Tarantella di Napoli makes its way into former Cucina di Napoli
Published: Monday, October 21, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 21, 2013 23:10
John Dillon, manager of Tarantella di Napoli on Main Street, formerly known as Cucina di Napoli, periodically gets up from the table to greet customers as they walk in the door.
“I want to see it full every night,” Dillon said. “I want to see smiles on everyone’s faces. I want to see everyone enjoy a good glass of wine and leave happy, and we want to see them come back.”
Cucina di Napoli underwent these changes about five or six weeks ago, Dillon said. The interior of the restaurant has also been redone along with some changes to the menu, he said.
Shannon Protas, the director of operations at the Napoli family of restaurants, said the Procope family opened Cucina di Napoli in 2005 but then sold the restaurant to one of their chefs in 2009. However, the chef sold the restaurant back to the Procope family recently, she said.
Although Protas is not a blood relative of the family, she said the members have become like family because she has known and worked with them in the restaurant business for about 18 years. She said the Procopes changed the name of the restaurant to signify what the family getting the restaurant back means to them.
“Tarantella meant we were rejoicing and dancing now that we have this restaurant back in our family,” Protas said.
The Procope family owns four other restaurants, she said. These restaurants include Café Napoli and Cantina di Napoli in Wilmington and Trattoria di Napoli in Bear, Del.
Dillon and Protas said they redid the interior to give the restaurant a rustic, traditional Italian feel. Along with changes to writing on the walls, wood paneling has been added.
In addition, the restaurant now offers some Spanish dishes on their menu. Protas said these dishes relate to the restaurant’s name because at one point, Naples was dominated and ruled by the Spanish, and the Procope family wanted to differentiate themselves by adding some changes to the menu.
One of the dishes the restaurant offers is traditional paella, which mixes chicken and seafood, Protas said. She said chorizo, a spicy Spanish pork sausage, is also used in a few of the dishes.
“We’re hoping to make the business alive again and to bring prosperity,” Protas said. “We just want to give the people as well as the students of Newark some new flavor and something different,” she said.
Protas said restaurant’s owners hope to feature wood-fired pizza by the end of the month, which is traditional to Naples. She said the signature pizza at the restaurant is margherita pizza.
The restaurant will feature some craft brews because that’s the “hot new thing,” Dillon said. It is still in the process of deciding what craft brews will be offered, he said.
Although some of the workers from Cucina di Napoli now work at Tarantella di Napoli, Dillon said there are new cooks and new workers too. Management is still training a lot of people, he said.
“We’re a small family-owned, family-operated business, so we sort of treat our employees like a family,” he said.
Protas said one tradition with all of the restaurants is to have repeat customers. They see their families grow up, she said.
Pasquale Procope, a chef at the Procope-owned restaurants, including Tarantella di Napoli, said his favorite meals are the seafood dishes. However, he said the penne alla vodka is the best-selling dish.
He said he enjoys working at this location on Main Street because of all the different people he gets to meet from the town and the university. He said all of the different restaurants on Main Street are one reason the Procope family is trying to make the menu different here.
The Procope family initially emigrated from Naples and tries to carry traditions from Naples over to their restaurants, Protas said. She said the restaurant also offers a student menu, which is cheaper than the regular menu.
“Fish, seafood, that’s what we do,” Procope said. “We get it from the water, straight to the frying pan,” Procope said.
Tom Glodowski, 47, of Morristown, N.J., was visiting the restaurant for the first time with his family because they were going on an admissions tour. Glodowski ordered the chicken parmesan, while the other members of his family ordered another dish of chicken parmesan, the tortellini aurora and vegetable lasagna.
“It’s very good,” Glodowski said. “The service is very good, and it’s a nicer menu compared to some of the options on the street, so that’s kind of cool. The atmosphere is nice, and the menu variety is good too.”
When Dillon is asked if there’s anything he would like to add, he offers three words.
“Are you hungry?” he said.