That's amore: Authentic Italian cuisine coming to Woodbury
After growing up and living in Woodbury almost his entire life, 25-year-old chef Jimmy Hafiz says it's time to feed the people of his hometown.
And not just any ordinary, so-called Italian dishes. He's talking true, authentic Italian cuisine.
A new Italian-American neighborhood restaurant operated by Hafiz and his mother opened its doors on Monday.
Carmine's Restaurant and Bar is located at the Valley Crossing center just off of Valley Creek Road and Woodbury Drive. Both Hafiz and his mother Brenda Hafiz, are both longtime residents of Woodbury.
"A lot of chefs get away from the true cuisine of Italian-American and don't stick to the basics enough," Jimmy Hafiz said, adding that creating the Carmine's menu was inspired by basic, home-cooked Italian meals.
Brenda Hafiz comes from an Italian family that she said loves to get together over good food and company, while her husband, Richard, is of Lebanese descent with a family that loves Mediterranean cooking.
Although the Lebanese side of the family was disappointed that hummus wasn't on Carmine's menu, Brenda said the restaurant will keep it simple Italian at first, but maybe add a few Mediterranean twists here and there.
Other than creating the menu, the Hafizes did a complete remodel to the space that once housed Chickadee Cottage.
With a fresh new look, the place is now more open and airy, Brenda Hafiz said. The bar is the first thing customers see when walking through the front door, with big flat-screen televisions awaiting football season.
A private party room is located in the back of Carmine's and can hold up to 70 people.
Brenda Hafiz described the new décor as "art deco" with a modern update.
A performance line-up will also be part of the ambience on the weekends, Brenda Hafiz said, with acoustic sounds to entertain guests.
"We want it to be sort of the type of venue where everyone can enjoy," she added.
She's aiming for a restaurant where a family with kids can easily stop by for a plate of spaghetti and meatballs after a long day at work and a little league game in the afternoon.
"Woodbury needed a good Italian menu besides pizza," Brenda Hafiz said.
The menu has children's items for $5 with drinks and a dessert, which is something the owners aimed for when deciding family-friendly offerings that are also affordable.
Carmine's was acquired by the Hafiz family in the spring and the remodeling started soon after that. Serving hours will be Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the restaurant closing at midnight on Sunday.
It is named after Hafiz's father, Joseph Carmine Turitto, who believes the entire venture is in his honor, Brenda said with a laugh. But she said she thought the name was easy and simple enough for the majority of the population to pronounce and remember.
They said the easygoing grandpa is known for saying "Don't big deal it" when dealing with everyone and everything, often adding a light-hearted approach to complicated situations.
Customers can look for the "Don't big deal it" saying printed on the back of staff T-shirts.