By: Anna Bechtel, Contributing Writer Photos from: romanell’s.com and White Pages
The moment a customer walks through the doors, they enter a bright, small room. They are greeted by the sounds of top 40 songs intermingling with the staff chatting with each other and their regular customers, and the smell of fresh, hot Italian food.
This is Romanelli’s Pizza & Italian Eatery, located in Madison, New Jersey, across the street from the local Stop & Shop with a good view of the train station. The restaurant offers Italian classics, eggplant parmesan and penne ala vodka, as well as American side dishes, mac and cheese bites and french fries. And as the name suggests, Romanelli’s offers a variety of pizzas.
The Italian restaurant has been located at 42 Lincoln Place, for 30 years; however, it was originally opened in 1970 on Madison’s Main Street. It was first opened by Michael Romanelli, an immigrant from Sorrento, Italy, and the restaurant has stayed in his family to this day. Romanelli first worked as a carpenter, before making a change by opening the restaurant. “I think he wanted to do something a little different,” said Andrea Austin, 35, Romanelli’s granddaughter and current restaurant employee. Romanelli only owned the restaurant for a few years before his son and daughter took it over and who still own it today.
Madison native, Austin, says she does, “A little bit of everything,” including, managing, working the phones and occasionally helping in the kitchen. Austin said she began working at Romanelli’s with her brother when she was 15.
The restaurant’s regular customers include many local families and college students from the nearby Drew University. “We do a lot of deliveries to Drew,” Austin states. Economics major Brennan Laskas (‘18) frequents Romanelli’s for its cheese pizza. His reason? “It’s cheaper,” Laskas said, ‘‘and it’s way fresher than the pizza we get at Drew.” The restaurant just recently hired two Drew students to work the phones.
With one look at Romanelli’s Facebook page, the most recent reviewers all give it five stars. In a glowing review, Michael Kleeburg writes, “Their pizza remains the standard by which all others are judged.” Romanelli’s has a rating of 4.6 stars out of 5.0 Facebook reviews, and a GrubHub rating of five stars out of 75 reviews.
Austin says Romanelli’s newest top sellers are their two newest pizzas: the Grandma Pie, a square pan pizza with fresh mozzarella, marinara sauce, and basil, and their Brooklyn Margarita pie. Austin’s personal favorite dish is their eggplant Parmesan, which she also mentioned is also one of the restaurant’s top sellers. In addition, they feature a variety of vegetarian options, the most popular being The Veggie Alexis, a sandwich created and named after Austin’s niece, Alexa, a vegetarian.
According to Austin, the restaurant has maintained its casual feeling since it opened. Romanelli’s features a cafeteria-style dining room. “I like that customers can just pick out what they want and walk up to the register and pay,” said Austin. “Then they can find a place they want to sit and eat.”
Austin said that there is not anything she would like to add or change to Romanelli’s, except for keeping the maintenance up to date. “I really like how things are now,” she stated. Austin’s favorite part about the restaurant is the fact that Romanelli’s has regular customers, who tell the staff about their day and don’t have to state their regular order. Just as she said this, a woman walked in and struck up a conversation with one of the chefs.
Romanelli’s adds to their family-friendly atmosphere by having a balloon artist, and occasionally a magician, every Friday night. In addition to their main dining room, the restaurant has a private dining room that often hosts birthday parties, bridal showers, baby showers and local sports teams.
Romanelli’s Pizza & Italian Eatery is open seven days a week, at 12 p.m. on Sundays and 11 a.m. every other day, and closes at 10 p.m. They deliver all over Madison.