Coming up on a year ago at Taste of Montclair where over 30K was raised in support of the Human Needs Food Pantry, I stood in line to experience what I had heard so much about, Chef Todd Villani's seasonal best from Terre `a Terre. Villani works directly with local farmers, so every dish is prepared with food in its peak flavor. There is more farmland represented on 312 Hackensack Street, Carlstadt than most of the rest of the state, which currently supports 715,000 productive farm acres
Shortly after that, I had the pleasure of meeting chef/owner Villani at another wonderful fundraiser The Live Sunsmart Ray Festa Melanoma Foundation where Montclair was named a "Sunsmart City" Listening to him speak with passion for his craft and for local & sustainable , what also stuck with me, was his giving heart. At the the time Terre `a Terre just turned the corner on first year in operation and he was supporting charitable events graciously. The next time our path's crossed was the restaurant. Not only was the atmosphere welcoming and comfortable the decor was all locally crafted.
The freshness of the food filled the senses from the moment it was set on the table: the satiny smooth texture of short rib, the distinct flavor of broccoli rabe against the creamy softness of polenta. The flavor was stimulating both of the palate, and the mind. Villani takes care to point out why he chose a particular farm, or ingredient. So while tasting, your immediately thinking, about the difference locally sourced makes or the meaning of sustainability to our future. If he was an epicurean author,then Terre `a Terre would be a chapter in his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
In August Villani was the first chef ever to sell out tickets to his debut at The James Beard Foundation A Garden State Bounty . The menu was a comprehensive blend of the freshest local offerings at their seasonal peak. New Jersey heirloom tomato gazpacho with lovage and pickled ramps, and duck confit with seeds and grains, august lettuces, blackberry confiture, and nutmeg vinaigrette are just a sampling of the selection Villani and his team prepared.
In the months following the epic night at the Beard House, it was more than the seasonal menu that changed. Terre a Terre welcomed Ralph Perrotti of Hohokus Inn and St Eves. Along with new staff came new accolades including voted Top 20 Best New Restaurant NJ and Top 10 Best American Restaurants, Top 30 Best Meals in 2015 Inside NJ Magazine, New Jersey Monthly and three and a half star rating from the Star Ledger. He is touted in the Bergen Record, NJ.Com, featured in James Beard Foundation Photo of the Day , Food Wine Chickie and most recently his Black Friday Mobile Phone Special on Black Tie and Flip Flops and Boozy Burbs . He is a supporter of grass-roots organization, Slow Food USA and graciously gave his time and talent to help share their message.
Perhaps Todd Villani's greatest addition is his bride Beth Ann, with whom they both shared the news of the arrival of baby Villani in 2016. Congratulations to both families and special cheers to Auntie Lisa, Todd's sister who handles all the marketing for the restaurant, we would love to share her story too.
In the meantime, Terre a Terre has great events coming up including New Years Eve Dinner, Terre a terre Supper club Presents Chef David Viana and Todd Villani “The Art of Local Food” January 12, and "Comfort Food Snowflake Dinner" January 19th featuring
Chef Denis Weekes and Chef Jeremie Tomczak. More details can be found here.
Having a front row seat to Todd Villani and his craft, I look forward to the greatness 2016 is bound to bring, both in bounty and blessing.
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