This past summer I graduated yoga teacher training with 14 of the best women I’ve ever met. One of those women is named Tania Calabrese.
Tania was my most regular carpool lunch buddy in our 3 weeks together. We haven’t known each other long, but I came to know her passion well. It’s not hard to see. Tania is pure dynamite- pure sunshine. She’s a creative bomb with a lot of eggs in a lot of baskets. She’s a photographer, gets in the garden in the summer, puts a wonderful home together, is a passionate plant mama, and became a certified yoga teacher while trying to open a restaurant with her husband, Nettie’s House of Spaghetti.
The concept behind Nettie’s is a modern take on an old Italian restaurant, and the atmosphere fits that description perfectly. It’s a great place to have a nice sit down dinner, or just go out for a drink at the bar. The menu has lots of Italian classics as well as new dishes and lots of veggie sides. (Highly recommend those veggie sides- especially the fried mushrooms.)
I had the absolute pleasure of being Nettie’s House of Spaghetti’s first official table at their soft opening last Wednesday. It was a huge hit with the fam. My youngest sister enjoys nothing, especially food everyone else likes, and she isn’t polite either, so she’s not going to pretend to like anything. That sister was all for Nettie’s. She enjoyed herself as much as I’d seen her enjoy any restaurant. The food was so fresh, especially the homemade mozzarella. To my fellow gluten-free friends, I am sorry to say there is no GF pasta for you, but there are plenty of other options you can indulge in.
I’m so proud of my friend Tania for being so active in living her dreams and I asked her some questions in honor of the opening of her and her husband, Chris’, restaurant.
How did you get into the restaurant business?
Chris and I have been in the restaurant industry for over 15 years each, or 30 years collectively. I started when I was 14 working at my cousin’s restaurant, Copper Canyon, in Atlantic Highlands. I loved the energy and the pace of the restaurant industry, and I loved the family we created. I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant, it was just a matter of where and when. When Chris and I got married that was basically our mission… Chris and I actually met at Copper Canyon. He never went to culinary school - he just worked his way up from line cook to chef over the years.
How did the idea for Nettie’s House of Spaghetti come to be?
I think a lot of the inspiration behind it was the location. When we saw this spot, formerly Luigi’s Tavern, it had such an old-school red sauce joint kind of feel. We loved the art deco bar decided to run with the idea… we knew it had to be an Italian restaurant, and it was great because that’s what Chris loves cooking more than anything. His grandmother’s name is Antoinette and everyone always called her Nettie - we thought it was a great name for a restaurant, and since she was such a huge part of Chris’s food knowledge we figured it was only appropriate to name the restaurant after her!
What’s your favorite item(s) on the menu?
The Zucchini Parmesan has been a huge hit, along with the Fried Mushrooms, Meatballs, and Italian Sausage. The Broccoli Rabe is definitely a favorite as well.
You are a lady of many talents. How do you think your creative projects and passions feed into your attitude toward business and the creation/running of Nettie’s?
I come from a family of entrepreneurs and I think it’s just in my nature to pick apart every business and try to figure things out, whether it’s a restaurant or a yoga studio. I’m always thinking of ways to make things better and I have a hard time sitting still, so I think being in a position where I can use my analytical thinking and actually execute my ideas without anyone telling me I can’t do it is the only way I’ll ever feel fulfilled in my career. I need to be my own boss - I’m not great at being a “yes ma’am” type of person. But when it comes to the creativity that most people think of as creativity - the artsy type - I definitely had a lot of fun with the design of Nettie’s! I loved being able to think of ideas and see them all come together in this space. I’m pretty psyched with how it turned out! :)
What do you think it is about food that is so good at people together?
I guess it’s just the idea that when you work hard to make something delicious, you really want to share it with other people. It’s a time when you can relax and sit down together and eat and drink - it’s impossible to be unhappy!
The restaurant is officially opening TODAY, Wednesday 11/28. Nettie’s is open Wed-Thurs 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm, Sun 3-9pm. Visit www.nettiesrestaurant.com for more information.