IN THE BEGINNING
It all started in Belmar. Every year, from 1967 - 1973 I spent my summers on the boardwalk working for an elderly Italian couple at their pizzeria. The couple did not have any children and taught me countless life lessons as if I were their son. Luckily for me, one of the greatest lessons they shared with me was the art of making pizza!
The summers spent working for them were long days and nights where I worked my rear off for them, but I loved it. Eventually, I met Valerie, we got married and I needed to get a full time job to make a living. I put pizza behind me and wound up taking a job in the computer industry.
And then in 1983, Valerie & I took a trip to Italy that was life changing!
For most people, going to Italy is a life changing experience in itself. But for us, it’s where we discovered a word that would define us; Trattoria.
While traveling the countryside and in the cities of Italy, we kept encountering these small casual cafes. These restaurants, known as trattoria’s, specialized in serving fresh pizza and pasta.
We had never heard the word trattoria before the trip, but while sitting at one, a light bulb went off in our head – I know how to make pizza, so why not open a trattoria back home!
BIRTH OF THE TRATTORIA
After our trip to Italy I had decided that the corporate world was no longer for me. It was at that time I started to put together my menu. The menu was the identity of what the Trattoria was to become.
In '84, I began going to restaurant auctions and started quickly accumulating equipment. I'd come back from an auction with a mixer or an oven and get really excited. After each successful auction, I'd say to myself, "I'm going to do this!"
I quickly filled up Valerie's parents garage with almost an entire restaurant of equipment. Looking back, they must have thought I was crazy, but I was focused on creating my trattoria!
I'd drive around the state and look for locations on days off as to where I might want to open. I couldn't wait to leave my day job and share my menu with everyone. At the time, Red Bank was definitely "Dead Bank” but it was close to where we lived in Ocean Grove, had character and the rent was affordable.
In May of 1985, Front St. Trattoria opened to the public, taking over a part of the Victory Market!
When we opened, we changed the way people thought of pizza. As the crowds continued to grow, we knew that people were starting to look at pizza the same way that we had when we were inspired by our first trip to Italy.
At the time, when people thought of pizza toppings, things like pepperoni, sausage, peppers and onions quickly came to mind. We were focused on gourmet toppings like artichokes, eggplant, pesto and zucchini.
We spent a good amount of time introducing - and explaining - to people what things like balsamic vinegar, pesto, gelato & cappucino were. These things may seem commonplace now, but back then there were a lot of "unusual" things on the our menu that the public hadn't yet been introduced to.
One of the things our early customers really found perplexing was the side of olive oil on the table that was served with our bread.
As word of mouth spread, so did the public's awareness of what a trattoria was and what we offered. We wound up expanding into the back room in 1987 and in the summer of 1988, we put on an outdoor cafe.
Soon, the inquires started flowing in from people wanting to open their own trattoria. We were flattered at first and declined most of the offers until a couple of my high school friends wanted to open one in Westfield. After some deliberation, I said "let's do it!"
After the 2nd location opened in 1988, I realized I have a passion & love for interior design, woodworking and developing. This passion led to me working with other developers to help them achieve their dream of opening their own Trattoria. Additional Trattoria's opened up in Westfield in 1988, New Brunswick in 1990 and Freehold in 1992.
Around that time, we leased the last retail location at The Grove in Shrewsbury to open Pasta Fresca. The goal was to be to pasta what Dunkin Donuts was at the time to Donuts. Sometimes the best ideas don't always come to fruition, and we quickly wound up selling the concept to focus on our original baby; Front St. Trattoria!
Even after all these years, Trattoria is more exciting now then it ever was! It's an amazing experience watching families grow with us. We have loyal customers who have been with us since '85, and we're seeing their children - even their grandchildren - visit us!
It's such a pleasure today after all these years of being here. We love seeing the same customers come back, along with a lot of new ones.
We've tried to stay progressive in everything we do, from decor to food to presentation. We've re-done the place several times, but there's been one constant throughout; our original Baker's Pride pizza ovens! Those ovens are magic!
The old adage of "they just don't make them like they used to" holds true with our ovens. They're over 50 years old and are a huge part of our success and what has allowed us to remain consistent throughout the years.
They call this restaurant business the “Hospitality Industry” for us it is that and a lot more. We still feel that when people walk in to the Trattoria its as if they are personally coming into our home to eat good food, be comfortable, relax and enjoy. That for us is no better reward.
To all our original customers, our newer customers and for all the future customers to be.... Thank you!
- Michael & Valerie Aufiero