Twenty years ago the reason you went to Washington Street in Bloomfield was Wonder Health and Barbell. It was a mecca for fitness for many years. Today, it is a mecca of a different sort. Renovated remodeled and renamed that very same space is host to Anthony’s Cheesecake, some of the finest food in Essex County.
Eighteen years ago Anthony Lauro opened the Lunch Box on Broad Street. Perfect location for the quickly disappearing “luncheonette” style deli. Located right next to Bloomfield High School the morning and afternoon crowds spilled on to the sidewalk and Anthony had to hire more help. It was then that his own appetite began to expand. His whole life he was around food, watching his family carry on traditional recipes.Encouraged by the family, Anthony opened a small eatery in Red Bank, next to a boutique his mom ran. It was short-lived but added to his experience in the restaurant business. And anyway, Bloomfield was calling him.
Long time friend and electrician Phil Byrne was a regular at the Lunch Box and frequently jumped behind the counter to help out. When the location on Washington St became available along with the promise of new construction and tons of new business just across the street, together they opened Anthony’s in 2010. Both of them are visionaries, and bring so much to the table, literally.
Along with Phil’s talents in electrical work, he designed and decorated the space, often from refurbished antiques and refinished furnishings. He sees things and modifies them, very much like his approach to food. He finds recipes and alters them to his liking or to expand flavors and interest. He is super with social media and just as talented behind the counter as he is front man.
The art of food was in Anthony's blood, even when he barely reached the counter with his grandmother making cheesecake. Running the Lunch Box was rewarding but he wanted to expand. Some of the recipes at the restaurant are family treasures. He changes the menu weekly and includes wonders from a lavish garden Phil attends to. Everything from the basil on the plate to the flowers on the table have been hand picked especially for that dish on that day. On Thursday nights Anthony’s is open late for dinner, again the menu caters to the freshest pick of the day. Anthony also is fluent in social media, giving the restaurant a special and very personal touch. They read and respond to as many inquiries as possible and continue to temp their followers with, well, aptly named #foodporn. You see it, you want it. Only this ain’t no fantasy, they deliver and then some.
Last week was Bloomfield Restaurant Week. Anthony’s was an active and very busy participant. By Tuesday reservations were sold out for Thursday night and folks kept calling,so they expanded their hours. The week prior the Godfather of New Jersey Eats, Pete Genovese and the legendary Munch Mobile pulled up for an unprecedented second visit this season where Don Genovese feasted on a newly released chai tea cheese cake with basil whipped cream, earning the boys Top Dog status.
The new construction is nearly finished and little Washington Street will rapidly become THE place to be on a sunny afternoon or beautiful night. But Anthony and Phil knew that. They continue to change their menu with new and exciting creations while keeping the traditional recipes staple to the menu. Lots of new folks will be coming in, but so will the folks who went to the Lunch Box for a bagel before school as a teen. Only now they are adults and not only know good food, but good people.
Visit Anthony and Phil and show them some love and vote here for Best of Essex 2014 Best Brunch & Best Boutique Bakery
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