a storm on Bravo’s “Top Chef” and his well-reviewed eponymous Park Slope eatery, has partnered with Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri, the stars of HGTV’s “Kitchen Cousins,” to open a second location of his Asian-fusion restaurant Talde in Jersey City next year, as well as an Italian market next door called Carrino Provisions.
Talde admits he was hesitant to cross the Hudson — just as he was hesitant to cross the East River. It’s only been a few years since he left his stomping grounds of the lower East Side to open the original Talde, along with his other Park Slope joints Thistle Hill Tavern and Pork Slope.
“It was the exact same reason I was skeptical about going into Brooklyn,” Talde says. “I had just never been there.”
Carrino and Colaneri convinced Talde and his business partners to check out a downtown Jersey City building they are renovating — a giant, light-filled space built in 1892 as the Garden State’s first telephone switching station for calls between New Jersey and New York.
The Jersey City-based cousins had hoped to convince Talde to open a stall in a planned Italian market in the building, but after seeing the space and visiting other new eateries around Jersey City, the chef and his business partners opted to take over half the ground floor for a new restaurant. The top floors of the building at 8 Erie St., between Bay and First Sts. — once Jersey City Police headquarters — will soon be convereted luxury apartments.
“It reminds me of all the Brooklyn neighborhoods,” says David Massoni, one of Talde’s partners. “There are corners I’ll turn down and it feels like Bushwick. Other corners I’ll turn down and it feels like you’re right in the heart of Park Slope.”
The new Talde won’t be Jersey City’s first restaurant with New York cred. Thirty Acres, opened by Momofuku alums, has been luring Manhattanites over the bridge since last April. Barcade, an offshoot of the popular video game-centric Williamsburg bar, gives downtown Jersey City a craft beer option. Locals cite restaurants like Mediterranean-inspired Satis, gastro pub Marco & Pepe and Mexican standby Taqueria as other reasons to stay in town.
“By no means do we feel like we are the trailblazers. Other people have come here first. If Barcade wasn’t around the corner we wouldn’t even be thinking about this,” Massoni says. “The fact that we are coming will bring other people to Jersey City, too, because it is a great market.”
Fred Shandler and Dan Richer chose Jersey City as the second outpost for their artisinal pizza empire after the success at Arturo’s in Maplewood, N.J. They opened Razza — which means “pure-bred” or “original” in Italian — in what they consider an emerging Jersey City neighborhood by the Grove St. PATH station last year.
And their Jersey City clientele eat up their pies, which use locally milled flour, wild yeast and veggies from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. The Santo ($18), with sausage, shaved onion and chili oil atop a crust charred in a wood-burning oven, made Thrillist’s list of America’s top 33 pizzas.
“We feel that Jersey City is at a tipping point of receiving massive attention,” Shandler says. “We’re thrilled about being here.”
So are spouses Kevin and Alex Pemoulie. Kevin gave up a job working in Manhattan for James Beard Award-winning chef David Chang to open Thirty Acres in Jersey City; Alex juggles a full time job running the financial operations for Chang’s Momofuku group with running the front of the house at Thirty Acres.
“We were looking for a community feel. In New York we had a lot of friends in the restaurant world, but there wasn’t a sense of a community around us,” said Kevin.
His sister lived in Jersey City, and when the couple visited they fell in love with the neighborhood near Van Vorst park.
“Everyone here is really into food. They are thankful and excited for new places — but they will let you know if it sucks,” says Alex, laughing. “Jersey City is ready for a wider variety of restaurants.”
Local real estate broker Eugene Cordano agrees — and he says Jersey City’s culinary transformation is fueled by its residential explosion.
“Everything that is being built there is the demographic that restaurants like Thirty Acres would want to capitalize on,” Cordano says. “You have thousands and thousands of apartments there and people coming in, and a real lifestyle has developed in Jersey City.”
Thirty Acres, named for a Prohibition-era boxing arena in town, serves a mix of small plates and heartier dishes from roasted pears with sea urchin mayo, pickled squash, maitake and shiso ($14) to Spaghetti Nero with bottarga, garlic and chili flakes ($18).
The couple behind the restaurant view their food as seasonal, creative and a mixture of refined and casual.
“We call ourselves New New Jersey cuisine,” Alex says. “That’s not really a thing yet, but it’s starting with us.”